SW Creator - George Lucas
DVD Press Conference
September 7, 2001
JW - Jim Ward
VL - Van Ling
RM - Rick McCallum
PH - Pablo Helman
RD - Rick Dean
JS - Jon Shenk
Q: Actually I had a question about the starwars.com the weblink aspects of DVD. What are the concerns about CD-ROM materials being on the website as opposed to being on the disc is that they don't have a life, they don't last, the movie goes away and after awhile the content goes away at the website. Is the idea of this link something that you continue to be growing in the future (?) involved and.
JW: That's a fair question. We have a thriving ongoing regular site, starwars.com. We wanted to give those people that made investment in our DVD something that was special to them, and we certainly want to do that. Over the course of time how will that manifest itself? I honestly can't tell you. It's a very fair question though. I would hope that we could be able to maintain that and keep it fresh as best we could, but I can't really make any promises now because it's actually new frontier for us and so we're just going to have to explore as we move on.
Q: Do you see it as a place where you had to make hard decisions about what to include and what you wouldn't include in the DVD? Do you see that as a place where some of those things can go?
VP of marketing at LFL - Jim Ward
JW: Absolutely. That's the great part about it, we can put a lot of content up there, we can do a lot of things with the DVD itself. We could have special checks, as you watched the DVD on your monitor you can be involved in special checks situation and other content that we couldn't (?). Absolutely. Absolutely.
Q: When does the website launch, the one for DVD?
JW: The website will be up on the day of launch (?) coexisting.
Q: (?) is there a temporary page up there now where if you click it says coming soon?
JW: No there's not. No.
JW: Yeah. You wouldn't be able to find it anyway because you have to have the DVD.
Q: Are there any retailer-specific big promotions around this that you can tell us about?
JW: Well we have quite a retail partnership as you might expect through our Licensing group, and we have a lot of exciting programs with those folks ranging from Walmart to Target to all the major players where we have some really fun things planned so yeah, check it out.
Q: Any ideas what the numbers are that have been shipped to retailers, in the (millions?)?
JW: No, and I'll tell you when I first came here, my boss Gordon Radley who is the President of Lucasfilm taught me a very good lesson and that's never to underestimate or overestimate what you can do. So we're going to put them out there and we hope the demand is there and if it is that's great and we'll have to see. But I wouldn't want to venture to say.
Q: Do you guys, with the marketing campaign for the DVD, are you kind of doing the same thing you did with the VHS, are you putting more money into it or equal? How exactly are you marketing it?
JW: More money into, I'm sorry.
Q: Into actually the actual campaign, like are you going to do more commercials, more press, more events to publicize it's coming out on DVD.
JW: Well we're certainly obviously doing more press, I mean we didn't try to do this type of activity for the VHS. In terms of the kind of activity, yeah we're going to launch it in a very strong way. This is obviously a competitive quarter, but we also think that the quality will speak for itself as well. So it's kind of apples and oranges with VHS because it's a little bit different kind of situation, different medium.
Q: I know we're supposed to confine our questions to Phantom Menace, to this DVD, but it's a DVD-related question. Is there discussion of releasing the first three on DVD? Is this kind of, is this going to be watched to see how this works in terms of (?)?
JW: No we have no real plans at this point in time. I think you saw and you 've been through the kind of process at least that we undertake to do a DVD. George is in the middle of directing and creating Episode II, he's beginning to write Episode III, we don't have any real plans at this point.
Q: Will the documentary air on television as any kind of special to launch the DVD or anything like that?
JW: Not at this point in time, no. It's just really specially for the DVD itself. However the film itself will be debuting on Fox Network Television on November 25th. But no, this is just for the DVD.
Q: There was a discussion I had with another reporter and that was concerning will the teaser for Episode II be on the new site that's linked on the disc? I wasn't sure if you had mentioned that yesterday or if there were any plans to do it?
JW: I have no idea, you'll probably have to get the disc and maybe check it out someday. (laughter)
Q: Similar to the documentary that's on this disc, is someone also now following Episode II in process?
JW: Absolutely. We have a documentary crew, a part of which is here today documenting this very thing, by doing the exact same thing Jon did and they have been involved from the beginning of the development of Episode II through the production and they're daily going down to ILM exactly the same thing. Just a different crew.
Q: On the last re-release of the Trilogy on video, there was a value added part that had sort of a teaser for Episode II. Was there a decision not to include that on the DVD and why?
JW: Yeah again, we wanted this DVD to really focus on Episode I in and of itself. And to be honest with you, there's bit rate budget issues and it's a trade off and we really wanted to put what we felt was the best stuff on there.
Q: What was the reasoning behind doing the Starfighter material?
JW: Well you know it's a very popular game. A lot of our core fans not surprising are also videogame/PC gamers. So this is an opportunity to let them have an inside into the making of the game as well.
Q: How long did it take you to decide on the price?
JW: How long did it take to decide on the pricing? Well that's an involved process and I should mention that, we have phenomenal partners at 20th Century Fox as our distributors, and we work with them on a daily basis on all of these kinds of decisions. And the pricing strategy comes from years of their experience, their ability to feel the pulse of the marketplace. Our desire to get the best value proposition to our consumers that we possibly can. So it took awhile as we were developing the entire plan. But they gave us really great guidance on that.
Q: I'm wondering why you decided to release The Phantom Menace DVD now as opposed to say next, is it May when Episode II is released? Was there a reason?
JW: We wanted to release it when it got done. Because it did take awhile to do. Also one of the great things that we've learned about Star Wars is that people like to celebrate it and they like to give Star Wars things as gifts, and this is a nice opportunity to move into the Christmas timeframe. But it seemed like the best confluence of both seasonality and when we could the thing done.
Q: Do you see yourselves for Episode II trying to shoot for a same date DVD/VHS release?
JW: We haven't got that far. We're trying to get this thing out the door but to be honest with you we haven't made any plans as far as that goes.
Q: This is kind of another ancillary DVD question. Will Mr. Lucas' production schedule and the other Star Wars projects at Lucasfilm prohibit him from addressing some of the other non-Star Wars properties that you guys have, and even some of the smaller ones like a Young Indiana Jones?
JW: I'm not sure his production schedule necessarily will inhibit that, but we are issuing Willow this December, or actually the end of November with our partners at 20th Century Fox, November 27th. So no, in some of those areas we are moving forward.
LH: Alright we're ready.
JW: Super. OK, well I'll just introduce George Lucas.
OK. I'm not going to repeat the questions because it's like, it's like a pain.
LH: OK, we'll get somebody to write it down.
JW: Alright, I'm sorry. OK guys, OK let's start right over here.
Q: Very soon Francis Coppola's going to come out with Apocalypse Now redone which includes 50 extra minutes, and there's been several other big releases. Has there been any discussion about this DVD thing among filmmakers like you and Francis Coppola about how it's different, how it's special?
GWL: No. I think every filmmaker ends up having to compromise in order to deal with the theatrical experience. And so given their druthers I think most filmmakers on their own without even consulting with each other says 'gee if I'm going to put this on DVD and the length doesn't matter, I can put material in that I really love.' You know it used to be called Director 's Cuts and now it's just called DVD. (laughter)
Q: Historically speaking, how do you think Phantom Menace will be seen say 100 years from now? How it will be thought of?
GWL: Well I have no idea, I mean obviously I won't be around so it won't make any difference but at the same time I would guess that they will be thought of as the first chapter in a six-part movie. So that it'll be thought of really as Star Wars, not as Phantom Menace.
Q: I was thinking more as far as cinema goes because it seems very kind of (??) where people were trying to figure out how to make a movie for the first time?
GWL: Well, I don't know. I mean when we made Star Wars with a sort of pioneering in its own way too but now it's sort of old hat. You know people forget very quickly the technological advances that are made on each movie. I guess there are technological advances made all the time. It's a progression of the medium, especially in terms of being able to incorporate digital characters and sets and that sort of thing. It had been done before but not on the scale. And you know the next film will be more extreme and I assume that when I make the third one it'll be even more extreme.
Q: Was there any initial hesitation going to DVD or have you been very confident since you first considered this format?
GWL: No. The biggest issue is I wanted to do something special and I wanted to make it have a lot of interesting things on it. And in order to do that it took us quite a bit of time, we had to actually, in essence, shoot material. I mean we had shot it and cut it, but we hadn't done the special effects on it so we had to finish sequences that had been abandoned. Which took quite a bit of time.
Q: Was there anything unique about Episode I that you wanted to address in particular when coming to DVD? Anything you wanted to show fans about the process or anything about the film itself?
GWL: No. (laughter) No, no, no, I mean we do so many behind the scenes documentaries, and we do so many things and the market is so broad, it's hard to come up with something that is specific enough for me to be saying well this is something I want to do. I mean you give a general overview, you get behind the scenes, a lot of material that nobody has seen before. And you get a chance to see the scenes that were cut out and in the documentary it explains a little bit why they were cut out and the problems that a director has in having to trim this film down to satisfy an audience on a Saturday night.
Q: How do you feel about the finished product, and is there a favorite feature that you have on the disc?
GWL: Well I'm very proud of the finished film. I mean it's really, I love it and I think the interface is great. I'm happy to have those missing scenes back and finished, it was fun to finish them. You know you do things that you never really get to complete so you never really find out whether they're going to work or not, and that was a lot of fun to see that all put back together again.
Q: Did you learn anything new about the film in revisiting it for DVD?
GWL: We ended up putting a few things that we'd cut out back into it just because when I finally saw them finished and I cut them in and I looked it and I said, it's really better with this stuff in here than it is without it. And in a lot of cases in this kind of a movie it's very hard to make this kind of movie because it's made in theory. And then at the very end you get to see it finished. Where normally you'd do a rough cut of a movie, that's pretty much the movie so it's not a theory any more it's a reality. But with this kind of a film, the film hasn't even been shot yet, in a lot of cases. So you're cutting things out that haven't been shot yet. So you' re saying well I'm not sure if this is going to work so you just cut it out and you never see it actually work or not work. That's a very different way than most people make a movie. And so in this particular case I was able to finish a few things and I said when you cut this in here it just works great so I'm just going to keep it there. So there are scenes that were cut out but there's also a little bit of adjusting in the film itself which I was very pleased about.
Q: You talked in the documentary about the challenge of creating three or four new environments in each film. And I wonder now with DVD getting to the extent that it is where you know you have Shrek coming out now and Godfather and Snow White where they're just putting hours and hours and hours of extra things and getting more innovative all the time with new extras. Is this creating yet another challenge or stress level for you to have to try to up the ante for DVDs now as well?
GWL: No, I think that a DVD should be organic. But there's certain material that traditionally has been included, you know the commentaries and now we have some behind the scenes things. We have a great deal of behind the scenes footage that we shoot because I have lots of other plans to do other things. And I obviously I don't shoot certain scenes just to end up on the DVD. I haven't gotten that far yet. I'm not sure, I assume someday people will do that but I don't think I will.
Q: We all know your original plan was to wait and release all six films to DVD at one time. Why did you change your mind? Thank you, but why?
GWL: Well there's a lot of pressure on the market to release them and that sort of thing, and we were also in a situation where I wanted to complete the film. I mean I wanted to do the behind the scenes, I wanted to do the scenes that were taken out. And I really needed to have the people who were involved in it do it. If I'd waited for another four years when I finally made the third and the final and finished it, it wouldn't be as easy to accomplish all that. And once you've accomplished it and you've spent the money on it then it makes sense to release it. And so now I think with these first three we will be releasing them as everyone else releases them, which is in the normal schedule after the initial theatrical release of the movie. Then I'll do the first three, because they're kind of vintage and it 'll take a little bit more work.
Q: American Graffiti which has been on DVD for some time, for anyone who has read about what you had to go through with Universal to make that film, seems to be one of your most personal. So I was just curious why you chose to record your first feature commentary for Star Wars? Is this a film you' re more proud of if that's possible? I mean because I know you're probably proud of all your features, but why did you start now?
GWL: Well I don't know. I didn't have a lot to do with the DVD of American Graffiti, it was actually a Universal project. And I think when they were doing that I was actually shooting Phantom Menace or something so I wasn't even around to do it. I'm not quite sure what happened on that, but this one, we did ourselves. The American Graffiti DVD was put together and released by the DVD Department at Universal. They don't actually ask whether you want to do it or not. They just go ahead and do whatever they want to do.
Q: Would you possibly like to revisit it sometime and do a commentary?
GWL: I don't know.
Q: In the documentary we saw you in a lot of challenging and stressful situations, and you seemed very calm and unflappable. Is that your general style making films, or do you think we didn't see, and if so how do you remain so calm?
GWL: Well, I'm not very calm about raising my kids. But I've done this for a long time now. And I lose my temper every once in awhile just like anybody does under those kind of conditions, especially when they go on for months. But generally, 90% of the time that's the way I am. And it's just my constitution I guess. It's the way I work. I don't like a stressful set. I don't think yelling at people really accomplishes too much.
Q: I just wanted to raise something that came up earlier, which is the question now that you've got all the responsibility for the DVD to release, three insert scenes, you know show extraneous material. You said earlier that what used to be called the Director's Cut is now called the DVD, but do you think in some sense that film it's quite difficult to say at what point a film is finished, or that there's a final version or a definitive version? And particularly your decision to finish scenes that you'd set aside and think about putting some of them back, putting one of them back. It muddies the waters in a way. This may not be a bad thing, maybe you think that's a good thing. But there's no, there's a fuzzy sense of when a film is finished, no?
GWL: Yeah. Now it's not unlike all other art forms. All the other art forms have that advantage, improvised additions and you know for things to be touched up or redone. You know an artist especially, you go into any studio and you'll find a lot of paintings sitting on a wall that were finished five, 10 years ago that the artist is just sitting with until he's really happy with it. And even sometimes they sell the paintings come back and revisit it. Not that often. But I think with film, like anything else as far as I'm concerned, the film is finished when the Director is gone. So to speak. And you know it brings up another issue that a lot of us have been campaigning for in the last 10 or 15 years which is artists' rights, because more and more it's going to get to a point where people can re-cut each other's movies and studios can re-cut your movies and do the same thing that now is essentially left to the director to do. And then you're going to get some very distorted views of movies. It's like what happened in the theatrical experience. And you know you hear all the complaints from the directors, that's not my cut, that's not what I wanted, you destroyed my movie. And right now we're sort of getting that back through the DVD process of actually making it more the way we, the filmmaker actually originally intended it. But then there's always this danger that the studios take it back and say well I don't care what he wanted I'm going to do the new DVD which is the better cut. You know, the executive/middle management cut. The corporate cut. And we're looking to try to see that there is some protections about who actually gets to re-cut these movies. And then as far as I'm concerned the artist should always have the right to re-think what he's done because that's ultimately what people are interested in.
Q: Expanding on the idea of commentary, how did you enjoy, what was it like sitting down revisiting the film and talking about it and would you want to do that again on your future work?
GWL: Yeah, I'll do it again. I mean again at this point, I don't know I've seen some (?) actually not a great deal of time and sort through it in a very comprehensive fashion, generally what happens is you sit down and watch the movie and just talk about it. So you know it's whatever sort of comes off the top of your head at that particular moment. My feeling is that in the future they will become more prepared in terms of there will be a theme going through it or some kind of issue that is being dealt with or many issues. Because there's so many things you can talk about that it's a kind of an arbitrary amount of information that comes out at any given moment. And (?) usually you're doing well when something is right so you don't have enough time to second guess what you've said.
Q: There's only seven cut scenes on the DVD and there's numerous other cut scenes from the film. Was it difficult for you to make a decision on which scenes to complete?
GWL: I picked the seven that are actual scenes. I mean we can just sort of go through and cut random dialogue or you know we tried to get things that actually developed into a real scene that went on for at least a minute. You know sometimes a little bit less but you know we tried to get substantial things, in the end you cut out an enormous amount on a movie. You know there's another ½ hour of bits and pieces and things that are kind of not really relevant to anything. And they're not relevant to an entity that was taken out, it's just trims and cuts and lines that are lost and that sort of thing.
Q: One of the scenes I was hoping to see, that I've seen pictures of, is Obi-wan being lectured in the (swamp?) by Qui-gon (?) saber burned out.
GWL: In the end you know it's like four lines. I mean the scene is there, it just would be longer. And it's the kind of thing that overall in looking at the movie I felt that that discussion didn't really fit into the movie. It's relevant in a more grand scheme of things, which is relevant to the movie that I'm making now and kind of things, it's a kind of minor version of what Jabba the Hutt was in New Hope. Which is is it's not really relevant to A New Hope but it is relevant to Return of the Jedi. And, you know, (?) in the second one too but mostly when you go back to see the last film. And this is just a couple of lines that sort of resonated against similar kinds of lines that are going on in this movie. But you know in the end it's a shading, it's not really a big issue. And in a lot of cases you' re sort of trading off shadings that might be appropriate in the grand scheme of six movies, but not appropriate in the individual movie as it exists. Unfortunately I'm writing a novel and I'm writing it a chapter at a time. And one chapter comes out every three years. So each chapter has to kind of work unto itself. And it's kind of tricky, because you don't want to do things that bring the whole thing down just because if you saw the whole thing at once it'll all make sense but it doesn't individually. So I have to kind of weigh those two things against each other all the time.
Q: You were talking a minute ago about some of the things that we saw on the documentary that were interesting, and one of the things that surprised me and I'm imagining it's going to surprise a lot of people to see it, is that scene when you're sitting in the editing room and the editor is like, you're pulling material from one take and from another take to combine it into something that you want. And I don't think a lot of people realize that that's even possible, the technology that you can combine such disparate things maybe. And I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on, it's now possible, I mean you're able to do something if somebody moves the wrong way you can fix it.
GWL: Well it's an advance. Again, it's sort of the technological side of the craft of filmmaking. You know people usually don't go into long discussions about editorial tricks and things that we use all the time to get performances out of people or to try to make sense out of scenes that inherently don't make sense. And so this just moves that whole toolkit further along. It's like word processing being able to move paragraphs around and do things like that. Or Photoshop, where you can touch up photos or you can move things over, or you could take things out. You know in the digital world these things are kind of old hat. You know they just haven't been applied that much to film, at least not to feature films but you know in a lot of commercials and video. Let's just say it's more of a film school issue than anything else I think, and most of the students do already understand how you can slice and dice a frame and make it be what you want it to be. Especially if they've had any experience with animation.
Q: Were there parts of the DVD included for more hard core Star Wars fans? Was it meant for a general audience? Both?
GWL: Well I think it was meant for both. I mean we tried to have a little something in there for everybody, but a DVD is like everything else, it's designed really for everybody. It's not designed for a specific group.
Q: Was there any parts that you put in for the hard core fans?
GWL: I don't think so.
JW: Well I think it depends. Certainly some of the aspects of the deleted scenes are, as we talked about the Rats Tyrell family, that you've got to really be hard core to know who Rats Tyrell was and that inside joke. But it's really funny just if you looked at it in general. So it's a blend. And that's what's wonderful about Star Wars.
GWL: Well we put in there, you know I put in there, mostly things that we all liked and all of us that had worked on the movie and people who were involved in the movie kind of the things that got added in and what the documentary was about and all that sort of thing. So in a way it was for the hard core fans because it was for us.
Q: What kinds of movie experience does watching DVD represent to you? Do you enjoy renting a DVD rather than going to a movie theatre?
GWL: I generally go to the movie theatres. I mean I go to the movie theatres to see what's happening now and then I watch DVDs for older movies that are no longer in the theatres. So I don't really choose one or the other. If I want to see Dr. Strangelove I can't go to the movie theatre. But if I want to see something more contemporary, Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back I have to go to a movie theatre.
Q: I was just wondering, Rick had said earlier that right before you went to Australia to film II, that you hired the crew for the DVD. Were you going back and forth in terms of working on each project? Were those simultaneous?
GWL: Yeah, in this particular case the crew that worked on the DVD some of them had worked on the film and I gave a lot of instructions when I left. And then they'd come and visit every once in awhile in Australia. But I didn't check in at the same level that I would on the film that I'm working on now. I sort of let them have a little more freedom because they knew pretty much what to do, they'd worked on the film, they knew how it all went together. And there wasn't a lot to get on them about because there weren't really a lot of decisions that had to be made.
JW: Time for a couple more questions, and I want to make sure that I get people that haven't asked one yet. So you've not asked one? OK. I trust you.
Q: Is it hard for you to come here and talk about the DVD, should your mind be preoccupied with Episode II?
GWL: Well it is actually. I'm over there editing right now, had to deal with a particular scene. But I sort of let the editors fend without me for a few minutes and hopefully they'll have things sorted out by the time I get back.
Q: With each film pushing the edge of technology, do you think people will be surprised that you actually write the scripts with pencil and paper as opposed to using word processing?
GWL: I don't know. I mean people I guess have a tendency to think you're one way or the other, and people come out here and they see this is all sort of Victorian and they say oh my God I thought this was all going to be really fancy and high tech and look like some Frank Gehry museum or something. But you know, that's not what my personality is at all. I'm not a techie. And I've never really claimed to be.
Q: As a movie lover I grew up in an era of the first Star Wars films. There was no real "making ofs", there was no DVD. I'm just wondering as a filmmaker do you ever worry that you might be showing too much and therefore destroying the magic of the process of movie making?
GWL: Well I think it's like anything else, and especially like the writing process or anything else. I think especially for young people it's important to let them know how all these things go together because I'm hoping a lot of them will get into it and do it themselves. So it becomes a kind of an educational process. It's not something that was available when I grew up. You know we couldn't even see movies unless we went to school and actually it was showing that night. And you were just stuck. Now you can pretty much see any movie you want at any time you want. It's an amazing transformation that's taken place. I think the other end of it is that by doing the documentaries, there's a lot more revealed, a lot more going on with the filmmaker. When I also went to school nobody really knew who directors were except film students. You know maybe Hitchcock or some of the people that have been on television, but you know generally it was a pretty quiet behind-the-scenes job. Now it's not. And we're obviously allowing more and more entry into the creative process of exactly what we do and how we do it and what it's like on the set every day when you're actually doing it. Because for the most part there's cameras around all the time, recording almost everything that goes on. And that's a little intense. I mean it's like a space station, you're in a zoo. I guess if lions and tigers and bears can stand it, directors can too.
Q: With the DVD release you've really seemed to have embraced the online world with communicating with your fans, and you mention earlier that you were pressured to release Episode I. To what extend do people on the internet get together and talk about your movies and communicate, influence both you as you're looking at the Star Wars franchise on DVD but also as the story continues and you create the Star Wars films.
GWL: When I did Phantom Menace and rather than doing Phantom Menace which is two or three years ago, I started to read some of the internet stuff for the first time. And you know I found it rather disturbing in its complete fantasy life. I mean about 2% of what I read that had any credibility whatsoever in terms of being true. And the rest of it was just complete BS that had been created by somebody somewhere. And at first you sort of say well they can't say that, and this is crazy, why would they, what are they talking about? I was doing it pretty much when I was editing, because I didn't have anything else to do and sort of in between I'd sort of read the internet. And then, because it's the only thing I don't have time for. And after I finished that movie and everything I stopped reading the internet. And I haven't really gone back because it's not, in a way it's just not relevant to what I do, in any way. So I just stay away from it. It's like reading reviews. People expressing their opinion for whatever reason and that's fine, but in the end I've got too many other things to do to spend my time sort of listening to 10,000 opinions.
JW: George, thanks a lot.