J.J. Abrams wants you to donate $10 for the chance to appear in Star Wars: Episode VII. Abrams, who is directing the upcoming sci-fi sequel, appeared in a video recorded at the movie's Abu Dhabi set today to help announce a new charity campaign run by Disney, Lucasfilm, and his own production company, Bad Robot. The initiative, called Star Wars: Force for Change, will begin its charitable venture by asking people to donate $10 or more to UNICEF for the opportunity to play a role in the galaxy far far away.
Abrams explains the charity campaign in the midst of a ramshackle market, as crew members, performers in costume, and a new ostrich-like alien carrying a box of space-turkeys saunter past. The randomly chosen winner of the grand prize and one partner will be flown to Episode VII's Pinewood Studios set as guests of J.J. Abrams. There, they'll be "transformed" by costume and makeup teams, before being given roles in the next Star Wars movie. It's unclear what those roles will entail — Episode VII's story is so well-protected Bothan spies are yet to reach it — but the opportunity to put on a furry mask, hang around in the back of a shot, inspire the invention of an alien race of wolf-people or bobble-headed oddballs, and eventually have books written about you is enticing. Abrams' early support for the campaign also suggests the scenes featuring the winners are unlikely to be left on the cutting-room floor in the movie's final edit.
Pledge $50,000 and you can see 'Episode VII' a day early
Everyone who pledges $10 becomes a "founder member" of the Force for Change campaign. All of these members are to be entered into a pool, from which the grand-prize winner will be selected, but fans with deeper pockets can earn a higher chance of selection by buying more entries. As with platforms such as Kickstarter, the campaign's structure means higher-spending contributors will receive more valuable rewards for their generosity — give up $50,000, and not only will you vastly increase your chances of selection from the digital hat, but you'll get to see the movie before anyone else as Lucasfilm organizes a private screening for you the day before its release in December 2015. More reasonably priced rewards include T-shirts, Millennium Falcon posters, and lightsaber hilts.
The campaign is being run by Omaze. The company has experience offering such packages for charity, having this year given people the chance to ride in a tank with Arnold Schwarzenegger for the benefit of after-school programs, and go out for dinner with George Clooney to earn money for satellite imaging in Sudan. Omaze founders Ryan Cummins and Matt Pohlson say they got the idea for the company after watching a charity auction for the chance to watch a Lakers game with Magic Johnson balloon to ridiculous prices. Cummins and Pohlson, who have backgrounds in both the entertainment and charity industries, thought a democratized approach to charity raffles and auctions would afford fans a better opportunity to interact with their favorite people, while also earning more money for good causes. The approach seems to work: the chance to ride to a Breaking Bad season premiere with Bryan Cranston earned $20,000 at a traditional charity auction, but $1.7 million through Omaze.
The money earned through the campaign will go to UNICEF's Innovation Labs
The money earned through Force for Change's first campaign will go to UNICEF's Innovation Labs. UNICEF's Christopher Fabian said his charity works with "the greatest technologists and designers of our time" to offer help for vulnerable children and young people. "The support from Star Wars: Force for Change will help to bind these innovators together on a mission to solve the world's most pressing problems, and create a better future." Lucasfilm, Disney, and Bad Robot plan to use their new charitable wing to raise funds for other causes in the future.