When it comes to Star Wars and learning the Force, we've seen most of it from the perspective of the Jedi. When we see training, like Anakin, Luke, and now Rey, it's all from the light side that the journey begins.
Obviously Anakin turns into one of the all-time great villains, and we've yet to see what will happen with Rey—she might be heading for Grey Jedi territory. Still, when it comes to seeing how these warriors train and study, it's generally in favor of the good guys. We don't, for instance, have many narratives wherein Sith Lords learn their dark crafts from a Sith Master.
A new Star Wars fan film, premiering today on Creators, does just that. It's called Dark Legacy, and it was directed by Anthony Pietromonaco, produced by Manifest Film, and features special effects by Jaremy Aiello and Mo Meinhart.
The film is based upon the idea in Sith lore that states, "Training is complete only with the death of the master or the student." The quote comes from Sorzus Syn, a female Jedi who turned to the Dark Side and authored the Sith Code.
In Dark Legacy, we see an apprentice, called Kia (Erin Wu), imprisoned against her will by a Sith Master (Fabien Garcia) who is looking for a student who can either kill him and inherit his legacy, or die trying. The Master has sought out many disciples who he has then held captive and forced into challenging him and learn the ways of the dark side. Kia is the latest of his prisoners and possible reluctant Sith Lord.
"I'm bored by villains that are one-dimensional," Pietromonaco tells Creators. "For me that kills the story. One of the most fascinating elements of Sith philosophy isn't that it's 'evil.' It's utilitarian. We wanted to create a situation where an apprentice was forced to use the dark side as a practical element for survival. Not because they were bad, but because they had no choice. Our story grew from there."
The story is set on a distant, forgotten planet where the Master has long entrapped his apprentices. When training them, for every mistake they make he gives them a lightsaber burn, which Kia has down her arms. Then, if they fail to fully harness the dark side and cannot defeat him, instead of just letting them die, he turns their bodies into a host for a strange parasite that harvests upon their 'essence,' ultimately turning them into a crystal.
"We wanted to tell a story that fleshed out some of the mythology that we found most interesting, and using a Sith framework was a great way to do that," says Pietromonaco. "It also enabled us to take a lot of creative liberties while still honoring the source material, showing unique visuals that had been suggested but never seen."
It was also a great opportunity to shoot some lightsaber battles, and bring in some unique takes on these iconic weapons. So, Pietromonaco notes, they took the unstable lightsabers that we saw with Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, and gave The Master something similar—a very early and rudimentary lightsaber, basically just a Kyber crystal wrapped in leather. Kia's saber utilizes one of the parasite's crystals: that of her dead brother.
"We wanted our Sith's saber to feel ancient, archaic, as if it was by sheer power of will that the Sith Master was able to control it. In contrast, we wanted Kia's to feel more traditional, but we personalized it by adding to the lore of Kyber crystals, introducing a creature that suggested that in a way she was fighting with the essence of her dead brother."
To bring the fights to life, they had a stunt team which included Phil Tan and Fabien Garcia. It was choreographed using influences from Chinese Wushu and some unconventional techniques. "We cast real martial artists who weren't just actors but also athletes," Pietromonaco explains. "The nuanced performance in their movement is one of the strongest elements of the piece."
Pietromonaco also notes that they enlisted Emmy award-winning sound design team Unbridled Sound. "[The sounds were] custom and unique, so our lightsabers sound different than any sabers you've heard before." The music was composed by Michael Meinhart which nods to John Williams' iconic scores, but changes them just enough, too.
The result, like a lot of fan films, and now with the sequels, is something new yet also familiar. But unlike the sequels, what Pietromonaco also wanted to add was something darker and a bit more grim, too.
"There are still elements that you might recognize from The Empire Strikes Back, but instead of using a swamp, we shot in a desert. Instead of Yoda, we have our Sith Master. Instead of having giant Jedi statues (like in Rogue One) we used something more grotesque and Sith-like. We wanted everything to feel more raw, so we drew inspiration from Ridley Scott and Giger when designing our characters and props. I think people are hungry for a grittier interpretation of the Star Wars universe. After all, most of us were much younger when we first saw the films, whether it was the original trilogy or the prequels. We've matured, and I think our interpretation of the material has matured with us."
Watch the short film below: