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TFN Interview: Dave Filoni

Posted By Mandy on March 19, 2010

I had the distinct pleasure of getting a chance to ask the big guy (no, not that one), Dave Filoni, a couple of questions about himself and The Clone Wars. Let's see what he said...

MandyB: First of all, congratulations on season two of The Clone Wars. Audiences have been blown away by each episode. Have there been any reactions that were unexpected?

Dave Filoni: Thanks, everyone at Lucasfilm Animation worked hard to bring the fans the very best we could, and it seems that people have recognized this. Were there any reactions that were unexpected? That?s hard to say, I was a bit surprised by the fan reaction to Satine, I knew it would be positive, but it has been even more positive than I imagined. I credit that to Anna Graves excellent performance, and the chemistry she had with James Arnold Taylor as Obi Wan.

MB: When you began production on season two, was there anything you set out to change from the first season?

DF: We wanted the animation to be better, the lighting, the character models, the stories - we wanted to improve it all. That?s not to say we were disappointed with season one, but everyone at Lucasfilm wanted to improve on what we had done. We saw ways that we could vastly improve the series and that?s something we will always try to do, just as George tried to outdo himself with each Star Wars film he made.

MB: What?s been the biggest challenge you?ve faced coming into the second season of TCW and what do you anticipate being challenges for the third season?

DF: I think the biggest challenge going into season three is the increased complexity of the episodes. The stories have gotten really exciting and have many layers, but we never have more time to tell the stories, even a few more minutes can make a large difference in the outcome of a story. But that?s the challenge, how to tell a Star Wars feature-style story in 22min.

MB: Tell us about the average Dave Filoni day.

DF: I get to work around 8:00am. I use that time to work on various projects related to Clone Wars, future designs, script revisions, shooting a scene. By 9:30 the day gets going normally with Design dailies, then after that I might review a rough episode, watch a color episode, look at revisions, animation, color/lighting, color correct, music review. It all depends where any given episode is at and what has come in. There are also various items to troubleshoot everyday like how to deal with a large amount of characters that require cloth sim, or what language should be used on a particular view screen. No two days are the same, that?s for sure.

MB: What is your goal for TCW? How do you think TCW fits into the mythos and the legacy of the Saga itself?

DF: My goal for The Clone Wars is to as accurately as possible bring George Lucas's vision of that time period to life on screen. It has to fit into the mythos established in the films, it must flow as a series of episodes that explain the complex war that occurred between Episodes II and III of the films, and how it led to the downfall of the Jedi and the Republic.

MB: You were an episodic director for several episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender. In what ways has this influenced your work on TCW?

DF: I think Star Wars actually influenced my work on Avatar first. Being a fan of Star Wars, I wanted to bring the same sense of adventure and fun to my Avatar episodes, that I felt when I watched Star Wars as a kid. Avatar was a tremendously fun show to work on, it was also a huge challenge, with the attention to detail, especially in the martial arts scenes. I took that experience, things I had learned from watching my friends produce Avatar, and brought that with me to Clone Wars.

MB: I am a huge fan of The Art of Star Wars: The Clone Wars in which fans get a behind-the-scenes look at TCW and really the evolution of the design aesthetic of the series. Regarding what you initially imagined, how far has the series come in terms of the original composition?

DF: I never thought we would be able to do the things we are doing currently on the show; everything has gotten more complex and the scale is enormous for an animated television series. When we first began the initial designs of the series we were very cautious, perhaps too cautious, but we had no idea what all the different elements we were developing would look like on screen, and we had very little time to test and get results. I had a theory about the shapes of the characters and the look of the textures, and how it could all come together, but it was a theory. Once we started getting renders we really began to work on what we liked and didn't like. The funny thing was we had to do a lot of that retooling during the actual series production, as opposed to prior to production. Season one has a lot of development work within it and it shows on screen. We are finally at a point now where the show looks like I originally intended, but it has taken a lot of hard work from very creative people here at Lucasfilm to figure out how to get that look and push it further than we first thought possible.

MB: You?ve been terribly diplomatic regarding the various arguments over supposed continuity and the Expanded Universe. Are you pleased or have you enjoyed the tie-in work for TCW (The Karens, Dark Horse, Republic Heroes, etc.)?

DF: I understand the fans' passion and respect the fact that they have invested a lot of time studying the EU and have grown fond of many characters in it. However, at the end of the day this is George's universe; he created it, and he has the right to set things the way he sees them. As someone working in the Star Wars Universe I have had incredible access, and time with George, to make sure this series lines up with his universe the way he wants. It's like when he makes a Star Wars film and produces it, he's that involved with the Clone Wars. I do my best to make George aware of existing EU material when I know we are crossing into territory that has been covered, like the Mandalorians, and we debate what might stay and how things can fit, but we can never limit what we are trying to do creatively because of existing EU material. I am aware of a lot of the tie-in work with Clone Wars, and even though there is not a lot compared to other areas of Star Wars, it is almost impossible to keep up with it all. It doesn't really effect what we do on the series, because our production schedules are so different. If there is a character we like, they may make it into the show in the background possibly, similar to how Aayla appeared in AOTC.

MB: Personally, I?m pretending that TCW will never end. In the hypothetical scenario that it does, do you anticipate staying involved with Lucasfilm?

DF: I really love working at Lucasfilm, I could not imagine a better group of people to be working with. What does my future hold? I am not sure, I have several of my own stories that I have developed that have nothing to do with Star Wars and hopefully I'll get to make those stories come to life one day. If that happens at Lucasfilm, that would be great, but for now, keeping my mind in the here and now, I am very focused on making the Clone Wars.

MB: You are an incredible artist. How did you get involved in animation and furthermore, directing?

DF: Well I thank you for the compliment, I do my best. I was always drawing, as far back as I can remember, and my parents, who were both artists, really encouraged me. My school had a very developed art program, which helped tremendously. I got interested in animation because my parents liked Opera, and there seemed to be a natural connection for me between moving images and music. I also grew up watching a series called Robotech, in a lot of ways it was like an animated Star Wars series, so I saw an opportunity to apply my love of drawing to film making.

Directing came after a lot of hard work as a storyboard artist on several different series. I learned from a lot of great directors, who all influenced the way I work today.

MB: Barring various gag orders, what ridiculously vague hints can you drop about the rest of season two, and dare I ask, season three?

DF: Hint? Well... lets see, it's always hard to give clues. How about this:
- You're going to see one of the most complex character models we've built to date. What makes it complex? Size matters, let?s put it that way?
- Bounty Hunters make a big comeback.
- Some guys don't have all the luck.

MB: Tell us all about the wolves, Dave.

DF: I've often been asked why I like wolves so much, I can only trace it back to the Carol Ballard film, Never Cry Wolf, based on the book of the same name by Farley Mowat. That film really captured my imagination as a child, so much so that almost 30 years later I traveled out to the arctic tundra to track wolves and see them in the wild. I have done extensive reading on wolves, and their role, both in the past and possible future.

MB: According to the commentary on the recent Robot Chicken: Star Wars: Episode II, you harbor a love for G.I. Joe. Care to tell us more?

DF: That?s easy, Timber, the wolf. Snake Eyes's second version came packed with a wolf, as a kid I was like, you have to be kidding me, this guy has a cool outfit, a sword, a gun and a WOLF! Plus he's a good guy!! It was awesome.

MB: Let?s talk Pittsburgh. How hard did you push to have Celebration V there?

DF: I love my hometown, Pittsburgh is a great place to live. I'm not sure if the city was in the running for CV or not, but I would have definitely supported it. If you are ever there in the Summer, go to Kennywood Park, or head down to Station Square, there's always a lot going on down there. In the Fall or winter go to a Steelers game (if you can get tickets) or catch a Pens game, though try to do that before the end of this season when they close the Civic Arena. And if you want to talk local Jedi? Mario Lemieux, when he played for the Penguins he moved the puck like a true Jedi Master.

MB: The Scene: A dark alley. Dramatis Personae: Godzilla, Plo Koon, and the entire Steelers? Defense. Who walks away?

DF: Well that depends if Troy Polamalu is playing or not ;) Seriously, I have to think the answer is the Steelers Defense climbs on Godzilla's tail, Plo Koon leaps up onto Godzilla's head, and then they direct Godzilla to go over to Cleveland, stomp the Brownies, before heading down to Cincinatti, tame the Bungles, ending in Baltimore where they cook the Dirty Birds.

MB: Dave, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to humor me. It?s always so very special when someone of your talent and position indulges the fans. Once again, I cannot reiterate how much you and your staff?s dedication to the franchise means to us.

Well, there you have it folks: He's a tease that likes wolves. End of story.

Also, I'd like to give a hearty thank you to the lady-behind-the-curtain, Meagan Finnerty, for her tireless work in corralling Dave and Co. for our uses!

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