The stone-collecting Gich examines a prize during a scene in Pendleton's film.
Who ever said puppets were just child's play?
Jim Henson's 1982 puppetry-driven fantasy endeavor The Dark Crystal inspired enough of a cult following to motivate the Jim Henson Company's hosting of the Dark Crystal Fan Film Competition earlier this year. The festival welcomed roughly 30 entries spanning mediums and genres, and a panel of judges whittled the pack down to a group of standouts.
One of the Dark Crystal devotees whose film walked away with a prize happens to be a Spokane native. Young father James Pendleton is the filmmaker behind Gich and the Skystone, which clinched the competition's first runner-up spot in May. Pendleton wrote and directed the film on his own, and employed family help on certain technical aspects of production. Though he's worked on other films in the past (and is presently a crew-member on Syfy's Spokane-filmed show Z Nation), this short film was his debut as a writer/director.
Pendleton's film chronicles the pursuits of the titular, furry figure (a puppet of Pendleton's own making), who happens upon a mysterious stone that crashes down near his home from the heavens above. Before starting work on Gich and the Skystone, Pendleton envisioned his film as a suitable prequel to Henson's fantasy epic. Thus, the "skystone" ends up playing an integral role in Dark Crystal mythology.
Pendleton's prize was an invitation to a private tour of The Jim Henson Company in Los Angeles in late August, a tantalizing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Henson diehard. The trip included a private screening of the winning films alongside Pendleton's fellow victors. "There were definitely a few [films] that gave me a run for my money," he says. "I'm honored to have placed where I did in the competition."
Pendleton has been a lifelong fan of Jim Henson's work, from Sesame Street to Labyrinth and, of course, The Dark Crystal, the latter of which, he believes, has garnered its considerable cult following thanks to the "care and time and energy put into creating the world of the film." Pendleton's film was praised specifically by siblings Cheryl and Brian Henson, the children of Jim Henson, in a personalized letter that the filmmaker received from Cheryl.
"It's beyond an honor," Pendleton says. "It's a dream come true to feel like I've given back to a family of filmmakers that have influenced me so deeply."
Check out Pendleton's four-minute runner-up film below: