I hate to admit it, but for a minute I forgot that “sweding,” the art of taking your favorite movies and remaking them with whatever and whoever you have on hand, was a thing on the Internet. So thank goodness I stumbled upon Dumb Drum’s excellent sweded DIY trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Dumb Drum’s Bryan Harley and Roque Rodriguez remade the trailer shot-for-shot with makeshift props, low-budget costumes, a homemade soundtrack, and some sweet cardboard space battles. All the ships are made of cardboard, and colored straws are tossed into the frame as laser blasts. In fact, cardboard is all over this production as storm trooper costumes and set pieces big and small. There’s also quite possibly one of the best Chewbacca costumes I’ve ever seen in a blink-and-you-miss-it clip towards the end.
“We’re all big Star Wars fans so the most fun part was just getting to re-create all the iconic props, costumes, and set pieces, and then play with them!” Harley said. “As is the nature of ‘sweding’, we tried to be as cheap as possible, often using just whatever we have lying around the house. If we needed to spend money our first stop was the dollar store. Our biggest expense was probably spray paint.”
“Sweding,” for those of you wondering, comes from the 2008 film Be Kind Rewind, directed by Michel Gondry and starring Jack Black and Mos Def. In the film, all the video tapes in a failing video rental store get demagnetized, and the store clerk and his friend (played by Mos Def and Jack Black respectively) decide to re-film the destroyed movies with hacked-together costumes and effects with a borrowed camcorder. They claim the new versions came from “Sweden,” thus the name.
But don’t let the dollar-store veneer of fool you, Harley and Rodriguez have been making sweded films ever since watching Gondry’s film. Even though the point of a sweded film is to look kinda crappy, look close enough and you can tell that a lot of thought and ingenuity went into the production.
“BB-8 was pretty difficult – a friend of ours fiberglassed an exercise ball and built a metal frame hidden behind BB-8 to make his ‘body’ roll, but keep his ‘head’ in a fixed position,” Harley said. “The hyperspace shot was challenging as well. We had a couple different failed concepts, but finally decided on a combination of fishing line, twine, a rice paper lamp shade, and various small LED flashlights.
Be Kind Rewind introduced sweded films with DIY versions of Ghostbusters, King Kong, and RoboCop featured within the larger film, but the intriguing part is how sweding has taken on a life of its own on Youtube. Dumb Drum has made swedes of popular trailers from The Avengers and Pacific Rim, while other groups have sweded Jurassic Park, Inception, and even The Shining. They range from featuring selected scenes to note-for-note trailers to abridged versions of popular films. Harley and Rodriguez were even inspired to start a film festival and have received submissions from around the world.
“We really dug the movie and a couple months later we decided to create a semi-annual film festival here in Fresno, California, called Swede Fest,” Harley said. “We encourage movie fans of all ages to re-create their favorite movie in under 4 minutes, and then we all get together and show them on the big screen at a local movie theater.”
Sweding isn’t the first time fans have remade their favorite films, but the purposefully low-budget design and DIY ethos set them apart. It isn’t that these are ad hoc productions, although they can be, but that they’re lovingly produced and most importantly, accessible ways for fans, young and old, to engage with their favorite movies.