Looking for Leia to debut on SYFY

No Man’s Land’s weekly interview series is on a short hiatus for the holidays. It will return in January, but in the meantime, we’re excited about some big news involving several of our past interview subjects.

For more than a year, we’ve been eagerly following the progress of Looking for Leia, a docuseries that shines a light on the long history of women and nonbinary folks in the Star Wars fandom.

On Monday, it was announced that Looking for Leia has been acquired by SYFY WIRE, which means we’ll get to watch the series this weekend! This fabulous news comes on the heels of a well-received sneak preview of the docuseries earlier this year at the DragonCon convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

The seven-episode, short-form series by independent filmmaker Annalise Ophelian and her company, Floating Ophelia Productions, will be released on multiple platforms Saturday, Dec. 21. Looking for Leia will share the same opening weekend as the latest movie in the Star Wars saga, The Rise of Skywalker, which should make for some epic viewing.

All seven of the 10 to 15-minute episodes will drop on SYFY.com, VOD, YouTube, and NBCU’s OneApp, according to a SYFY press release. Two episodes will air back-to-back on the SYFY TV network at 11/10 Central Time.

Among the many diverse Star Wars fans featured in the series are SYFY WIRE Fangrrls contributing editors Preeti Chhibber and Swapna Krishna, author Charlie Jane Anders, author Bonnie Burton, and voice actors Clarissa Yazzie and Geri Hongeva.

SYFY WIRE Fangrrls will also feature interviews with Ophelian, essays from documentary subjects, and retrospectives of the women of the Star Wars franchise, including the legacy of Princess Leia, the press release said.

In a May 2018 interview with No Man’s Land, Looking for Leia director Ophelian spoke about her inspiration for the series. A lifelong fan of George Lucas’ original trilogy, the director said the idea for the project was sparked by her first experience at the Star Wars Celebration fan event.

“I started with a question,” Ophelian said.

“Who are the girls and women in Star Wars fandom, and what stories do they have to tell about what they love and how they express that? And from there, I started talking with folks all over the US and some places out of the US, and a picture of participatory fandom emerged, and also of the function and role of fandom in participants’ sense of self and relationships with others.”

Throughout the project, Ophelian encountered challenges typical to an independent, self-financed production, but perhaps her biggest obstacle was the sudden death of the real-life Leia, Carrie Fisher, in 2016.

“I was getting ready to drive my mom and brother to the airport when the news of her passing hit my Twitter feed, and I just got up and walked into the bathroom, closed the door and sobbed,” the filmmaker recalled.

“It was just such grief. I’ve experienced a lot of loss in my community since the late 1980s and there’s something unique about losing artists. … I felt like the project died with Carrie.

“My original concept for the piece was to road-trip around the US, and I thought I’d be able to put together a compelling reel to show her reps and she’d sit down and give me an interview to tie the film together, talking about her iconic role and her relationship to fandom.”

Ophelian was already set to attend and film at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. Her partner urged her to go and “talk with women about what Carrie Fisher meant to them,” as well as listen to their stories.

“Shortly after that, I learned about the Drowning in Moonlight Gala (honoring Fisher) and spoke with the organizers, who were incredibly generous and invited us to film there, and it moved forward from that point,” Ophelian said.

Representation in front of and behind the camera is a priority for the filmmaker, a queer woman drawn to documentaries because she didn’t see herself represented on screen. Looking for Leia places an emphasis on the stories of a culturally diverse group of women. The director also recruited many women and nonbinary professionals to join her crew.

“One of my goals in this and every project is to push back against white supremacy and heteronormativity and all the ways the dominant group gets to occupy the silent neutral center, and shift the lens to ask women who live at the intersection of marginalized identities to speak from their own experiential expertise,” she said.

“It’s also important, I think, to ensure that these women aren’t only being asked to talk on identity-specific issues, aren’t just showing up on the designated section about race or sexual orientation or disability, but are present in front of and behind the camera in all aspects of the project.”

The director is quick to credit the Star Wars fan community, which proved to be an invaluable resource in the making and funding of Looking for Leia.

“I can say without reservation that this project would not exist without the support of the fan community, who have been so generous through two rounds of crowd-sourcing and also with resources and time and talent,” she said.

“Even if you aren’t on screen, I hope you feel a part of this series, that it feels like something that belongs to you.  … Working on this production has been completely joyous. I get to talk with women about what they love, and it’s impossible to do that without some of that love rubbing off.”

No Man’s Land has also interviewed several other women involved in the making of Looking for Leia. They include composer Christy Carew; illustrator, second-unit director, and camera person Alyssa Bradley; principal researcher Amy Richau; and Saber Maidens co-founder and interview subject Pat Yulo.

Photos: Looking for Leia, ©2017, Floating Ophelia Productions.

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