Tag Archives: 1977 – Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

Feeling the Force

I’m a bit late stepping up to the plate with this review of The Force Awakens, as by now, everyone and their grandmother will have seen the second teaser trailer for the next Star Wars movie at least twenty times…I have, so I’ll keep what I have to say about it short.

…actually that’s just a Star Wars pun, as I really loved the teaser. I felt something when I watched that teaser. Although we can all be tricked into being excited about a film or TV show these days, even someone as cynical as me, but this is what JJ Abrams is really good at — He knows how to work those inner feelings in us. When you hack apart many of the shows and movies JJ has done, you can see he always jams his work full of things that immediately resonate emotionally with his audience.

The first teaser was full of stuff that resembled things we loved from the original Star Wars movie. Visual analogs were offered that called back to something we had good feelings about. The classic X-Wing, Stormtroopers and ‘that’ Lightsaber…all tweaked, instead of being the same as they once were, they echo like a ‘Borg-like’ collective feeling of ‘good’ Déjà vu. The first teaser even gave us good feelings of positivity, although it didn’t show any of the actors from the original film series, we knew that they was involved.

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Now this new teaser has gone further with that ‘calling back’ to the original series of films. Again, many things are slightly altered to be different, but yet the same. It’s as if JJ is winking and nodding at the audience with this teaser. “Hey, geek-boy, remember those good times we had? Remember that Tie Fighter?” It’s as if every frame has been composed to expressly tie elements with the previous stories of the original trilogy, including that voiceover from Luke Skywalker, and that awesome appearance of Han and Chewie that harked back to that “classic PR” shot from A New Hope.

As for me, I am truly moved by it, in the most honest sense. There are many things this teaser trailer does to mitigate the “bad PR” of the prequels, and although the giant corporate entity of Disney, that’s running it as a movie franchise, much in the same way they have done with Marvel. They’ve cheered us up, and even teared up this fan after seeing familiar things that have triggered fond childhood almost ‘pavlovian’ memories.

Can this film really deliver, and not be distracted by all JJ’s nods and winks that come through in this teaser…I do hope so, as I want to be in the geek zone with this movie, and don’t want to be knocked out by remembering the other films. Thankfully this is my only slightly ‘optimistic’ concern about this film, as it seems better suited to JJ than Star Trek, and I can only assume that means this film will be as good as 2009’s Star Trek was at playing with our feelings, if not better…“I’ve a ‘good’ feeling about this”

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 Saul Bass Style

Star Wars Saul Bass Style Return of the Jedi MilnersBlogYou can’t beat Saul Bass for his minimalistic style of graphic design, he designed some of the most iconic corporate logos in North America, including the AT&T and American Airlines, but Bass’s most innovative work came from his title sequence design for movie’s like North by Northwest, Psycho and Casino. Inspired by this, Pink Vader has created these Saul Bass inspired Star Wars posters, that have to be some of the coolest that I have seen, I would order the Boba Fett poster if I had to choose one…Which is your favorite?

Star Wars Saul Bass Style The Empire Strikes Back MilnersBlogStar Wars Saul Bass Style The Empire Strikes Back 2MilnersBlogStar Wars Saul Bass Style A New Hope MilnersBlogStar Wars Saul Bass Style Return of the Jedi 2 MilnersBlog