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Comic Books, Film
While this summer’s May 4 is marked, even dominated by, the launch of Marvel’s The Avengers, it’s also considered worldwide to be Star Wars Day. A play on “May the Force be with you” (“May the fourth be with you”), SWD is a day to celebrate all things from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Helping fans revel in this year’s SWD are Clare Grant and Rileah Vanderbilt, two founding members of Team Unicorn. In 2009, Grant and Vanderbilt produced a video parody called Saber, which sent up the Axe body spray commercials with an underwear lightsaber fight and went on to win two Star Wars Fan Film awards. Now, Grant and Vanderbilt are back with a follow-up video highlighting a new Saber product directed by Grant’s husband, Seth Green and hosted by Nerdist.com.
Spinoff spoke with Star Wars fans Grant and Vanderbilt about the concept behind Saber 2, how their experience with the first Saber helped with the production of Team Unicorn videos, Seth Green’s directorial skills and future plans for new web shorts.
SPINOFF ONLINE: The press release says this new video will “focus on good, not-so-clean fun as it’s getting sexed up in keeping with the more adult audience that Nerdist attracts.” What’s the central concept of this sequel and how does it build on what was established in the first video?
Rileah Vanderbilt: All those Axe ads are different, so this one’s going to be a little different from the first one. I just plan on taking over the world one body soap at a time. It’s super fun — we’re really excited. It’s great that we get to have it come out [on Star Wars Day].
Clare Grant: In the first video, what was established was that Saber is a product, much like Axe is a product, that causes people to act in ways they would not normally act. Basically, it’s going to be our Jedi and our Sith having another epic lightsaber battle — maybe in a bathtub.
Vanderbilt: With a Wookiee.
Grant: With a Wookiee.
[Laughs] You guys have built a really fantastic audience, not only with the original Saber video, but also through your online activities as part of Team Unicorn. How did your exploits as part of the Unicorns help you decide to move forward with a Saber sequel, if at all?
Vanderbilt: Well, Clare and I started producing stuff before all of us together formed Team Unicorn. [Saber] was the first thing we produced. We took the skills producing it and we put them into Team Unicorn. For the last year and a half, almost two years, that’s primarily what we’ve been focused on — producing for Team Unicorn, making content for Team Unicorn and getting that ready. I think Clare and I both wanted to go back to our roots and do something, again, together with just the two of us because we started out as partners.
Grant: We’ve been sitting on this idea. Rileah came up with this idea immediately after the first Saber and we’ve just been sitting on it because we’ve been so highly focused on Team Unicorn. We finally had a beat [between] making things for Team Unicorn and we jumped on the opportunity to make another Saber.
You guys are debuting this through Nerdist, where Saber 2 and all other sequels to Saber will be hosted as well. What made you choose Nerdist as a launch platform and how many other sequels do you think you’ll do?
Vanderbilt: They wanted it, too.
Grant: Yeah, they wanted it. As far as other sequels go, there’s a bunch of Axe products out there, and as long as we can keep coming up with ideas to parody those Axe products, and as long as Nerdist will continue to help support that, we’d like to continue to make as many products as there are out there.
Is there any particular Axe-type product that you’re looking forward to getting your hands on to Saber-ize?
Grant: We’re kind of just looking forward to getting this one out and seeing how people react, first.
Vanderbilt:But we do have a couple ideas. We were thinking of doing a high-end cologne commercial, like the Calvin Klein super-crazy girls running through a bed of flowers, but instead of girls, maybe it’s Jawas. We don’t know. We just continually come up with ideas and eventually one sticks and we build on it.
This video was directed by Clare’s husband, Seth Green. Obviously, this isn’t the first time you’ve worked with him in a video. He featured pretty heavily in Geek and Gamer Girls, which launched Team Unicorn. What were you excited for him to bring to the Saber sequel as director?
Grant: When Rileah came up with the idea for Saber, we sat on it for a few years. [We had] initially brought it to her husband, but he was really busy at the time so he couldn’t do it. We just sat on it and then got sidetracked with Team Unicorn. Then, we were just talking to Seth about it and had gone to our friend Zeb Wells to fully write out Rileah’s idea and Seth had a unique take on the idea and just asked us if he could direct it. I guess we knew that he loved Star Wars and has a really good voice for telling Star Wars stories.
Vanderbilt: He’s very enthusiastic.
Grant: He’s done three Star Wars specials for Robot Chicken that are awesome. I think he’s even won awards for directing that Star Wars special, so we were really excited to see what his take would be.
How do you think it turned out?
Grant: It’s awesome! [Laughs] It’s right to the point: two wet Jedi warriors fighting in a bathtub over Chewbacca!
The two of you did the original Saber a pretty long time ago by Internet standards. Did you pick up any valuable skills since creating that original video that you were able to apply to the sequel?
Vanderbilt: I think that, like I said before, that was the first time ever producing anything. We wanted to create our own content. I feel like we’ve learned so much since then because we were like, “Oh, we do this as a producer? This is what we do?” Also with the Team Unicorn videos, I think we’ve produced — Saber 2 will be the sixth thing that we’ve produced. I feel like we’re old pros, now. I feel like with every different project you learn something new and there’s stuff you take away.
Grant: Yeah, like awesome sweet lightsaber skills! Rileah and I could samurai sword our way out of any apocalypse!
Speaking of Team Unicorn, it’s been a while since we’ve seen anything from them — is there anything coming up on the horizon?
Grant: We have a couple of things. We are working on a development deal with Adult Swim for a show, and hopefully, something will come out of that. In the meantime, we loved Geek and Gamer Girls so much that we kind of want to go back to that and create more geeky music videos.
Vanderbilt: We’ve written a song — it’s actually recorded. It’s super fun and I think everybody will love it. We’re in the process of getting it funded so we can make it look awesome for you guys and share it with the world.
Videos like Saber and the Team Unicorn pieces owe a lot of their success to YouTube. As a publishing platform, it seems like it’s been pretty good to you. What do you think the merits are of publishing on YouTube and, moving forward, even if you get this deal with Adult Swim, do you still plan on posting videos there?
Grant: Yes! Absolutely! We never want to abandon our web fanbase and we love the Internet. We love YouTube. I personally think that YouTube is really great not just for people like us, but also for children with aspirations of being filmmakers because everyone has the tools in their pockets with their phones to create their own original content. To be able to put that out for all the world to see in a matter of moments is pretty powerful and liberating.
I also wanted to touch briefly on your “Course of the Force” lightsaber relay race that’s going to end just in time for Comic-Con International at San Diego this year. Was this something inspired by Saber or something you came up on its own?
Grant: Actually, when we went to go speak with the Nerdist industries, we went under the auspice of working with them for “Course of the Force.” While we were there, we just randomly were like, “Oh, my gosh! Do you want to produce Saber with us, because we want to make new Saber!” and they were all about it. We’re really excited to be teaming up with Course of the Force and we love Star Wars and we love Nerdist. Any opportunity to combine those is perfect for us.
Speaking of CCI, Team Unicorn had a pretty large presence there last year. Are there plans for the show this year?
Vanderbilt: We are doing signings every day, so people can find us at our various signings. We’re still talking through all that, so we don’t have anything set in stone, but we do have another Comic-Con cosplay figured out. It’s going to be super fun.
Grant: Oh my gosh, it’s going to be so much fun!
Vanderbilt: Yes, it’s going to be original. In fact, I’m going to a fitting today to see what it looks like. I’m really, really excited. I don’t think we really have a panel planned. We don’t really have any new content per se coming up or anything we can really talk about yet. We’ll probably forgo the panel, but we’ll also have our merchandise out there, so yeah. People will find us for sure!
Getting back to Saber, is there any particular part of the new video you’re really excited for fans to see?
Vanderbilt: I’m excited just for the reveal of Chewbacca. It’s really cool, all of a sudden, that there’s a Chewie in your project. It’s super fun.
Are there any other projects in the pipeline that you’re particularly excited about?
Grant: I’ve got a few projects coming out. I just wrapped two independent movies recently, one is called The Insomniac with Danny Trejo and John Heard and another one called Joshua Tree 1951: a Portrait of James Dean which is a black and white 35mm film about Jimmy on the road to becoming James Dean. I’m also really excited that I just recently voiced a character on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It’s a brand new character and she’s a bounty hunter who works with Boba Fett and she will definitely be recurring in the next season. I am so excited about it!
Vanderbilt: Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. I’m really jealous.
Grant: The character’s name is Latts Razzi and she was created in my likeness, so when that action figure comes out, she’ll look like me! When I watch the episodes of this season, I can’t even explain to you the sheer joy it brought me. I’ve been a Star Wars fan my entire life and that’s something I never, ever dreamed would be a reality for me.
Vanderbilt: I can’t really talk about the next project I’m doing because it hasn’t been announced yet. I just wrapped another low-budget horror movie called The Pandora Experiment, which was super fun. We shot that with Noah Hathaway, Atrayu from Neverending Story and Michael Dorn from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was pretty epic. Clare and I actually have a couple of projects we’re working on outside of Team Unicorn as well. We did a pilot last year called Sexy Nightmare Slayers and we are trying to get that picked up for a webseries at the moment. We have another fantasy project that we’re trying to get made, so a couple things are happening which are super fun.