Georgia player Chris Conley on making his 'Star Wars' film: 'We're not just athletes'

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

A Georgia wide receiver made a 26-minute epic "Star Wars" fan film set on his college campus. So let's talk to him about it.

So if new "Star Wars" director J.J. Abrams calls and wants to incorporate Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Chris Conley's new characters into the latest trilogy?

"Yes. Yes," Conley said at SEC Media Days.

Conley's 26-minute "Star Wars" fan-film "Retribution" was a substantial summer project, starting with preproduction last November and two months of script work and stunt coordination with Conley's Infinite Productions in Athens. The story in "Retribution" blends both "Star Wars" canon and SEC football, featuring head coach Mark Richt and notable Athens landmarks, namely Sanford Stadium. The film was shot over a series of weekends this February.

"I just asked about using the stadium. I don't think a lot of students, not just student-athletes, know what's available to them. If you ask to go inside [Sanford Stadium], the university will let you in. A lot of people don't know that and don't have the guts to ask. We went to the president of the university and told him, 'Hey, we've got this idea. Can we do it?' He passed us to the right people, but being passed on by the president gave us the leg up."

Conley said UGA was supportive and didn't require any kind of script approval, a gross departure from most filmmaking.

"They did want to make sure no one would get hurt. Once we covered those bases, we were alright."

"That was about a month of countless emails, calls and meetings. A lot of lost sleep, just because of the fact I did a lot of it myself. I didn't have a producer. It was just us. It was a lot of work. I had to explain to people we were shooting a film. It wasn't going to be three guys running around with a GoPro. It was a 15-man crew with cameras, a jib and a dolly."

In addition to playing the film's villain, Conley worked as a stunt coordinator.

"Those things hurt pretty bad when you get hit with them. It teaches you pretty fast not to miss."

Conley praised Richt's acting ability in the film, along with that of star running back Todd Gurley, who turns into Superman at one point.

"He's got a natural presence. He's used to being in front of the camera. He did a great job. I told him to sit there, and he did. And it worked."

"It's huge [to have Richt's support]. At some schools you can't do that because the coaches are so consumed with recruiting or football to sit down and talk with the players. The fact Coach Richt can do that makes me feel so much better playing for him. It drives me to fight harder to play for him. He does a great job of listening, and that's a great part of being a leader."

Conley said he approached Richt in the coach's office to pitch him on the project. Richt was taken aback at first, but quickly lent his support.

"As soon as camp starts on August 1, the filmmaking stops until football stops. The coaches know that, they trust me and they know I'm working hard. I've got to help lead this team."

Conley said "Retribution" is one of multiple film projects he's working on for the future.

"At first we just set out to make an awesome video. I don't think that people got that, that it was satire, something that people were supposed to enjoy. The fact we've been introduced to so many people out there, the fact I've enjoyed this so much, means I'm going to keep doing it.

When questions bounced from Conley's opinion on the "Star Wars" franchise's future under Abrams to standard Media Days depth chart questions about Georgia, Conley said he reveled in the range of topics.

"It's a good thing for people to hear that and see that. To realize that we're not just athletes, that we as football players aren't just good at football, that we can do other things as well. Pursue other dreams, but along with football. I don't think people realize we can do that."

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