Category Archives: Star Wars

The McQuarrie Influence

It seems even after his death; Ralph McQuarrie’s visionary concept art from the original Star Wars saga is influencing a whole new generation of Star Wars film makers, especially the latest movie J.J.Abrams is working on (Star Wars VII The Force Awakens) with unused X-Wing designs and architectural visions from the LucasFilm Archives.

The early X-Wing design had a split single on each wing, until it was changed to the two-cylinder engine option on each side, but recent leaked onset imagery and J.J.Abrams special video message from the set of Star Wars: Episode VII, he announced the creation of Star Wars: Force for Change, a brand new Star Wars initiative from Disney and Lucasfilm, in collaboration with Bad Robot, dedicated to finding creative solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. The first Star Wars: Force for Change campaign got fans to pledge funds to campaign and awareness for UNICEF’s Innovation Labs and its innovative projects benefitting children in need. By doing this one lucky Star Wars fan from Colorado  who contributed got to visit the set. What the video does confirm is the reusing of Ralph’s single wing engine design.

The other exciting resurrection of his work is the Silver Lightsabre wielding StormTrooper, which again has been seen in ‘more’ leaked on-set images, I wonder if the much talked about DarkTropper will make an appearance.

It also seems his early architectural concept art has made it into the film, as you can see from his concept and on-set photos show.

I wonder what other unused Ralph McQuarrie concept art will be used, the forest Jedi temple? the emperors cave temple? I guess we’ll have to wait a year to find out, but until then we can gracious in the fact the old masters work lives on.

Star Wars also released a five part video ‘Ralph McQuarrie, Star Wars Concept Artist: Tribute to a Master (Part 1)’


The Ann Skinner Collection

If you’re not living in a Star Wars fandom world (like me) you’ll be saying who the blimey is Ann Skinner?  …well in the geeky photography circles she had one of the most enviable jobs in geekologie history, that was as the continuity supervisor for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. She had her own personal ‘The Star War‘ script along with a Polaroid camera and endless amounts of film to record/capture all the scenes in the film for continuity errors. These rare ‘never seen before’ Star Wars photos have such a raw beauty and quality to them, which only instant Polaroid film produces, they even include the lovely little side notes she adds around the borders.

To celebrate the British Film Institute’s amazing new exhibition ‘On-Set – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’ they have been given her exclusive script pages and the Polaroids from the film which include scenes that were never filmed and snapshots of the cast behind the scenes on this immortal sci-fi classic of so love.

All Image Credits: BFI National Archive/© & TM Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Transcript from the BFI

In the spring of 1976, shooting began on Star Wars, a film described by its writer and director George Lucas as a modern fairytale set “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) dreams of becoming a space pilot and escaping his mundane life as a farm boy on the desert planet of Tatooine. His wish becomes reality when he’s plunged into the civil war between the evil Galactic Empire and a band of daring rebels, led by the beautiful Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher).

Star Wars was filmed on location in Tunisia and at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire. Its innovative special effects were created in California by Lucas’s company, Industrial Light &Magic. Artist Ralph McQuarrie produced early visual concepts which were developed by the film’s American and British crews. Joe Johnston led a team of artists and designers in the US, while British personnel in key visual roles included production designer John Barry, costume designer John Mollo and cinematographer Gil Taylor.

As continuity supervisor on Star Wars, Skinner needed to have a thorough understanding of every part of the script. It was her job to ensure that scenes shot days or weeks apart would seamlessly come together in the editing room. Skinner describes her role as being that of “the editor’s agent on the studio floor; the intermediary between the director and the editor”. She kept a detailed record of the film as shot, so her copy of the script – now held as part of the Special Collections of the BFI National Archive – is crammed full of detailed annotations as well as unique Polaroid photographs taken on set.

Continuity was by Ann Skinner whose impressive CV also includes Far from the Madding Crowd (1967), Darling (1965) and Oh! What a Lovely War (1969). Continuity (also known as script supervision) is a hugely important role but is often overlooked when writing about filmmaking. Continuity supervisors have an extremely demanding job which necessitates a sophisticated understanding of all aspects of film production and film grammar. They also need to have a strong eye for detail and be able to notice and record any changes or discrepancies that would stop a film cutting together. Historically it’s been a role that has frequently been taken on by women (although this is now becoming more gender balanced) and for many years the continuity supervisor was known as a ‘script girl’ or ‘continuity girl’.

Skinner’s first job upon receiving the script in pre-production was to go through it to time the expected running length (to keep producer and director informed of the film’s expected overall duration); to check the running order of scenes to ensure days and times of day were consistent and followed a logical progression (continuity mistakes can often be introduced during rewrites); and to make notes on particular props that would need to be used across particular scenes.

The pages below are from the opening scene of the film, as Princess Leia’s ship is attacked by an Imperial Star Destroyer. The evil Dark Lord Darth Vader believes the rebels have stolen the plans for the Death Star, a new space station designed to become the Empire’s most deadly weapon. You can see the first notes Ann made to her script in pre-production in red and green pen. The note “U.S.A.” means that this scene consists of special effects and is being created at Industrial Light & Magic in California. Other notes highlight more localised effects (the explosion and smoke) and the props that are needed (Luke’s utility belt, electrobinoculars and rifle).

Because films are rarely shot in sequence, the slate number also enables an understanding of when during production a particular shot was taken. The lower the number, the closer to the beginning of the shoot. This page contains both studio and location scenes. Shooting on Star Wars began in Tunisia (representing the desert planet Tatooine) so scenes taken there have lower slate numbers than those done later at Elstree (83/84/85 as opposed to 735-747).

An enormous amount of information has to be captured within a short amount of time, so Polaroid photos provided a quick visual reference for details such as the positions of characters and props, and intricacies of costume. These were stapled into the script alongside the relevant scenes, and are generally accompanied by copious notes adding more information.

Capturing information about different takes and dialogue changes is a central part of the continuity supervisor’s on-set work. The images below show rehearsal and different take positions for the scene in which Luke goes in search of the droid Artoo and is attacked by Sandpeople (aka Tusken Raiders). At the end of each day, Ann would type up continuity sheets, using her script as reference. This would include information for the editor including which takes director George Lucas wanted to use.

Some scenes presented particular challenges in continuity terms. After Luke, Han Solo and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) rescue Princess Leia from her Death Star prison cell, they attempt to escape via their only possible escape route, down a garbage chute. They land at the bottom and the walls of the garbage masher begin to close in, threatening to crush our heroes.

Skinner took a large number of Polaroids in both colour and black and white to record the position of the walls and debris at different stages in the scene, often linking these stages to lines of dialogue (such as Han’s sarcastic response to Leia’s orders: “yes your worship”).

Skinner’s script also includes scenes that were shot but which didn’t make it into the finished film. The shooting script has more action on Tatooine as we see Luke meeting up with his friends The Fixer, Camie and Biggs (who we meet again later in the film as one of the rebel fighters who joins the assault on the Death Star).

Skinner’s script was an essential tool of the production of Star Wars, created to aid the immensely complicated task of shooting a film. Viewed now though, it serves as an incredible visual record of the making of a legendary film. Through its notes and images, we get a sense of what was happening on set, and how location, studio and special effects work meshed together in post-production.

We even get to see actors relaxed and out of character and/or (partly) out of costume. Two of my favourite such images show Darth Vader (David Prowse) sans helmet, and Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin (described in the script as a “thin evil man”) breaking into a decidedly out-of-character smile.

The exhibition On-Set: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope runs in the Atrium, BFI Southbank until 4 January 2015.

Star Wars GIF’s

Star Wars At-At Walker

Awesome Star Wars AT-AT ‘All Terrain Armored Transport’ animated GIF from DKNGDan Kuhlken and Nathan Goldman’ who commissioned the incredible Down the Street Designs to animate their original work.

I also is the Star Wars GIF he first footage from Episode VII The Force Awaken?Star Wars Episode VII Millennium Falcon Teaser

The GIF was originally spotted and uploaded at Making Star Wars. There are no details on where it came from, or how they got it. All they are implying is that this could be a cut from the much whispered-about Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer that has been rumored to premiere sometime before the end of the year. In fact Slashfilm is now reporting from “good sources” (Mr J.J. Abrams) that the teaser trailer will be shown in a limited number of theaters during the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, although it will only be shown in America… WHAAAAAAT!

But until then, we must speculate. The appearance of this GIF on-line coincides with the rumour (from Badass Digest) that the first Star Wars: Episode 7 teaser trailer would end with the Millennium Falcon “firing blasters, coming right at the camera.” And that is exactly what this GIF is. Then again, a GIF like this would be very easy to fake. The lens flare feels almost too obvious and the CG looks a little “meh,” so I’m leaning towards no, but it would be cool if it was the real deal. Then again, again, as Making Star Wars points out, the creators of this mysterious footage did get the radar replacement dish right, so these people know their stuff.

The Apprentice Awakens

Craig Drake is a name synonymous with MilnersBlog, as I’m such a massive fan of his Patrick Nagel ‘Pop Culture’ style of visualisation, although now its about time we lay down any reference to his work being any homage to the late Nagel, and instead embrace him for the talented awakening artist he has now become in forging his own palette of Geekologie inspired art, which firmly embraces visual film culture, instead of the pop culture style which Patrick Nagel presented.

He recently presented a well deserved Solo Art Show at the Hero Complex Gallery in Los Angeles, and I’ll admit the show looked like it was on another level…as you can see in the pictures below, Drake showcased a huge body of work of iconic film culture heroes! He even saved four special works of art until the end of the show, the best space ship in film culture in my opinion, the “Millennium Falcon” plus a few new additions to his film culture palette with Lucas/Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and also The Hobbit with a the beautiful dragon Smaug and the graceful Gandalf the White which was screen printed on a brushed aluminium.

carrie fisher princess leia by craig drake
carrie fisher princess leia by craig drake

In an interview with the Hero Complex Gallery he gave a rare insight into his creative process.

Craig Drake’s Creative Process

Craig Drake has hit the ground running with Hero Complex Gallery! For our first show, Weapon of Choice, he created 3 stunning pieces: MacReady from The Thing, and two versions of Hanzo’d, featuring a sexy close-up of art inspired by the character O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill. His work has a style that is reminiscent of the celebrated 80’s artist, Patrick Nagel.

Craig hails from the chilly suburbs north of 8 Mile Road in the Detroit, Michigan area. Determined to be an artist, he studied at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, and graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. In 1998, Craig moved to San Francisco and worked for several years doing freelance design and animation for companies such as Adobe and EA (Electronic Arts). In 2006, he transitioned to Lucasfilm where he created his first Nagel homage of Princess Leia. This piece was then printed as a signed, limited edition poster.

In Craig’s own words, “Like a lot of Star Wars fans, having grown up in the ’80s, I was exposed to some amazing signature pop culture visuals. Truthfully, [Nagel’s] style really annoyed me as a kid, but as time went on I began rediscovering his work — his brilliantly minimalist yet bold vision of beautiful, strong women is what inspired me to illustrate Princess Leia.” From the original Leia poster, a line of five other Nagel-inspired Star Wars character pieces were spawned.

Since then, Craig’s popularity as a world-class artist has exploded! Last year alone, Craig produced numerous pieces showcasing his brilliant style featuring beloved characters from movies such as Blade Runner, The Bride of FrankensteinMetropolis, Black Swan and Escape From New York, just to name a few. With his clean lines and stylized take on portraits of pop culture icons, it’s no wonder why fans are clamouring to get a Drake on their walls!

When I asked Craig to breakdown his creative process, he had this to say, “First I start with rough pencil sketches to block in shapes. At this stage, not much reference is used to keep the original composition vision pure.

From there I might make a tightened pencil. Then hi-res images are gathered to soak in the subject’s details. Second stage is the drawing the final vector itself. Using Adobe Illustrator [and] using my trusty Wacom set up, this process takes anywhere from 1 to 2 days. Best part is this Illustrator master is print ready after a few technical mods to make separations for silkscreen posters. Third stage is painting. Which can take up to 5 days for larger pieces like R.J. MacReady.

Since the master drawing is complete digitally, I then use it as an exact guide and draw the image to scale on illustration board. After that I use gouache paint to bring it to life. I love engineering in small variances between the digital composition and the one of a kind painting. Even collectors have picked up and geeked out on these details, which makes me very happy.”

Since the show he’s forged ahead producing countless more stunning pieces of Mondo Art, his latest was for the organisers of Star Wars Celebration VII, the travelling confab that celebrates all things connected to George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away, which returns to Craig’s home state of California at the Anaheim Convention Centre from the 16th-19th of April 2015. 

I wonder if he’ll be producing a calendar like he did for Star Wars Celebration VI with some new artwork for J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” before the 2015 release date… Fingers crossed

A brief selection of his work he’s done since the Solo Art Show… he’s a busy man 🙂

Finally a rare find, some Mondo Art he did for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus which was sadly never used.

The Star Wars NFL

As the NFL season finally comes to a close for this season with the Seattle Seahawks completely thumping the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.  Now thoughts of what the NFL season might bring in 2014-2015, so what if we had a Star Wars League? …Well! Artist John Raya from Mexico has already embarked on a ‘Star Wars’ fan art project for just this, he’s imagined how the helmets from of all the 32 AFL and NFL teams will look like.

I’ve always loved American Football, even from an early age when you saw the iconic LA Rams helmet in the movie Poltergeist in little Robbie’s bedroom. So to mix them both with my other ‘geek love’ Star Wars is a dream come true…in a galaxy far, far away.

The Star Wars American North, East, South & West Teams

The Star Wars National North, East, South & West Teams

Which is your favourite? mine is the Coruscant Vaders

Check out John Raya’s other work on Behance, especially his Atroce Studio Typography