Star Wars Is A Remix

from the everything-is-a-remix dept

A few months back, Kirby Ferguson started a fascinating project called Everything is a Remix, highlighting how the concept of “remixing” what came before, and adding additional new elements to it is much, much more common than you would think. The project kicked off late last summer with a video highlighting remix within music, focusing mainly on Led Zeppelin and how many, many of their songs are clearly “remixes” of existing songs:


While it’s taken a while, the second video of the series has now come out, and focuses on remixes in the movie industry, with a key focus on Star Wars:


It’s long been known that George Lucas relied heavily on Joseph Campbell’s works on myths in creating Star Wars, but you might not have known how many specific scenes, characters and elements he appears to have “remixed” from other movies. I’ve cut out a few quick screenshots below, but there are many more in the video:



Some of these are even more clearly take-offs on the originals when you see the video version. For those who think copying is somehow “wrong,” do you now think any less of Star Wars? Or will you come up with some sort of rationalization why this kind of copying and remixing is okay. The point, of course, which will unfortunately be missed by many, is that this is how culture and creativity evolve. Everyone builds off the works of those who came before them. This is a good thing, rather than something to be punished.

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Comments on “Star Wars Is A Remix”

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65 Comments
Anonymoussays:

Re:

No, Lucas did nothing! He just stole everyone elses IP and stuck it together in his mom’s basement. He’s getting a free ride on everyone else’s hard work, ie. all the lengthy research and expensive trials to perfect the lighting, the scenes etc, etc. How can the original artists get paid when LUCASTard is stealing it all for FREE??!!!

ltlw0lfsays:

Re: Re:

No, Lucas did nothing! He just stole everyone elses IP and stuck it together in his mom’s basement. He’s getting a free ride on everyone else’s hard work, ie.

I detect sarcasm in your tone, and I agree with that sarcasm, however, Lucas hardly did nothing. He took a bunch of movies, including Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, and melded them together into a fantasy story in space. I cannot stand copyright maximalists beliefs that any copying is wrong, but what Lucas did was copying from many works, then sorting them into a decent story in another place and time from the originals (though Flash Gordon was in the same genre, unlike the Samurai movies.) We all copy, and it is what makes our individual works better. My question to the copyright maximalists is, and has always been, where in the sand is copying wrong…can we have a definitive line in the sand where everything before that line is constructive borrowing and everything past the line is evil copying. Sure, taking one movie and copying a significant amount of dialog and action works as grounds for me, but when you take bits and pieces from a spectrum of movies, it should be counted differently.

For the record though, I don’t see a problem with someone borrowing a significant portion of a work to make it better (I welcome anyone to take my work and make it better, but then again I am a firm believer in open source,) but I suspect most copyright maximalists believe that any copying which results in padding their paycheck with more money if they win is bad copying (because they are sadistic greedy bastards.)

Anonymoussays:

It’s not really copying when you have to create everything from scratch. Also many scenes and shots in different movies are going to match up, because those are the shots that work. Just like in music, there are music progressions used almost universally because those are the ones that work. There are only so many ways to bake a cake.

naschsays:

Re:

It’s not really copying when you have to create everything from scratch.

The purpose of the series is to point out that nothing is actually created “from scratch”. Not at the level of ideas. Yes, Lucas had his own cameras and shot the scenes anew, but what was in his head came from other things that people had done before.

Hugh S. Myerssays:

Pete Seeger and the folk process

I don’t have an exact citation but a quick Google of his name and the phrase ‘folk process’ will give you a number of hits. As I understand it the 90+ year old singer Seeger has often pointed out that music is a living stream that you dip into from time to time— at best you sample, hopefully improve and then pass it on. Mind you this doesn’t prevent the copyright process or the typical mechanisms of the industry, but he is quite explicit in describing where things come from…

I don't think less of Star Wars

I don’t think any less of Star Wars for doing this. I’m glad they did and that the result was such a fantastic movie (and, arguably, series). I do, however, think less of George Lucas, not because this in itself is wrong but because he has spoken out against such remixing of Star Wars in the past, so now he just sounds like a hypocrite.

Chosen Rejectsays:

Re: I don't think less of Star Wars

I’d like to see a citation for this. Lucas has been really good with remixing Star Wars. He’s been present for a lot of fan fic stuff. Heck, there’s even The Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards where the grandest award is the George Lucas Selects award, winner picked by Lucas himself.

Paul Hobbssays:

If “creators” had to create without any reference (however subtle or hidden or even subconscious) to other creations, – essentially in a vacuum – we would still be living in the dark ages, perhaps even the stone age. Imagine if the “inventor” of the wheel had patented his invention (or at least refused to share it). Imagine a world without wheels – no cars or mass transportation systems; no flying between continents; no romantic bicycle rides with a lover; no pyramids. Oh wait – the pyramids would still be there cos aliens built them.

Perhaps a dose of humility is what is required here.

“What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much several ways, and especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” (Isaac Newton)

RDsays:

YOU SHUT YOU DIRTY MOUTH PIRATE!! Star Wars is ALL ORIGINAL!! ALL Scifi movies STARTED with STAR WARS! It would be a CRIME LIKE MURDER if ANY part of Star Wars was even a LITTLE like any other movie or story that came before! IT WOULD BE THEFT WHICH IS LIKE MURDER WHICH IS LIKE STEALING!!!

/sarc, for the loser copyrightmax shilltards who cant tell.

JSquiresays:

ReMixing is not creating

The difference is re-mixing is using someone else’s creations/source material instead of having the wherewithal to create something of there own. Sure, Lucas referenced/was inspired by others but he went out and filmed his own vision of those ideas/images. The lame/lazy re-mixers can’t be bothered, they just directly take others expressions rearrange them and call them their own. Lame.

The eejitsays:

Re: ReMixing is not creating

Then what about all the remixes that the big labels do? Or the remixes that DJs do? I refer you to the OCReMix project, where original game works are transformed into new music.

So let’s take, say, Final Fantasy VII – Voices fo the Lifestream. The fact that it uses original work and makes it, in some cases, better, can’t just be because of the act of transformation? IT must be ‘them durty pyrites.’

Lucas demands that people don’t remix his works – this makes him look like a hypocrite, when someone points out his inspirations. Star Wars was a generic work taken to cunningly brilliant levels.

Anonymoussays:

Re: ReMixing is not creating

So what you are saying is, if I sample a drum-break off a record I a composition then I HAVEN’T done something original.

But if I set up some microphones and record a drummer playing the exact same drum-break and use that, then I HAVE done something original?

Well I’m sure you’re just trolling there cos no one could actually be that stupid.

Originality in a work comes from the imaginative re-combination of existing ideas. The method of synthesis of the work is relevant only to the execution of the work, not the ideas that it is based on.

Re: Re: ReMixing is not creating

Anonymous Idiot;

If you sample a drum break off of a recording of someone elses work you are using someone ELSE’S work without their permission.

If you set up the drums and mics and record the same drum break, you are AT LEAST doing the work yourself and not mooching off someone elses efforts.

The problem most remix morons have is that they think that taking the work of someone else and just cut/pasting it into their work makes it theirs. They haven’t put a damn bit of effort into any step of creating the sounds that were originally recorded, they just rip off the work that someone else did.

Lucus may have used all those scenes as references, but in no way did he “REMIX” them into Star Wars. All of the work to create the scenes in Star Wars was done my Lucas and his crew. The scenes look similar, but the work put into creating the scenes was done by Lucas.

This is the distinction between Remixing, and Recreating. Most of the examples used by little mikee are ambiguous, and are nothing more than angles and shots. The only real example little mikee grasps that holds water is the one with C3P0, that was Lucas might want to consider paying royalties on.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: ReMixing is not creating

It takes a special kind of idiot to come up with the idea that “effort” is the essence of originality. Copying is copying, whether it’s done “by hand” or “through a computer”. Whether I take a picture of the Mona Lisa with a camera or I take a canvas and paint my own, it’s still a copy of the Mona Lisa.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: ReMixing is not creating

I agree. He’s also set up the straw man that all works created on samples by their nature take no effort to execute.

What’s telling is he hasn’t tried to imply that works based on samples have any less emotional impact, which of course is the goal. Those of us that are creative know the ends justify the means.

If I sample a Led Zeppelin riff off a CD, or if record myself playing it on my guitar, neither of these acts have created anything original. The originality comes from how I manipulate and rework said riff and combine it whatever other ideas I’ve chosen to use.

But then I guess I stand corrected, some people really are that stupid.

Kirksays:

Re: Re: Re: ReMixing is not creating

?If you set up the drums and mics and record the same drum break, you are AT LEAST doing the work yourself and not mooching off someone elses efforts.?

There?s a name for using existing components and not expending resources to recreate what?s already there; it?s called efficiency and it?s worked really well for us humans.

?The problem most remix morons have is that they think that taking the work of someone else and just cut/pasting it into their work makes it theirs. They haven’t put a damn bit of effort into any step of creating the sounds that were originally recorded, they just rip off the work that someone else did.?

You left out the part about combining those pieces in a creative way. That?s an important part.

Lucus may have used all those scenes as references, but in no way did he “REMIX” them into Star Wars. There, I agree with you. As Herodotus (the younger) said:
?Remixing something is a very specific process. It involves, not only ideas, but recordings of actual realizations of those ideas. It is quite distinct from emulation or artistic influence, whether conscious or unintentional, neither of which involve actual recordings as raw material.?

I see the utility of maintaining a more specific definition of remix.

Re: ReMixing is not creating

I’ve seen remixers that “take other’s expressions, rearrange and call them their own” and make stuff from a totally different and new sound-world, and I’ve seen musicians that start from scratch and make totally generic stuff with nothing new. And it also happens the other way round. This is not about what technique is used but about how much creativity is put into rearranging and transforming the building blocks of the past.

Watch this and then come back to tell us it’s not creative. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYa7furgQsA

Hugh Mannsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: ReMixing is not creating

To clarify, I don’t look at “clever” vs. “creative” as necessarily binary. As a rule of thumb, I guess, I’d consider works that lift actual elements from other works as tending to be more “clever” and less “creative.”

The more your work is made up of elements actually created by others, the less creative I consider your work.

Doesn’t mean it’s not funny or poignant or whatever. Just that much less originally creative.

HM

Mr. Smarta**says:

Every joke is like that also

Every joke you hear or that a comedian tells is little more than a remix of a joke heard years ago. I’m sure at one point long ago, two egyptians were standing around telling jokes: “Two pharoahs walk into a pyramid…” and it was adapted on through the years: “Two christians walk into a lion’s pit…” or “Two Confederate soldiers walk into a Union fort…” And now today: “Two guys walk into a bar, they both say ‘Ouch!’.” The joke has just been adapted to modern day situations. In some cases the jokes are hilarious, in others the jokes are stupid as heck. Just depends on the person remixing and their level of humor. Same thing with films and music.

Anonymoussays:

Influence and remixing are not the same things. Remixing implies that you use the originals and overlay them. Influence means you saw something, it great influenced you, and you created your own original take on it.

Remix society is the society of using what was already done and piecing it together. Nothing new is created, except the collage.

Influence requires that you create from scratch. You hire the actors, you write the story, you shoot the material.

You can be influenced by something without replicating. Remixing is just replicating. Not the same thing.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

Remixing implies that you use the originals and overlay them. Influence means you saw something, it great influenced you, and you created your own original take on it.

Remix society is the society of using what was already done and piecing it together. Nothing new is created, except the collage.

Your argument is essentially “nothing can ever be more than the sum of its parts”, which is provably false.

If you insist on your claim that “nothing new is created”, then using the same logic, it’s possible to prove that nothing new is ever created, because every song is simply made up of notes that have been played before.

Not an electronic Rodentsays:

Re: Re:

Your argument is essentially “nothing can ever be more than the sum of its parts”,

One of my favorite examples of “remix” is Terry Gilliam of Python fame. Famous for cutting bits of photocopies of old masters and magazines and moving them around.

Of course, clearly that’s not even slightly original or creative since all he was doing was using the work of others directly without drawing his own…… It’s just a remix of other people’s hard work, right?

Kirksays:

Re:

“Remix society is the society of using what was already done and piecing it together. Nothing new is created, except the collage.”

Way to bury the lead there, dude. ?Nothing new is created, except for the thing created.? What an elegant Zen statement. If Michelangelo takes a block of marble and some tools and carves a statue of David, nothing new is created. Except the statue. If you take some pieces of broken glass and make a mosaic, you haven?t created anything (except the mosaic). If you?re intention is to say that the creation is of lesser value, I can?t argue with a subjective valuation. I would just point out that even you admit that something is created.

?You can be influenced by something without replicating. Remixing is just replicating. Not the same thing.?
Copying is just replicating. When you do something to change the form, meaning, and context of an existing work, “That’s Aremix!”

The word ‘remix’ is getting abused to the point of being almost meaningless.

Remixing something is a very specific process. It involves, not only ideas, but recordings of actual realizations of those ideas. It is quite distinct from emulation or artistic influence, whether conscious or unintentional, neither of which involve actual recordings as raw material.

This isn’t said to denigrate remixes at the expense of traditional musical practices. It is simply a definition. I have nothing against remixing as a technique. I have heard DJ Shadow do things that are more musically interesting, and genuinely original, than the output of the vast majority of current singer-songwriters. But by referring to all of these different artistic relationships as ‘remixing’, important distinctions are lost.

GrrrlRomeosays:

Art is in presentation.

In jazz, borrowing another musician’s phrases is considered a hat tip or a compliment to the original artist. Only now do people consider this theft because music because copies can be mass produced to be bought and sold making it more of a product than performance art.

And to the one who mentioned Shakespeare, his themes weren’t original either. He borrowed from Greet tragedies and comedies, and of course, history.

Most art is in the presentation, not the subject. I wouldn’t call two artist’s paintings of the same subject a “remix.”

Hugh Mannsays:

Star Wars is not really a remix

None of that stuff was actually made of copies of earlier material. Sure, certain scenes/shots look like recreations of earlier works, but that’s a recreation, not a “copy” in the copyright (or remixing) sense.

In fact, it’s an excellent example of the difference between ideas and expression. George Lucas, I think, has always been very up-front about having borrowed concepts from earlier works. He wanted the feel of old Flash Gordon serials, as well as material based on various myths, with some cowboy westerns and WWII moves thrown in. Well, he did his own versions of all of that. As far as I know, there’s not a single frame of Star Wars that is copied from any other movie. Lucas did it all himself. So, he copied a bunch of ideas, but the expressions of those ideas were all arguably original.

This is quite different from the stereotypical remix, which (as the definition recited at the beginning of the video states) actually copies pre-existing works but adds (arguably) some level of creativity in re-arranging them and/or incorporating them with new/other material.

HM

Any Mousesays:

Re: Star Wars is not really a remix

And yet if you look through TD, you will find a lot of stories revolving around artists who might have used a /similar/ bit of music in their own compositions being sued by other musicians who are screaming about copyright. This article is just being used to highlight how incredibly stupid and shortsighted that sort of thing really is.

Yeah, I’m sort of agreeing and disagreeing at the same time. I’m not convinced that ‘remix’ was used properly in this article.

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