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A Chat with Lucasfilm

As you may remember, last month we posted a sound clip of Jar Jar. We debated about whether to do so and if it would be OK with Lucasfilm. A day later, we did receive contact from LFL. To our relief, it was not with the legal department, but rather with LFL's head of Internet Marketing, Marc Hedlund requesting a phone conversation with us and Jim Ward, head of Lucasfilm Marketing.

So on February 26, we (TheForce.Net staffers Paul Ens and Scott Chitwood) were on a conference call with Jim Ward, Marc Hedlund and (to our pleasant surprise) Lynne Hale. It was really only a short 15 minute conversation, so here's the short version.

Jim started out by telling us they enjoyed the site and that they came by often. He said that their fan base was extremely important to them, and that they understand and value the role of fan sites in the world of fandom. At the same time, the most important thing to Jim is the experience that each individual fan will have when they see TPM in the theater. While they naturally would prefer to contain leaked information, they are willing to let most things go by. An example he gave was our shot by shot description of trailer B. They weren't excited to see it, but at the same time they felt it does not hurt the trailer because, as Jim said, "it will blow you away".

The line they draw is at the posting of sound or video files from the film because the non-controlled and out-of-context setting could hurt the ultimate presentation of the film. Why? Because, people are making judgments about the character, dialogue, and voices without the benefit of having the music of the film, the special effects, and the full context the dialogue is in. They don't want people having pre-conceived notions about the character based on one little snippet.

According to Hedlund, making judgements about the film based on any such clips would be like "judging a painting you've never seen based on one color on the artist's pallette".

And they have a point. Remember some of the reactions? From loving it, to hating it, to thinking we had another Ewok fiasco, to hoping Jar Jar dies... all from one clip. Of course, this was not our intention, as we simply wanted to share with you some depth toward this character we know will be a fan favorite. Can you imagine if people had heard a clip of Chewbacca before May 25, 1977? Or seen a picture? "It sounds like a bear!" "He looks like Bigfoot!" "He sucks! He looks like a guy in a dog suit!" "What kind of STUPID name is 'Chewie'?!?!" However, he remains one of the most popular characters today.

The experience could have been very negative, as you can well imagine, but in the end it was very positive. Had this been Paramount or Fox TV, we simply would have had a fax from a lawyer to shut down. Lucasfilm demonstrated great care and understanding and a desire to work with us for the good of fandom.

Naturally, we will be respecting Lucasfilm's wishes (there's no sense in risking "further action that neither of us want") and will not be posting more sound or video files before they are released on film. (Maybe at some later date, we'll see.) The fuzzy line of what's acceptable has become clearer for us, and LFL invited us to share this information with you.

Scott Chitwood and Paul Ens
September 3rd, 1999

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