Alyssa Buecker directs her guinea pig actors in a new film commissioned by HBO.
The "Star Wars" films have always been good satirical targets, but even a visionary director like George Lucas probably could not foresee what a Lawrence filmmaker has in store for his famous series.
Alyssa Buecker is hard at work on her fifth short feature, "Carrot Wars," a sci-fi parody with characters named Dark Vapor, Hand So-So and Hokey One Spumoni, all portrayed by her stable of guinea pig actors.
Since she began filming her pets in short feature films four years ago, Buecker has since evolved into a savvy 15-year-old director who is utilizing an ever-increasing bag of technical tricks to enhance her films.
Making movies is not only a career, but also a labor of love for Buecker.
"I really enjoy making films and editing them. It's fun," she said.
Her first three features aired on media giant HBO, while a fourth one ran on Nickelodeon. "Carrot Wars" was directly commissioned by HBO for its exclusive use.
Teen-age filmmakers working with guinea pig casts are few and far between, and the result of Buecker's career has been an avalanche of media coverage that has further advanced her work.
This summer Buecker traveled to Orlando, Fla., to compete in Nickelodeon's teen-age quiz show, "Figure it out." She won a ton of prizes -- including a cruise to the Bahamas for her family -- but in the process she also completed a film spoof of the game show for the network.
"The show was fun and I loved doing it," Buecker said.
A second perk came her way when she received a film scholarship to The Ross School in East Hampton, Long Island, N.Y. She and 20 other teen-agers worked for a month learning new techniques and developing their own projects.
Buecker then turned around and put that knowledge to use in her new film.
The "Star Wars" parody promises more technical proficiency, special effects and an enhanced story line over previous efforts.
Buecker's parents are behind her 100 percent. Her father, Brad, has helped build the miniature sets and worked on technical issues, while her mother, Nancy Pistorius, juggles PR duties.
"Her father said he wanted listed in the credits as the gaffer, while I'm the gopher," Pistorius said.
As she films her new epic in her family driveway, Buecker's notoriety is continually growing. She's done countless print and radio interviews, with some stations calling on the spur of the moment with live on-air interview requests.
Buecker has been featured on the Time Magazine for Kids Web site and in the magazines Cappers and Best Friends. A profile of her also ended up in the May 4 issue of People magazine.
She was just interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. for the program "Pet Project," which will air next year on "Animal Planet," and National Geographic World is planning to send a reporter and a photographer for an interview. A writer for Guideposts of Kids magazine and an editor of Teen People magazine have also contacted the family.
"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" is also trying to schedule her on the program, if they can figure out a way to get the guinea pigs to Los Angeles.
"They don't want to fly cargo. They are fragile and get scared easily," Buecker said of her acting troupe.
Buecker's mom has figured out why her daughter's story generates so much interest.
"People enjoy having something nice and fun and light to see," Pistorius said. "It strikes a chord with them."
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