In what's shaping up to be a new annual tradition, Lucasfilm has announced the 2016 Star Wars Fan Film Awards, kicking off this year's competition with an introduction by J.J. Abrams. The pitch is simple: make a short film based on the characters and stories of the Star Wars universe — five minutes or less — and submit it by April 24th. A panel of judges will then go through the entries and select winners for a number of different categories, including Best Animation, Best Visual Effects, and Best Non-Fiction short. Candidates will also be chosen for an Audience Choice award; nominated films will be posted online for Star Wars fans to watch and vote on themselves. Winners will be announced at this year's Star Wars Celebration convention in London.
While the Fan Film Awards aren't new, they are a tradition that Lucasfilm and Disney are in the process of restarting. Star Wars fan films have been a phenomenon for decades, with Troops — a parody mashing up Star Wars and the Fox reality series Cops — getting attention way back in 1997. (There was also the 1978 parody Hardware Wars, but some things are probably better left to the hazy fog of memory.) It all led Lucasfilm to kick off the first Fan Film Awards in 2002, which continued on for nearly a decade before it was put on hold in 2011. In 2014 Lucasfilm announced that the contest was coming back, with winning films screened at last year's Celebration.
This year Lucasfilm is offering up a package of Star Wars sound effects and music cues for filmmakers to use in their productions, including everything from lightsaber hums and clashes to blaster sounds. Along with a commemorative statue, winners will also receive a package of — you guessed it — Star Wars-related merchandise and a limited edition art print. If you have an idea for a short film and Star Wars seems like a good fit, you can check out more details here.