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The Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards is an annual contest put forth by Lucasfilm and AtomFilms to showcase and acknowledge the growing genre of fan films made by, for, and about fans of the Star Wars saga. The inaugural contest in 2002 was the first time Lucasfilm had officially sanctioned the genre. In 2007, the contest was renamed the Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge. In 2012, Lucasfilm announced that the contest was being discontinued, and that the company was looking for "new ways for fans to share their creativity".
Lucasfilm later announced, via the official Star Wars website, that the Fan Film Awards would return in 2014, for the first time in three years, welcoming different genres and styles. The best short films of that year were screened at Star Wars Celebration 2015 in Anaheim, California. The awards will continue in 2016.
A number of guidelines ensure that entries are produced by amateurs and do not infringe on Lucasfilm properties. The contest limits the content of entries to short film and video parodies, mockumentaries, and documentaries of the Star Wars universe and fan experience. Until 2007, In-universe fan fiction-type stories were not allowed. Rules changed in 2007 after all Star Wars movies have been released and fan fiction is now allowed. The contest imposes a time limit on entries - for the inaugural contest, it was 30 minutes, but this was lowered to 15 for the 2003-2005 contests. For 2006 and 2007, the time limit was lowered again to 10 minutes. Entries must not contain nudity, excessive swearing, explicit sexual themes or graphic violence. In addition, no unlicensed copyrighted material may be used in the entries, with the exception of a collection of approved images, music and sound effects. For 2006 onward, the contest rules were revised to prohibit contributions that are subject to or under the "jurisdiction of any guild or union collective bargaining agreement." (This does not, however, prevent a contestant from submitting an entry if they happen to belong to a union. For example, an amateur film-maker who is also a truck driver that is a member of the Teamsters.)
The awards have been presented at ceremonies held at either Comic-Con International or Lucas' Star Wars Celebration conventions. For the first contest in 2002, Kevin Smith hosted a special on the SciFi Channel to showcase the winners and some finalists. Winning films have been shown online at starwars.com, atom.com, and some have appeared on SpikeTV. In October 2008, a selection of winning films was shown in a special Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge-themed episode of Atom TV on Comedy Central.
The contest's grand prize is the George Lucas Selects Award, which is presented to the film Lucas himself selects as his favorite. The Audience Choice Award is selected by the worldwide internet audience, as all contest finalists are available to view online at Atom.com. The Pioneer Award is given to a film that either defined, changed, or influenced the genre. Other awards are given by a jury of people selected from employees of Atom.com and Lucasfilm. Beginning in 2004, some of the major awards were sponsored by Lucasfilm licensees.