Mickey Capoferri is the Senior Director of Online Content & Programming for Lucasfilm which, among many things, involves interacting with Star Wars fans daily. His overall goal is to ďcreate rewarding, in-depth experiences that excite fans and are worthy of the Lucasfilm nameĒ and if that sounds like a great job, youíd be right.
Capoferri oversees many areas of the franchise's digital presence, including StarWars.com, the "Star Wars" app, and all original video content. His work Executive Producing ďThe Star Wars ShowĒ has earned him an Emmy nomination and youíve seen his teamís talent on display during Star Wars Celebrations and World Premiere Red Carpet live steams.
Prior to joining Lucasfilm, Mickey was Vice President of Digital Marketing at Paramount Pictures where he oversaw digital marketing campaigns for Transformers, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and many, many more. Basically, he knows what heís doing.
We spoke recently over the phone to discuss the groupís latest docuseries, ďOur Star Wars StoriesĒ and how important it is to connect with Star Wars fans in this digital age. Enjoy!
StarWars.com has really upped their game under your leadership. Iím continually impressed with content thatís being pumped out daily in particular bringing other fans to provide articles and editorials. Can you talk about the overall strategy?
I think you mentioned it, some of the things we enacted over the last few years. Itís a clichť, but the fact remains true that Star Wars is built around the fans. If it wasnít for fan base that Star Wars has had over the last 40 years none of us would be here. And the fact is that we do have this ecosystem and these opportunities to deliver content to people who want that. Not only do we look at the content from a fan perspective but by bringing on fan bloggers it gave us an additional perspective.
The only staff writers we have are Dan Brooks and Kristin Baver, the rest are freelance writers, from all over, and it was important to us that we had that fan involvement. Many of our contributors are professional writers who also are huge, knowledgeable fans. Dan does a great job of managing the writers on a day-to-day basis, programming the site and doing the nitty-gritty day-to-day work. I trust him with managing at the highest level but obviously strategically, we all talk constantly about really making sure that the fan voice is prominent, that itís clear that the content is coming from the fan perspective. We donít want to be a marketing site and we donít want to be an advertising site. Thereís so much to talk about in the Star Wars world so we give those different voices an opportunity to tell those stories and talk about the things that are sometimes super granular and super deep.
We want to engage with that and to allow the opportunities for some of those deep dives I believe are very beneficial to a lot of fans. Those niche conversations, the kind of stuff you and your friends would have at a convention or when we were all younger, having those esoteric conversations about the Force or different characters.
So, on StarWars.com it is great to have that platform to have talented and passionate people write these pieces, to talk about different topics, to expose different elements of the fandom and Star Wars. Over time as we started to do our original content, Rebels Recon, The Star Wars Show and the live streams, those were really born out of the fact that the conversation never stops with Star Wars and its fans, including us.
How important in todayís digital age is being able to connect with Star Wars fans in a sort of symbiotic relationship? Is it possible to even downplay that relationship?
It was important to us when we were looking at doing more original material, to develop something that was beneficial for us, but more importantly, something that the fans would really love. And thatís how weíve decided on a lot of projects, with the fans in mind, and that has led us now here to Our Star Wars Stories. This is something weíve wanted to do for a long time and all the stars finally aligned, to be able to tell these stories in a bigger way.
In todayís age, itís easier to deliver that content, communicate with people and have that ability to get things in front of fans no matter where they are, that has always been something thatís been very important to us since weíre fans ourselves.
I know you and your team had discussed different ways to tell these stories prior to Our Star Wars Stories. What was it about Jordanís idea and his approach to the project that gave you the confidence to give it the go ahead?
First and foremost, it was his passion. Iíve known Jordan now for a couple of years and it started when he contacted Steve Sansweet and then he connected Jordan and me. At first, we just connected on a general level, not necessarily anything to do with this project. We both just had a strong personal connection because weíre both huge fans ourselves and I was a big fan of his show Toy Hunter.
So, we started talking and bouncing around some ideas. At the time we had started The Star Wars Show and we didnít have a lot of bandwidth to do anything else, certainly not to this level, but we knew we wanted to do something. There were a couple of different ideas that we tossed around, but this idea to tell fans stories, these exceptional stories, in a nicely produced way, really giving them the time to tell their story and get their journey across was always there.
Like anything else, things take time to produce and we had some starts and stops along the way, all the while developing the Fan Awards at the same time. It finally got to a point where we were ready to start producing, so thatís when Jordan and Matt (Martin) and the team started really discussing who would be the subjects of the first round of episodes. We had a lot of options and stories to choose from, some that Jordan brought to the table, some that we knew through our fan relations and some that we just aware of.
It was a journey to get there but we got there. The idea of telling fan stories are not unique, different versions has been batted around for a few years. But with Jordan the stars kind of aligned and he came along at a time where we were looking for new video outlets and he is a truly authentic individual who is himself a mega-Star Wars fan, has his own Star Wars story and talks to these people constantly. He knows all these amazing first-hand stories from people that heís dealt with over the years, it just felt like the perfect fit.
Like the Star Wars Show, Our Star Wars Stories episodes are relatively short and yet you manage to convey a lot of information in that time span. Was the success of that format central to you keeping these episodes also shorter in length?
Itís a little weird because they are all different lengths. Albinís episode is almost twice as long as Robins is, but the goal was for them to be around the 6- or 7-minute mark. We went in with that target, but at the same time whatever it takes to tell this personís story is what weíre going to do.
Albinís story was just so good that when we tried to chop it down to 7 minutes, there was just no way to cut 5 minutes out of that story. So, we just made the decision that his story would be longer than the others. This show was qualitative driven, not by some algorithm that says 5-minute videos do better, so for me it was more about what we can do to tell their story in a proper way. Having said that, the remainder of the episodes we produced do stay close to that 7-minute mark which we set early on.
Even though the show was conceived over a year ago, the timing of its release seems to be somewhat poetic. With fans needing Star Wars now more than ever, how important is it to remind your audience that it will always be a place where their voices are heard and appreciated?
The reality is Star Wars has a fan base that is full of love and is a strong community, full of people doing great things. The timing is the timing and we certainly didnít plan it that way, we started work on the Fan Awards and Our Star Wars Stories in 2017. Star Wars fans are always at the forefront of our minds and our content planning.
I feel very lucky to be in the position Iím in, being a part of StarWars.com. George started the dot com back in 1996, and yes it was a tool to promo the re-releases, but it very quickly became an official fan hub. No other franchise really did that and by having that forethought set the base for how important the fans are.
My team and I are looking at how to continue to carry that torch forward and take that idea that the fans are so engrained and such an important part of everything that is Star Wars, we know there is no Star Wars without the fans.
Weíre always looking to do things that are fun, push the conversation and directly engage with the fans. This is one of the reasons we brought back the Fan Film Awards few years ago after it had been gone for a while. It took a little while, but I felt strongly we should still be doing this, encouraging and cultivating the creative side of the Star Wars community and now itís back, in a bigger way, and the response has been tremendous.
We want our voices on the site to feel like theyíre being propagated by fans and that your engaging with other fans, not just getting a marketing message from a franchise.
Obviously, the success of your content canít be measured directly by dollars and cents or through advertising revenue. What type of qualitative research are you folks actively doing other than website metrics?
In the case of this show, numbers donít tell the story, itís the feedback, the sentiment, and the comments across the board have that have been amazing. The Albin episode received a tremendous swell of enthusiasm and love and the feedback overall has been fantastic.
What weíre focused on is do the fans love it, do they appreciate it, does it make them want to tell their stories, does it make them feel closer to the franchise and make them like thereís other people out there like them. Thatís the ultimate win, does it inspire them.
The feedback has been great and weíre very happy with the response from the community and the fans.
And while itís too early to tell, if people keep watching and enjoying the series, you never know. Hopefully we get to do more, and next time we really want to go worldwide.
2019 is looking like a huge year for Star Wars and Lucasfilm with Celebration Chicago, the Disney streaming service, Episode IX, The Mandalorian, etc. What can you tell us about what to expect from your end of things?
Next year is a monster and very exciting over all. But for us, for my team specifically, Celebration Chicago is our Super Bowl, itís our big event. It is our creative focus and what weíre most looking forward to next year. With SWCC being five days, it will be a bigger event and each Celebration we really try to take the overall presentation up a step.
So, we want to blow it out, build bigger sets, add to the show, and really make fans that couldnít make it feel like theyíre there. Thereís so much to cover with Celebration, itís a difficult task to get to all of it and my team really gives it their all and takes it to the limit.
There you have it! For a guy with as much going on as Mickey, he was incredibly generous with his time and I canít thank him enough for that. During our conversation there were things that came through loud and clear, he loves his job, he loves his team, he loves the fans and most of all, he loves Star Wars.
What more could you ask for from senior leadership at Lucasfilm?
Want to learn more about the history of StarWars.com? Check out this 20-year oral history by those that were there, from its earliest conception all the way to the Disney era! This amazing journey back in time was written by Senior Writer and Editor Dan Brooks, and includes first-hand accounts from folks such as Lynne Hale, Steve Sansweet, Bonnie Burton, Pablo Hidalgo, Matt Martin, and many more.
Click HERE to check it out!
Till next time...MTFBWY.
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