This film won a Waterloo teen tickets to see the new Star Wars film in San Francisco

This film won a Waterloo teen tickets to see the new Star Wars film in San Francisco

When your name is Luke, you are all but obliged to be a Star Wars fan. People call you Skywalker. Strangers tell you they’re your father all the time. Luke Heimpel, a 13-year-old Grade 8 student from Waterloo, runs with it. Heimpel is a Star Wars superfan: he spends his free time watching the films, browsing websites dedicated to the series and developing an encyclopaedic knowledge of George Lucas’ universe. Earlier this fall, Heimpel found out about Disney’s international #GoRogue fan film contest. He made a film, entered and won one of seven spots at an advance screening of Rogue One in San Francisco. We asked him about making the movie, his fan bona fides and which Star Wars trilogy is best.

Let’s get it out of the way: did your parents name you after Luke Skywalker?
Haha. No, it’s a coincidence.

But you’re still a big fan.
Yes. Star Wars takes up a big chunk of my free time. Just researching it—new information comes out every day about this galaxy far, far away. I also have a collection of memorabilia. One of my most prized possessions is an autograph from Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbecca.

What do you like about Star Wars?
It’s just great storytelling. You get transported into the galaxy George Lucas created, with the Ralph McQuarrie designs. It feels very real.

How’d you end up entering this contest?
I learned about it through StarWars.com. I’m a frequent visitor. On the page about the contest, they had an example that was stop-motion animation, which is something I’m passionate about. I thought, “All right, why don’t I do this?”

Your film, in a nutshell, is about replacing the old Storm Troopers with newer, sleeker Death Troopers. What inspired the storyline?
In Rogue One, the Death Troopers are the big new thing. We’ve never seen them before in the Star Wars universe. I thought, why don’t I explain where they came from and how they came to be? It’s not canon at all.

How did you make the video?
At the time I started it, there was no action figure of the main character, Orson Krennic, so I made my own. He’s a stop-motion animation puppet with a wire skeleton, covered with different-coloured clay and fabric for clothing. I sculpted a head for him and used separate pieces for the eyebrows and the mouth so I could change them easily as he talks. Then I painted the film’s background on paper.

How did you create the stop-motion effect?
It’s a long and tedious process. You move your character’s arm up a couple of millimetres, press a button to take a picture, then move it a little more, take another picture. And then you just do that 6,000 more times.

How many frames are in the final film?
I think it’s in the ballpark of 4,000.

How long did it take to make?
Two full days, if you add it all up. I worked on it a little bit every week. Once or twice a week, I would go to Sheepdog Animation School in Kitchener, which teaches kids how to do this kind of animation and gives them the tools to do it. Then I’d take my footage home and edit it on iMovie.

Heimpel, in the red jacket, with the other contest winners by the Golden Gate Bridge.

You submitted the film and, voila, now you’re down in San Francisco to see the premiere. What have you done down there so far?
I met all the other contest winners from all over the world: the U.S., Mexico, Malaysia, Germany and New Zealand. We went to Rancho Obi Wan, the world’s largest privately owned Star Wars collection. That was pretty amazing. The owner, Steve Sansweet, just has so much interesting stuff. Some of it is fan art, some of it is really strange merchandise from a long time ago. There was this one item that was really strange: a bootleg figurine from Turkey. To get around the copyright, they called it Stars War. That was pretty funny. Later on, we get to tour the Lucasfilm studio and watch Rogue One.

Enjoy! Let’s finish with a controversial question: which Star Wars trilogy is best?
I like the original trilogy better than the prequels. But The Force Awakens was pretty special for me. It’s the only one I’ve seen in theatres. We bought tickets a couple months in advance, and it was the last day of school. I went straight from school to the theatre to watch it right away.

I imagine your parents are fans, too, then?
Somewhat. But not as much as me.