MEET THE WOMEN WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES OF STAR WARS!
MEET THE WOMEN WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES OF STAR WARS
IN A SPECIAL ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION AT THE PORSCHE EXPERIENCE CENTER IN LOS ANGELES, THE ALLIANCE OF WOMEN DIRECTORS LEARNED WHAT DRIVES KATHLEEN KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF LUCASFILM, AND MANY MORE.
Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy spoke at Porsche Experience Center, Porsche is among the promotional partners for The Rise of Skywalker, joined by several other key female contributors as Lucasfilm, including The Rise of Skywalker Second Unit Director Victoria Mahoney, EVP and General Manager Lynwen Brennan, SVP of Live Action and Development and Production Michelle Rejwan, The Rise of Skywalker Editor Maryann Brandon, Lucasfilm Director of Development Rayne Roberts, Skywalker Sound Effects Editor Bonnie Wild and Deborah Chow, one of the directors on The Mandalorian’s first season who will next be directing the Obi-Wan Kenobi series for Disney+.
Here's a fun fact about incomparable Victoria Mahoney. Mahoney would wait for Star Wars to come find her. As a child, she distinctly remembers sitting in her backyard gazing up at the night sky, a backpack packed for adventure and a sleeping bag unfurled while she waited, watching “looking for someone from Star Wars to come and get me,” she said. “No joke, I thought a ship was going to come down — preferably Han Solo — and they were going to land in the tree tops because there were too many trees to land on the ground. And I sat out there. My parents were so wonderful and they let me, you know, until an appropriate bed time.”
Talking about STAR WARS and what it means to them, how they see it evolve and the fan base, they are hard core Star Wars fans. A franchise that's been a house hold name since the late 70's can be a little jarring!
“For us, it’s really interesting to inherit a legacy like George Lucas’s, which so many people love and has so much meaning baked into it from a 40-year history,” Roberts said. “As we develop new stories and develop new characters, it’s important for us to maintain the kind of emotional legacy of what George created, but add more that speaks to the filmmakers’ own interests and experiences and what they want to say inside of Star Wars.” Contemporary voices and new ideas help keep Star Wars fresh and of its time. For example, when Roberts and other creatives first met to solidify the vision for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rey was a product of the times and director J. J. Abrams’ storytelling. “Rey, she’s so comfortable being in her power and I feel like she’s a real reflection of where we were at seven years ago,” Roberts said. They asked themselves, “What do we want to see in a new hero? And we wanted to see this woman,” a self-sufficient and scrappy fighter who didn’t need her hand held and was just as capable at the helm of a ship as she was handling a blaster."
But it’s just as important not to stray too far from what makes Star Wars, well, Star Wars. As VP and Creative Executive Director Doug Chiang told Roberts, “George Lucas always said you want to add 20 percent more to what exists. That’s like the sweet spot. For design and it’s also very helpful for story as well.”
Brandon and her fellow collaborators on the new film have worked for years to end the Skywalker saga just right. “For two months, we haven’t had a day off or a night off or a morning off or anytime off,” she said. “Just when you think, ‘I don’t have the answer there,’ yes I do. And you shift something around and the film starts to sing, and you get there when you never thought you would, and that is one of the elements that is movie magic.”
“I love being scared, which is probably why I came into visual effects because we’re constantly terrified,” Brennan agreed. “If you’re not terrified, you’re not pushing the envelope.”
As the Skywalker saga comes to a close, Star Wars will soldier on, breaking new barriers and pushing new boundaries. It already has. LED screens that were used for lighting effects on real actors, sets, and props for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story gave rise to high-end laser projections on Solo: A Star Wars Story. Now, with The Mandalorian, in order to bring Jon Favreau’s vision for the series to fruition, ILM and its technology partners collaborated with Favreau to develop Stagecraft technology, projecting high-quality images on screens to transport actors to places only previously accessible by costly and arduous location shoots. “We did a lot of really sort of groundbreaking technology on Mandalorian,” Chow said. “I’m a total genre nerd, so Star Wars was sort of the pinnacle of that actually.” But even with the game-changing technology, another hallmark of the Star Wars legacy, it only worked because it had the foundation of a brilliant screenplay, “something you’re grounded with,” Kennedy said. “And then you can push the technology.”
“Even when you have all the bells and whistles and you have all the technology…at the end of the day, it does always just come back to character and story,” Chow added. “It allows you to tell the story in a really visual way, but you still really need a basic, great story.”
And, of course, it also comes down to putting together a crew of hardworking people, driven by ambition and a love for the Star Wars galaxy. “Two to three years seems like a long time to work on a movie,” Rejwan said. “Having the curiosity and the humility and wisdom to see around you and who makes you better and what makes the project stronger. It really all comes down to people. And if you have surrounded yourself with the right people then truly you can solve any problem.”
The woman of Lucasfilm are remarkable, they have shattered the glass ceiling, and they are what we aspire our role models to be. They are more than strong, they believed in themselves, the running consensus, they went after what they wanted and didn't allow failure to define them. It was an honor to be in the same room with the woman of Lucasfilm. I learned so much that will forever define me, thank you Lucasfilm for an amazing morning, I am so very grateful.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is out now!