Conversation with Lynn Hale and Marc Hedlund
I bet the first thing everyone is wondering is "How do you know that it was really Lucasfilm and not some faker?" Good question. Now take notes, cause this is how Lucasfilm will contact you if they ever do. Marc Hedlund, head of www.starwars.com, wrote me from his personal work address. The server name in the return address matched the server name in the header. Second, the e-mail was not email@example.com. They don?t write people from an @starwars.com address. Third, I was able to find out that the server the e-mail came from is in fact owned by Lucasfilm. And the best convincing came when they gave me a secret URL to a page at www.starwars.com. (Don't bother asking me for it.) They gave me a confirmation code I punced it in on the page and a personal note popped up. THAT'S how you know if Lucasfilm has written you.
Marc said he and Lynn Hale, head of publicity from Lucasfilm, wanted to give me a call to chat. I asked for his phone number cause I didn't know where I would be today. Now there's another sign that they are real. A faker won't give you their phone number. Marc did. (And no, I won't give out the number or his e-mail.)
I called at 11 am as planned. The phone rang a few times and Marc picked up. He asked me to hold cause he was on the other line. He got back on, then called up Lynn Hale in London. She got on and said, "Let's see, we've got a call between San Francisco, London, and....."
I said, "Little backwater College Station, Texas." We all got a laugh out of that. Good start. :)
We talked about the Official Star Wars site a little. I told them that one of my suggestions for the Official Page would be to have an e-mail we could write to. They said they wanted to do it, but there were several problems. One is that they get around 150 megs of mail a month and that's WITHOUT posting an address on the page. They could never answer all of them. Then, there's the legal problem of people sending story ideas to the page. They aren't allowed to read them. They'd actualy have to have somebody screen all the mail before they could read it. They DO watch the newsgroups, however, and were considering answering random questions on the group. However, that lead to more problems of being flooded with e-mail.
They also said that George Lucas himself wanted the page to be special. A lot of movies simply use web pages as an advertising tool. George wanted it to be special for the fans. He didn't want it to be commercial. I said they were definitely NOT commercial! In fact, we're the one's having to post all the stuff on the merchandise. I told them I didn't think fans would look down on the site if they started to discuss the Star Wars related products...as long as it was balanced with real stuff. He wanted to know what I thought of 'Anatomy of a Dewback'. I said I thought it was great. They said that was their advantage over the Insider...they could do video. They said they didn't get much feedback on it. I said, "As long as they're quiet, you're doing things right. They get vocal when they don't like stuff." I said they definitely needed to post the prequel trailer when it came out. Marc then commented that he thought Nick Brandt's prequel trailer was pretty cool and he showed it to the office there.
Then they began talking about TheForce.Net. Apparently, Yahoo asked Marc what Lucasfilm thought of fan sites. Do they hate us? Marc said, 'Are you kidding? Look at the work they're doing!' And he took the Yahoo people right to our page. Yep, he singled us out in particular. He said, "Look, they're editing the profanity in some of their quotes! Look how they distinguish fact from rumor. They put the rumors in Purple!' Marc showed that we are truly fans, and that THAT'S why Lucasfilm loves our stuff. They made a very very very big deal about how we post everything prequel related (which they are cool with), but we distinguish fact from rumor, mainly with the purple text. (Man , we got to start using more of that purple text! :) So if you're looking for Lucasfilm guidelines, there's a good place to start!
They finished that off by saying THEY DON'T HATE THE FAN SITES!! They love them. They get a kick out of them as much as you do.
They did leak a little bit of prequel news. They said that neither Hamill nor Fisher worked on the prequels at all! I said, "But didn't Fisher say she did dialogue?" They said that she had SAID she wanted to, or had intended to, but she ended up not touching the script. And Hamill was involved in no way, shape or form.
I asked them if they could start doing a daily update on the site. They said originally they started out doing monthly updates. They soon realized that wouldn't work. Then they got it to weekly, and now 2 or 3 updates a week. They were wary of doing daily updates for two reasons. One is that they may not have enough material to do daily updates. Eventually, it would get so trivial nobody would care. Then, if they ever missed an update, the fan reaction might be fearful. The masses might get restless. So it's all an issue of sustaining the updates and maintaining high quality. I told them they could put stuff up about their merchandise, but it went back to the issue of them not wanting their site to be too commercial. Entertainment is the goal of this site.
Back to the news, they said that now that shooting is over, there will not be as much news. They didn't want to raise expectations with the massive amount that has been coming out and then have them stall flat as post production proceeds. They are going to have cool stuff as ILM computer work continues, though.
They asked me if I thought the crew profiles and interviews on the Official page were interesting. I told them I thought they were. I said I thought they should start out with the crew, then work their way up to the main actors over the next two years. I asked if they COULD do that. They said, "Oh, yeah." So, expect it. :) But I told them to continue with the crew profiles. They were interesting.
I also told them that they should make the Episode 1 page the main page. They said that it gets the most hits, but the special edition page is a strong second. One of the things they want to do is make the 6 films feel like one story. They want to convey that on the site, too. I told them that is a great idea.
We talked about George. They said that George is very visually oriented. He loves the direction, the colors of the sets, the environment, the planets, the sound. So it follows that, when Marc read the story outline for the prequel, it STILL did not tell him much about the film. Part of the story IS the visual experience. Simply reading the storyline is not enough.
They were also really annoyed with people criticizing the film at this early stage. DON'T JUDGE TILL YOU SEE IT!! That was their motto. I'm big on that too, so I agreed with them. They said it was much the same with George and the first film. Everybody was making fun of the names (Obi-Wan), the big walking dog (Chewie), etc. It's the same thing all over again with the prequels.
I asked about page guidelines. They said the only thing that really frustrates them is the paparazzi pictures (like from the French Premiere). They don't tell the whole story, they show incomplete sets, and they are poor quality. Lucasfilm wants to release all that stuff, but they want to do it over time, in high quality, and with an explanation so people don't draw wrong conclusions.
I told them a lot of people believe there is a misinformation campaign being conducted by Lucasfilm. They said that there is definitely not one. It's to the point where journalists call up Lynn Hale for questions, she gives them an answer, and they say, "I don't believe you. You're lying to me." It REALLY frustrated her. It's to the point where they have to joke about it. There are no fake scripts, no fake names, no fake anything and they AREN'T getting on the net and posting lies. So I said, "Well, on the official page you said that that the names would be different and that scenes were being filmed that wouldn't be used." Marc said that those statements meant that over the course of the creative process (ie next 2 years) things could easily change. It was not meant that things were being done to purposly throw people off. That was the wrong way to take it.
As far as Harry's spies go, they were able to make educated guesses who the pictures came from. In fact, they fairly easily narrowed it down cause some of the stuff Harry posted was right except for one fact, and that was only because something went wrong that particular day. So they knew who was there that day and narrowed it down to a small group. They did comment that while Harry gets a lot of good news, he gets as much or more bad news. They enjoy reading his page for both the true stuff and false stuff.
I said that they could shoot down rumors if they'd simply get on the newsgroups and make their presence known. Just answer select few questions. Well, they said that they actually don't want to discourage rumors. Here's why. The thing about the prequels rumors is that it is all part of the fun of being a fan. After all, don't you enjoy speculating about what's going to happen, all the plot possibilities, and all these ?spy' reports? Though they can cause headaches for them, they'd hate to discourage that. It's all part of the fun, in their opinion. In fact, they like to read as we try to figure out what's going on. Plus, if they started answering questions about the prequels, they'd get swamped. What fun is speculating about the prequels if you can go confirm something with somebody?
They said that they consider the fan sites an important part of Star Wars. After all, we're the ones that keep it going. They also realize that we put in a LOT of time on the sites. (Possibly more than them.) They said that they enjoy them as much as we do. They have absolutely no intentions of shutting us all down.
That pretty much concluded our conversation. It definitely cleared up some grey areas in my mind about Lucasfilm. So what are the lesson's learned? Lucasfilm is not out to get anybody, they are doing their best to make the prequels fun for us, and they really do care what you guys think. If you want to express your thoughts to Lucasfilm, the best possible way you can do it is on the RASSM newsgroup. Put a big old tag on the line that says 'HEY, LUCASFILM!! READ HERE!!' Believe me, they will see it.