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Phantom Menace Official Q & A
Phantom Menace Official Q & A

Here is the transcript from the Q&A sessions we had at Skywalker Ranch. They were moderated by Jim Ward - Vice President Marketing, Lucasfilm Ltd. and since all the DVD Talkers couldn't be there, we want you to feel like you were there, so we're presenting the transcript, unedited, in its entirety, so you can read every word that was spoken, see every answer to every question asked.

Enjoy being a fly on the wall in this most fascinating series of Q&A's

Van Ling - Episode I DVD Producer


Jim Ward: Ok everyone I think we're ready to start. Welcome back again, I hope lunch was good and everyone has now come together. Just a couple reminders again on the ground rules. First keep your questions as brief as possible because everyone's going to have a lot and we want to get in as many people as possible. And again we're all here to discuss the Episode I Phantom Menace DVD. So let's keep everything focused on that.

Also, we were going to be obviously recording this, and for transcription purposes so we can get this out to you. I'm going to repeat the questions so that the person that has to actually do the transcription can actually hear the questions. So I apologize, it's not that I can't hear you but I'm going to repeat it so that everyone else can hear you and also that the person that does the transcription can hear you as well. OK? So let's get this thing going. We're really going to kind of go through as I mentioned the ensemble cast that was put together to create this great DVD.

And the first person up is a gentleman by the name of Van Ling who I am sure is very familiar to most of you. Van was the Producer on the Episode I Phantom Menace DVD. We wanted to get the best and the brightest to work on this and Van certainly is the leader in the field and that's who we got. So, Van Ling… OK, so we'll just do this by raising your hands, and I'll kind of pan back and forth and get to you. Van can answer questions about production of the DVD, the menu design, the authoring the compression-all that sort of thing Van can talk to you about. So, any questions for Van?

Q: When did you come on the project and what were the processes in terms of putting this together?

Van Ling: I came on the project in about October of 2000. I was asked to come in and do a proposal on the disc. And with great trepidation but a lot of enthusiasm I came on project and I really wanted to do a good job. I've been a big Star Wars fan for most of my teen and adult life, so it was quite a dream come true.

Q: For the DVD menus how much of it was custom generated versus existing already in the film?

Van Ling: It was about half and half but I have to stress that all of the material started off as material that was provided by Lucasfilm and by Industrial Light & Magic. I was able to take photographs and basically extrude them into 3-D to generate so that the images were of actual footage in a number of cases. And in other cases we used material straight from the height of transfer of the film and then worked away to make it longer. And then in some other cases we did generate things entirely from scratch. But, really tried to maintain the look and feel of the Star Wars universe.

Q: What other DVD discs has Van worked on and how does this disc differ from those?

Van Ling: Well I produced and did the menus for Terminator II The Ultimate Edition, The Abyss Special Edition and Independence Day Special Edition. And this, in terms of approach and design and challenge, was far and away the most challenging disc that I've undertaken. And also in many cases the smoothest I have undertaken taken because I had, the filmmaking side really behind the projects. In a lot of cases the filmmaker is off working on other movies, they're not able to really participate more than cursorily on the disc. And in this particular instance everybody really took the time to be there and be part of it and be in the decision making process and so it was never a question of my thinking are they going to like this? In this particular instance everybody was really involved and that's one of the things that made this far and away different from other discs that I've done. Also on those other discs I was able to actually work on production of those films at that time. So that had a different approach to it. Here I had the benefit of the entire team at Lucasfilm and at THX to provide me with all the materials that we needed to make a great disc.

Q: How many Easter eggs in this project?

Jim Ward: Van just so you know I've already told them we're not going to tell them.

Q: How conscious were you of setting a new standard in terms of technology and entertainment value on this DVD?

Van Ling: I try to take the same approach that most filmmakers do on that kind of question, which is we try not to be conscious of it at all. What we're conscious of is trying to create the vision or to put together the vision or to, in this particular case for me, maintain the vision of the Star Wars universe. And whatever it takes to do that is what we try to do. And oftentimes that does involve being on the cutting edge or straying into territory that hasn't been really explored before in terms of the technology.

Jim Ward: The adjunct to that too I might add is that very early on we sat down with Van and we made it very clear, we're not out there trying to just do technology for technology's sake. We were very much into let's make what we think is the best thing for our fans and for the consumer out there, so let's not load this with wacky stuff that nobody ever uses or goofy technology and interactive games and all this kind of stuff. Let's just do what we think is cool and what we think the fans will like. And Van definitely led us down that path very well.

Van Ling: The key is to take care of the movie first, that's the most important thing about the disc. You know as much as we all love doing the bonus materials, we want to take care of the movie first. And everything builds around that.

Q: What kind of input and discussion did you have around the vision of the disc?

Van Ling: I think again coming into this, a lot of the previous discs that I'd done have been whether or not correctly so, have been formally called Van Ling discs because they have a particular kind of approach. And I was very adamant on this disc, as is correct, to make sure that this was never perceived as a Van Ling disc. This is a Star Wars disc, and this is a Lucasfilm disc. And the most important thing there is to make sure that it doesn't overshadow any of the content and the quality of the presentation. So that was one of my most important personal goals on the disc was to make sure that when people look at it they think this is a Star Wars disc, this is exactly what we want from a Star Wars disc. And from that standpoint it was a matter of reviewing the materials that Lucasfilm and George and Rick and everybody wanted to put on the disc and work with them to create the best presentation that maintained it as a Star Wars disc. I tried my best to kind of be "behind the scenes" as their producer, as their consultant on the project and never get in the way of the vision.

Q: Was there anything remnant from the laser disc or was this all ground up from the beginning?

Van Ling: From the Japanese laser disc are we talking about? Which laser disc are you talking about?

Rick McCallum,: The pirated one I think.

(all laugh)

Van Ling: From the VCD? No we didn't use anything from the VCD….

Q: I'm taking this question form a member of our community who is obviously a collector and they're referring to the laser disc version that is out there as a supreme high standard audio sound and so forth, but…

Van Ling: the Japanese have one laser disc, that's the only laser disc that has been available for the show. No we didn't take anything from that. We started from scratch with height of transfer and all sorts of things. Nothing came from the laser disc that we used.

Q: On some DVDs you can tell the special effects I believe because of the digital nature of the DVD and the way it was transferred. Did it seem to be this way for Episode I so how did you handle this?

Van Ling: I let ILM's work shine. Because I didn't have to do anything in that particular instance because the transfer that was done was perfect. If you do your effects right, as ILM does, you don't have that problem. What you're referring to is that sometimes like older films, with optical films you'll see in the video transfer the matte lines will appear. Or other artifacts that say this is a special effects shot. Well that's how seamless ILM's work is. It's phenomenal work and so there wasn't any problem with that.

Q: In essence what was the process in which the transfer was made and what source material was used for DVD?

Van Ling: There was a very conscious decision to go from the print rather than from the digital files. And I think part of that is that this is a film, and we wanted to maintain the spirit. This is part of the style of colors and look that we wanted to maintain with the picture. And we didn't want it to feel like perhaps A Bug's Life. Or something where it has that kind of digital edge to it, which works great for those movies. But we wanted to really say this is a film.

Q: Given the big budget on the disc was there any materials that didn't unfortunately make it onto the disc?

Van Ling: The answer to that question is always yes. There's hundreds of hours of material that as a film geek and a completist I would love to see on the disc but that's not really what the process is about. Like making a film you don't put in all your dailies. What you do is you hone it down to the things that are most effective, most entertaining and that you think people are going to enjoy. And people are going to watch. And so that's kind of what we concentrated on. But we jam packed the disc, it is filled to the brim.

Jim Ward: Van did a great job in guiding us quite honestly because we were the ones that really wanted to explore the boundaries of that. And Van was very good with us on the bit budgets and explaining to us well if we do this this is the consequence, etc. So we had to make some tough decisions and there are a number of EPKs and other things that we had to cut back on. One of you guys mentioned yesterday those other tone poems, there is a lot of that kind of thing that just couldn't go on and we did have to make some harsh choices.

Q: I just wondered in the deleted scenes section George Lucas talks about the air tax scene I think, that that actually looked so good he put it back into the film, that's on the DVD. First of all was that something that you were involved, that process? And is there other scenes that are added to the film as well?

Jim Ward: I'm going to take that one. Van wasn't involved in that and that scene was reincorporated and as I said I think we all have to get your check disc and go check it out for yourself.

Q: Did we ever consider using the digital prints that were made since we used that to showcase the film in four cities?

Van Ling: Basically we considered it, but we decided we actually wanted to go with the film print because it gave us the look that we were looking for.

Q: Were the deleted scenes ever taken to film? Or transferred.

Van Ling: Absolutely, they were finished on film. All 300 of those shots were finished on film and put together for the DVD.

Q: What are you most impressed with on the disc, your favorite part?

Van Ling: That I'm still standing. Because this was probably the most challenging disc I've ever done. And probably one of the most satisfying. I'm really proud of the way the whole disc came together as an integral whole, that's one of the most important things that we were all striving for that it felt like it wasn't just a collection of odds and ends, which, unfortunately, a lot of what people call Special Editions today seem to be. They tend to just be a lot of materials that were collected and thrown on a disc. We really tried to make it an integral experience. And the other thing I'm most proud of is that we were able to work together to do that. As I said earlier, sometimes you're out there alone as a DVD producer doing stuff, and other times the studios or the filmmakers can tend to be very limiting. And that was absolutely not the case here.

Q: How much time did you spend on this disc, was it a full-time job?

Van Ling: They paid me for about half my work, so… Because it was a heck of a lot for a full-time job. It was a lifestyle, actually.

Jim Ward: Thanks a lot Van.

Rick McCallum, Star Wars: Episode I and II Producer


Jim Ward: OK, the next person I'd like to bring up here and introduce is somebody that if you didn't know before you came here you certainly know him by now after having lived through his saga in helping to create the Episode I The Phantom Menace. I'd like to introduce Rick McCallum, the producer.

OK, so this is the man, the guy that produced the film and certainly lived through not only the film but this DVD as well, and you also saw everything he lived through in terms of the documentary that Jon put together, so, any questions for Rick? Let's start out right over here.

Q: How do you think you came off in the documentary?

Rick McCallum: That's why I have a fast forward, I just skipped over it. It was very interesting to see how much weight I've gained and lost throughout the whole production (laughter), that was the most interesting thing to me.

Q: You were very direct, for instance when the situation was very grim in Tunisia you said things colorfully and did you have any concerns about including this? Or did you not care?

Rick McCallum: No, not really. I mean it's a very weird thing, especially when there's a documentary crew. It's not easy for me to be totally natural around it. But you know after awhile you get kind of used to it. But no, there's never any real issue because in the end of the day we knew the guys who were making the film and they were all pretty trustworthy so it wasn't too bad. I was glad that they weren't there for 90% of the time.

Q: Well I had to laugh because since you cuss so much in the documentary, are you concerned about the young kids that will be watching that?

Jim Ward: No, we bleeped it out.

Q: But, I think most kids these days know what that is.

Rick McCallum: Everything I've learned is from my kids.

Q: My real question is, as far as the DVD, are you excited about all the extras? But as a filmmaker you work so hard on the episode that, what about the DVD itself?

Rick McCallum: There are two big issues for me. One of the things that was very difficult was that we virtually were making the film right up until three weeks before the film was released. In fact we were in London shooting six weeks before the film came out. Then we had to supervise the making of 5,000 prints. Plus if you back step, for 10 weeks we had been working on the digital master for the four theaters that we had shown in New York and Los Angeles. So we were just burned out. There was nothing for us to do. The film came out, we had three days where we rushed around to New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco watching the openings, and then virtually that following Monday George and I started prep on Episode II. The thing that we knew that we didn't want to do was just take the typical route where there's a video master out there for the video cassette, and then somebody takes that, throws it down, and lays it out on the DVD, you have 15 minutes of how great it is working with George and isn't Rick nice and his hair is weird and all the other strange stuff that you get on it. We wanted to make it special. But that that takes a long time. I set up the DVD before I went to Australia. We worked on it for six months. We had to cast for a crew. We had to wait for the supervisors, we wanted Pablo as our chief digital effects supervisor on the DVD. He was on another film. We had to get the artists that we wanted that were available. We had to face the whole reality of was it possible to actually even do this? We wanted Van Ling. You know there's a whole bunch of real things, it was like making another movie. And you've got to remember that up until Episode I, the largest film digital effects wise was Titanic. And that had about 450 shots. We had just under 2100 visual effects. And this DVD represents, I think it has the third most effects of any feature film that's ever been made. So you know it was a really complicated process and it was very time consuming, we knew it was going to take a long time. But I think it was worth it. You know we loved it, we loved the whole idea of it. And more importantly for me personally, is that at least within the context of DVD it's really about quality. There's nothing more frustrating than in the case of Episode I which was a process that lasted over four years, you spend so much time making it, then you spend so much time mixing it, millions of dollars. And then you let it out to the world and you know there's probably less than 100 theaters where you can actually see the film that we actually made, or hear it in the way we've mixed it. And DVD, believe it or not, still represents probably, in terms of the audience, the largest possible audience the best visual experience that they'll ever actually see the film. Because most of the stuff when you go to a multiplex outside of a major city is just junk. So, on those two levels I was very happy.

Q: Is there any particular scene in making the movie Episode I that was challenging to you?

Rick McCallum: They're all painful in their own little way when you think back. But no, I personally like locations the most because you never know exactly what's going to happen. And to me that dynamic is very exciting, especially when you're dealing with the temperatures that we had in Tunisia. Tunisia is a country I personally like. I love the crew that we had, we shot there before on Young Indy. They're all difficult in their own little way because you've got this army, and it's like a small village. And one day an actor will get hurt in a car accident, another person will get sick, you know everything is all off side, you never know what's going to happen. Studio work is much easier, you just know what you've got. Usually everybody can get home and get back to work relatively easily. So I think probably, I haven't answered that question but I like locations the best.

Q: Who was really the target for Episode I?

Rick McCallum: Well you've got to remember it's a saga. It's a saga of family, it's also going to be in six parts. It's designed to be seamlessly interconnected. In fact in terms of DVD it's what Van Ling was saying, one of the reasons why we didn't go straight from the digital master is that you know there have been three previous films, and they were films, and there's a look. And as he also mentioned in terms of relationship to Bug's Life and some of the other Pixar films is there are two different aesthetics. Personally, for me, and this is going way off the question, the digital release of the film that we had in four theaters came closest to the film that we actually made because it was the only time that we could be in a theater and actually see the film and hear it that closely resembled what it was that we had made. But the issue about whether or not it's for kids, you just have to take a deep breath and wait for the whole thing, because it all makes sense. It has to start somewhere, and there is a reason why Anakin is eight years old in Episode I. And when it's all over it will all make sense, both thematically and in terms of the evolution of Anakin's character.

Q: Why isn't there a DTS track on the DVD?

Jim Ward: I'll just take that and it really comes down to what you exactly said. It was a bit budget issue and that's one of the hard decisions that we had to make on this thing. You know in an ideal world yeah, but we just had to give it everything we wanted to do, make that call.

Q: Sometimes filmmakers are reluctant to do commentaries, but you got everybody, yourself, George, everyone involved in the making of the film to sit down and watch and give your observations. I was wondering what that was like?

Rick McCallum: Well for me personally it was very weird because I was in London, and I had to do it on a tie-line and so it was very uncomfortable for me, I didn't have enough time to actually sit back and really think about all the scenes because we were in the middle of shooting for Episode II. But I think everybody else really got into it, they really enjoyed it because in the end of the day it allows you to do two things. It helps you, if you're honest with it, you remember the pain of actually doing it. And then also what it meant in context and how you got through it. And I think everybody was candid enough, you know people like Dennis Muren and John Knowles and everybody else who was working on the film for such a long period, it gave them an opportunity to actually reflect back on their experiences, what it was like to actually do that specific shot. Because that's the whole dynamic, especially the world that we're moving into whether you're making a small, traditional, dramatic film or big special effects film, there's so many effects shots. And for the first time we're breaking the barrier of visual effects companies where we're actually working as a team. Because they're two totally different, distinct groups. You know when you're making a movie it's a totally different experience than when you're working on the special effects. Different kind of skill set, different kind of person altogether. But I think what was one of the best experiences for me on Episode I is it was a total collective dream and nightmare for a long period of time for a lot of people.

Q: You mentioned that making the DVD was like making a movie, another movie. Can you talk about how much it cost to put the DVD together? What kind of investment you guys have in it?

Rick McCallum: It cost (laughter), that's something, you know, does it matter?

Q: I think it's interesting.

Rick McCallum: Let's put it this way, it cost a lot, it took a lot of effort, a lot of time…

Q: How many Kevin Smith movies could you make? (laughter)

Rick McCallum: Well it depends. Based on his last one?

A side note. The DVD actually cost $4 million to produce!

Q: What do you think of the DVD technology itself?

Rick McCallum: Well right now, within the world that we live in, there's nothing that comes close. I mean, the thing I love about it is it's potential, especially when we deal with storage issues because as Van Ling said, right now we're dealing with a storage problem and you do have to pick what you think, and that's what I think he did a brilliant job of, one of the many things that Van Ling did was focus us and say OK, yes I know you think this is interesting but I think for the general audience this is the best thing. I think there's enough stuff here for hard core fans, for filmmakers, for everyone else. He really balanced that out for us really nicely. But what I do love about it, is it's future potential to be able to go in directions where you do have the access and, the ability to be able to store a phenomenal amounts of material. So that people who are into making films, could have 20 or 30 hours of material, I don't know if Jim has mentioned we probably shot about 600 hours worth of behind the scenes footage. Not that that would all work, but you know there's a good 2-3 hours about how to design costumes. There's 2-3 hours about setting up and budgeting a movie, scheduling a movie. Unfortunately right now with the limits that we can't use all that material. But there is that material and one day, in fact it's one of my worst nightmares that I'm going to get the call from George saying, you know I've got a really good idea let's put out a 250 hour DVD. I don't know if you guys have seen Terminator 2, you know one of the things I loved about that and what Van Ling did, you can go in many directions. If you were a hard core film freak and you really love Cameron and you want to understand how he made the picture you could go in that direction. There were so many areas where you can go and that to me is really the essence of DVD technology. But what I love about it more than anything is just the sheer quality for the average person.

Q: In the world of digital technology and DVDs and such, is there a final cut to a movie?

Rick McCallum: Philosophically I have no problem with it, in fact, I love it because what's always prevented any filmmaker from doing this in the past is just the cost. We all love movies here. And think about it. There are 300 movies made by the studios a year, and there's another 700 made by independents. And for us probably in this room we easily see two or three movies a week. And we love them. And it's one of the few things in the world where you can go week after week after week, and still be so deeply disappointed and still every new week say hey let's go to a movie. And that becomes still another adventure, another hope that the movie is going to be good. And the truth is, nobody ever sits down at a table and says hey let's make a bad movie. No producer, director, writer says God I've got a really great idea for a shitty film. It doesn't work that way. But something in the process, something about the compromises, the timing, the studio, the phenomenal pressure that artists have to go through, causes something to go really wrong. And often there is this other film there. Not always but often there is another film. And if somebody can actually have the wherewithal, the tools to be able to actually change that, it doesn't mean necessarily that you're going to like it any better or that you're even going to see it. But it's no different than a writer being able to re-write and re-write, or a painter who used to paint, you know when the Impressionists used to paint on a canvas they didn't have enough canvas so they'd just paint over and keep on changing. It's like rehearsing a play. But that's never been done in film before because of the sheer cost. And one of the great things about doing the Special Edition was we were able to go back and do the original Star Wars New Hope exactly the way George wanted it. The way he had written it. Whether people liked it, it didn't matter, it was his movie and he couldn't make it when he first made it because there were so many compromises he had to go through. So, philosophically, I have no problem with that I think it's great. It's like the internet. You kind of democratize the process, you have these incredible tools to allow everybody to make a movie. It doesn't mean the movies are going to get any better, in fact there's going to be a lot of shit on the internet for a long time, but it does allow people who aren't socially adaptable or don't have the skill set to be able to enter into the system of Hollywood, who have great ideas, may not have the personality to sell themselves but actually are full of ideas and can tell a story that allows them to be able to do that.

Jim Ward: OK, that's great. Thanks a lot Rick.

Pablo Helman, Visual Effects Supervisor, Industrial Light & Magic and THX


Jim Ward: OK, next up is a gentleman named Pablo Helman who comes from Industrial Light & Magic and Pablo was the Visual Effects Supervisor on all of the newly created scenes that appear on the DVD. So Pablo, where are you? There you are. I couldn't even see you before.

OK, so this is the guy to talk to about the process of putting together all these new scenes. OK right here.

Q: How many people worked on the DVD and how long did the process take?

Pablo Helman: I think we had a crew of about 100 people, actually over 100 people. And it took between six and eight months.

Q: How did the process compare from doing a film versus the DVD to create these scenes?

Pablo Helman: Well the process was pretty much the same. At ILM we take pride in every frame that we create, every pixel. So the process was basically the same, taking a look at the old content we needed to put together into 300 or so new shots. And taking a look at every one and all the history of Star Wars and the Star Wars universe. And again, we had to create the scenes so that they would cut right into the film if needed to. It was pretty hard work but it paid off.

Q: Did you take it to film? Or just stayed on digital.

Pablo Helman No everything was delivered on film.

Q: In the world of Star Wars what is a quote/unquote deleted scene, and in essence what did you have to do to actually create these scenes?

Pablo Helman: Well all these scenes that you're going to see on the DVD were at some point in part of the film. There were over 300 shots of scenes that were not part of the movie. And there was all these descriptions, all these different shots, and I basically sat down one night with a glass of wine and took a look at the videotape and I think I told you the story before, as the videotape kept going I was pouring more wine and more wine because the idea of producing all these really quickly, you know six to eight months, it was something that we had to think about. Again, you know when it comes to content, everything that was in that videotape was at some point in the movie. And it was deleted or not produced for a specific reason at the time.

Q: Pablo, what state were those scenes in? They were basically blue screen, right? So you had to go and…

Pablo Helman: Yeah the majority of it was blue screen, and a lot of it was a lot of sketchwork, you know artwork basically pencil drawings.

Q: So when you say it was in the film it literally was a placeholder in the film?

Pablo Helman: Yeah. Well yeah but in terms of content it was at some point it was part of the film, somebody, obviously George had thought this is what I want in my film. In terms of how we went about filming all that blue screen and all those blanks, we had a huge library of elements and things handy shot (?) that was again there was a history of Star Wars so there was really very little leeway to go wrong. And some things we shot, elements we shot. A lot of it was CG. And some things that we couldn't do before for different reasons. For instance the waterfall scene, at the time they were doing Episode I, it was very costly to do. There was a lot of R&D in that. And by the time that they were working the DVD basically the whole facility was working on water because there were a lot of water projects. So waterfalls were a perfect way for us to develop that technology and put it to use.

Q: Did you do any other work beyond the deleted scenes?

Pablo Helman: Yeah we did the outtakes too. Those were a lot of fun too.

Q: What is the previsualization process like and what happens?

Pablo Helman: Well, at some point George has an idea and he communicates that idea to somebody. And then that person puts together, it's basically a dialogue between the Art Department and the Director, in which the Director says something and the Art Department says here, this is what you want. And then the Director says well yes/no. When you're doing animatics you're not thinking about how you're actually going to finish a shot. You're just basically brainstorming up with your own idea on paper or videotape or CD or whatever your medium will be. After that, from a visual effects point of view when I see animatics all the time when we're working it's a great tool because it's a lot easier for, especially for artists who are very subjective minded, I mean everything is very, very subjective. It's a lot easier to say here do this, match this than to say I have this idea this is a waterfall right here that I want it to go down. So from that sense it was great. I do have to say that George gave us a lot of freedom, from those animatics that were very ambitious and varied, but very, very open. We had the leeway to solve the problems in terms of content. For instance in the pod race, when I remember looking at the animatic and there was something in the pod race in that extra lap that we did in which Anakin loses the cable, and I mean it took me about three or four viewings to realize what that was. You know it's like, there's something there, what do you think? Well I think it's a cable. Well where does that come from? Well we actually didn't ask George those questions, because you don't sit down with George to ask -- what did you mean, is that a cable there? So we had to basically solve all those problems. So animatics are very crude and it's a very open way to present a visual effects problem.

Jim Ward: And just so you understand the process at Lucasfilm is that there is a previsualization team that's separate from Industrial Light & Magic led by a guy named David Dozoretz. And basically George works with him to develop the animatics, previsualization of the film and then that's what ILM tee's off of in terms of understanding what the action sequence is going to be.

Q: How were the deleted scenes selected in the reintroduction?

Jim Ward: Why don't I take that. Deleted scenes were selected by George, basically, to answer that question. And in terms of the reintroduction you saw the taxi sequence scene that makes sense to him after seeing it completed and he reincorporated that into the film.

In the deleted scenes that you did is there anything that's special or a small bit that you're most proud of?

Pablo Helman: The waterfall sequence is great. The pod race sequence is great when you think about the technical hurdles that we had to go through. The taxi sequence was great because it allowed us to take a tour of Coruscant in a way that we hadn't seen before, and prepared us for future stories about the city.

Jim Ward: Why don't you tell them the story you told me about the computer?

Pablo Helman: Well there is a scene before the pod race where we introduced all these different pod racers that we didn't have a chance to see in Episode I. When we took a look at the animatic there was basically a still of Ben Quadinaros who is a character that never completes the pod race in the actual film because his engine explodes. So taking a look at the animatic and trying to figure out (just like with the cable), what that shot was going to look like, we though well we can put Ben Quadinaros we have a CG character which is zooming to him and that'll be it. And then some of us thought well wait a minute, he never finishes the race, because his engine explodes. Why don't we have him over there reading the manual? Right before the race? He's reading a manual and you know he just stops and just throws the manual away. And so we made that and we completed the shot and then here we go six months later we were talking to George throughout all these meetings but we never told him exactly the content of this establishing shot. So here we go, I'm meeting with George, playing the tape and showing him these short cuts, and he sees the manual and then he stops the tape and says, "You know, you did something wrong here." And I said, "What did we do?" He said, "In the Star Wars universe there are no books. So, go ahead and put a laptop in." So that kind of exchange with George in terms of what the Star Wars universe is and what kind of backstories there are in Star Wars is a great opportunity that not many people have a chance to benefit from.

Jim Ward: OK, that's great, thanks a lot, appreciate it.

Pablo Helman, Visual Effects Supervisor, Industrial Light & Magic and THX


Jim Ward: OK, the next person we'd like to have up here is Rick Dean, who is the Supervising Engineer on the entire THX certification process. So, Rick, there he is…

So for all those technical questions I could not answer yesterday guys, this is the man.

Q: Did you use a digital master for the DVD?

Rick Dean: A video master was created for the VHS. This was the same source material that was used for the digital release as well. We simply went back to that grand master and ensured that it was cleaned up and ready for DVD. One of the differences between DVD and VHS of course is you've got much more on the DVD format. So we did pay extra attention, but the same source material was used.

Q: What is the average video bit rate on this?

Rick Dean: The bit rate is really a measure more of the type of content that's throughout the movie. You know compression is a matter of being efficient with the bits that you have to work with. And so with this type of title, it's a scene by scene process to make sure that every scene was replicated correctly using compression. So it was a tedious task to make sure. Actually if you just say what the average bit rate is it really doesn't measure what the quality of the movie is.

Q: Since THX was involved step by step with Lucasfilm on this project will that foretell the future for THX?

Rick Dean: I think the program as it started out with laser disc it was rumored that we were simply a looking over the shoulder process. Very much now what we've done over the last two years and with DVD becoming such a heavy implement in the business now, is we're kind of much more of a post production service as management group. And this is the first time that we've been able to really spread our wings and practice. Lucasfilm was very, very receptive to a lot of the things that we did. We had a lot of the heavy consultation from Van Ling, folks at ILM, the creative folks up here at the Ranch, and it was just a wonderful collaboration of effort.

Q: How did you decide to use Laser Pacific?

Rick Dean: The technology that we implemented with this, and again I'll go with what was mentioned earlier, we did not develop technology because it's cool. We use the technology in the best way to tell the story here. And to bring the story out on DVD. Laser Pacific had certain experiences with high-definition 24 frame, and because a lot of his post was done down in the Burbank/Hollywood area they were the chosen facility for this.

Q: Were there any changes in the soundtrack in the Dolby Surround EX mix?

Rick Dean: No, there was not. We were very keen on keeping the original acoustic design of Episode I that was used in the Official for the home as well.

Q: Is there any sacrifice having EX mix on the DVD disc?

Rick Dean: Actually part of the beauty of what EX does is it simply adds additional information that can be extracted in the rear surrounds. So really, you are hearing this content. Even if you don't have the EX system. What you won't do is you won't hear the added benefit of the rear channel. But this does not take any more bits. The surround channels are stereo in a 5.1 mix anyway. So this is just a more efficient use of that.

Q: What is THX's point of view on the dual layer change, and then particular on this disc?

Rick Dean: That's a very detailed selection. What you don't want to do is have areas of the movie that will have a sustained music going between scenes or any dissolves because inherent with DVD there is going to be an interruption right at that point. So yes, this is a very often a difficult decision. At one point it actually took quite a long time to come to agreement on.

Q: How long was the process for your involvement in compression in particular?

Rick Dean: It's hard for me to even come to a number of days with that. After the movie was finally approved we went right into this mode. Some of the best facilities that we knew of were selected for this, and I can say that the repeat of creating the movie was done again for the DVD. Certainly not a matter of years but certainly a matter of a lot of time, a lot of hours working in small, dark rooms and as I'm sure most of you know. And one of the things that we focused on and were given the leverage to do is to actually question each and every time. Rather than have this go through in a factory stance, we were able to go through and tweak things. And this often did not take more time. We were very efficient with the use of time, use of manpower, but applying the technologies that we've been developing for the last three years, and really putting them into practice with this. These facilities who do DVD titles every day of the year are now using a lot of these new techniques in their everyday work now too. So that's rewarding in itself.

Q: Is there an international education program to teach people about the benefits of THX?

Rick Dean: I think the most efficient way to do that is through our website. We are trying to come up with more of an education forum on this as well. There has been an unfortunate misconception that we have not even told our story as fully as we should as we go along.

Jon Shenk - Director, "The Beginning" (one hour documentary about the making of Episode I)


Jim Ward: OK. The next gentleman I'd like to bring up here is a gentleman by the name of Jon Shenk. And I think now you know Jon was both the DP and Director of the documentary film that you saw called The Beginning. Jon.

Q: The question is, why no narrater in the documentary?

Jon Shenk: It's funny, I think in the realm of a "making of" it's a real unusual thing. But there's a whole history of cinema verité -- observational docs that have this style. And that's just something that I sort of fell in love with when I became a documentary filmmaker. And it just always seemed like a very direct approach. You know, sort of a human approach to making a film. And we had discussions from the time when I started work on this project that we wanted it to be an honest take on what it's really like to work on these films because we hear it all the time through making of's, various formats, the rosy picture and kinds of things that Rick was talking about, how funny it was that certain quirky things happen. But we knew we were going to be around for a long time, and we had the luxury of collecting these scenes that allowed us to tell the story well. Without a voice of God narration to come between.

Q: How long did the process take?

Jon Shenk: Well you have to understand I was shooting the documentary footage over the course of almost three years. I had so much time to think about a finished film as I was going along that it's really almost impossible to count. We would shoot scenes, and there are certain scenes that you shoot and know immediately that that's going to be in the film, you start working with it right away. The actual editing time once the DVD came around and there was sort of this idea that there was going to be this hour long documentary that we were going to put on the disc, that editing period was about three months or so.

Jim Ward: Jon in fairness he's being humble. We didn't give him a lot of time, (?) the decision was made to do this it was like Jon, "the good news is let's do what we've always talked about. Bad news is you've got like a couple months to do it," and he, talk about living it as a lifestyle, that's what he did.

Jon Shenk: But by that time, to be fair we had had and I had shown to Jim sort of what they call in the film world a rough assembly. Which is a really rough kind of almost an assembly of best stuff. It was probably three or four hours long, and Jim had seen that and so we were starting from a place where we kind of at least knew the basic structure of the film.

Q: How did you log all this stuff?

Jon Shenk: My brain. It's a copywritten database by now. Yeah actually we did. We knew very early on, actually when I started the job in November of '96 there was already a stack of tapes a mile high that other people had shot from the day that George had started writing the script. So I knew right away that a logging system was something that we would need. And I actually ended up working with a guy who had helped create the logging system for Episode I to log their dailies. And we modified it and I told him the kinds of things that I would need for documentary footage and it was a Filemaker Pro based thing. And during busy times we would actually have an assistant do nothing but watch the previous day's tapes that I had shot. Because sometimes I would shoot five, six, seven hours of footage in a day. That guy was going through it the next day typing in detailed logs so if I thought or if Jim said to me "hey do you have anything where you know the guys at ILM are really freaking out," we could just type ILM freaking out and hopefully get some shots that we needed.

Q: How do you narrow down 600 hours of film basically?

Jon Shenk: It's a painful job. But partly you make an early decision about what the through lines are going to be, and that immediately knocks out half the footage or two thirds of the footage. Because you know that you're only going to be dealing with certain characters and you know they have a certain through line. And also you have to understand that while I was making this (thing?) that's on the DVD, I had other things to do. So I was shooting for electronic press kits and we had a whole series of short documentaries that were on the web. So it's true we did shoot 6 or 700 hours of footage but a lot of that stuff was specifically for other things. So when it came time to do the verité piece that we put on the DVD, it was already honed down. I mean still it's a lot to go through, but then it's just a matter of diving in and it's part of the editing process.

Q: Was the scene with Mr. Lucas and Mr. Spielberg something that you knew was a keeper?

Jon Shenk: Definitely. When you know that you're not going to use a narrater in a film, you know I'm trying to avoid sit-down interviews that allow you to tell the story in hindsight how it happened, you basically depend on being a sniper, being in the right place at the right time to capture what you need to catch. And so there was always talk on set that summer that Spielberg was actually shooting this movie called Saving Private Ryan a few miles down the road in England and that eventually he'd probably come to the set. And you know he and George are pals and that they would have some kind of something on set. And I wanted to be there when that happened. So I just made it my business, and that was just one example of a lot of things I did, I sort of had to constantly be a private detective asking people when things were going to happen. So when I found out that that was going to happen I just made sure that I was standing in the right place, and in the film there's five or six minutes of that scene probably but you know the tour of George taking Spielberg around the set was just, it was just a magical thing. You know there's always sort of a magical experience of working on Star Wars because it was just such an exciting project to be around. But to have these two giants in one place, and to have the rapport that they have just felt really great and yeah, it was definitely one of those things where we turned to each other afterward and felt like we got something good there.

Q: Was there a day where you didn't feel welcome Jon.

Jon Shenk: Was there a day where I did feel welcome? That's the question. I mean you know, I'm trying to think of a specific example. It's, as Rick kind of alluded to, it's very difficult to do your job with a documentary film crew in your room. Especially if you know it's very delicate work and you already are feeling kind of nervous about trying to do the best job that you want to do. And suddenly you have a camera and a sound boom and you feel like you're on national television it's difficult. And so I constantly had to tread a line between getting what I needed to get and trying to hold back because I knew I was going to be involved with this thing for a number of years. And I knew that I had to maintain working relationships and become friends with these people to get what I needed. So really probably the on-set stuff was the most delicate. Because you know when they say OK everybody shut up and be quiet, we're going to shoot this take, you really have to do that. But as a documentary shooter you have to be in the right place, and you're constantly tripping over things, and when there's light stands and cables everywhere it's really an awkward thing. So probably the shooting period is the most difficult.

Q: Is there a personal piece that you liked that didn't make it into the film?

Jon Shenk: Maybe someday there'll be a DVD release of the documentary and you should see the hours of outtakes. I mean there's a million things that are in this library of footage that probably will continue to get mined over the years as Lucasfilm does more projects. It goes back to what I said before. It's mostly a matter of kind of basic editorial decision. Once you decide what the story is, a lot of stuff just doesn't make sense. So you know there's wonderful stuff, in the movie business there's a whole world of crafts work that gets done. And there's wonderful stuff of British painters talking about working on the initial Star Wars and getting invited back to do this one, sort of the whole old world/new world debate that was going on -- would certain things be sets or certain things be done digitally that, for example it would make a great film unto itself. But we only had a certain amount of space so we had to make the decision to leave that for another era.

Q: Was the last scene staged or was that real?

Jon Shenk: No, I mean George, that's just sort of a sign of how integrated we were on the project. We would make sure that we were in the right place at the right time when things were going to happen. I can't say that there's no shot in the film that I didn't say do you mind doing that again, or something like that occasionally. But yeah, we tried to be in the right place at the right time.

Jim Ward: It's kind of come full circle if you look at one of the initial web documentaries that Jon did, and Lynne Hale actually shot this footage was the very first day George sat to write down Episode I at his desk. And it's the exact same kind of thing.

Q: What was the stuff that was your favorite in the film?

Jon Shenk: God that's a hard question. I really love small, intimate moments. The whole idea coming into this is, of course I knew what Star Wars was and I knew who George Lucas was, but you don't really know that much about the details of the process. So the moments we did rough cut reviews, or the times on set when he's revealing himself to have sort of nervousness about the project, those are the kinds of things I really like because I just feel like that, everybody has those feelings no matter what you do in life. And they feel the most real to me and they also feel like kind of a victory for who is ever shooting because the camera becomes invisible in that moment and suddenly a real thing is revealed.

Q: What kind of camera did you use to shoot it?

Jon Shenk: I think this camera right here is the camera I used. When I started working on the project I think that a lot of the footage had been shot in Hi-8 mini-DV. And one of the first things I did when I got here is I started lobbying right away to shoot the material on essentially the best format that we could possibly use. And at the time, it's still a great camera, they had a digital betacam Sony makes, it's a digital version of basically a very common EMG format, beta SP. And Lucasfilm had been using it to shoot little inserts for Young Indy and they had a camera around and I lobbied to make it a part of the documentary package.

Q: Anything that you didn't get on tape that you regret?

Jon Shenk: That's a good question. I can't think of, again I'm sure if you had asked me a couple of year ago I would have a million things. You always feel like you're missing way more than you're getting. You know it's like in the cast read through for example it's like the fact that the entire cast could not be there, it's kind of a, well God this kind of sucks. I'm here to do the cast read through and only part of the cast is here, and I really regretted it at the moment. But then in hindsight it became kind of charming that the whole cast wasn't there, that they had these other players who were playing the parts and it actually became kind of a plus. So in the end once it's together and once it's working, a lot of those regrets kind of fall away because the good stuff sort of rises to the top.

Jim Ward: When Jon was doing this the real reason he was shooting this was really for archival purposes. There was never an issue in the beginning that we're doing something for DVD and therefore it needs to be like this. It was archival purposes and at the end of the day there may be something put together for some use. So he was being as honest as he possibly could.

Jon Shenk: I was never told when I first started that we were going to do an hour long documentary that was going to end up on the DVD. I don't think DVD even existed as a format when I started doing this. So I was told a lot of things. Lynne Hale the Publicist said I need you to collect footage so that we can use it for press reasons. And you know Jim had ideas that he wanted to do for marketing things. And George Lucas had this idea that maybe someday this would be used for an online digital film school, where you could go in like Rick said watch a couple hours on costumes, or a couple hours on stunts or special effects. So I had this idea that I just had to essentially shoot anything that seemed interesting. And it's a pretty broad charge to get, you know as a documentary person usually it's much more honed. And because it was kind of this top down project where George and the people around it really wanted it to happen, there weren't many closed doors. Pretty much any door I knocked on and explained who I was and who wanted this thing done was open to me. And I shot tons of things. And to answer your question, the irony is there is stuff that I really wanted to get but couldn't because it was sort of an inside job, was that when Jim called me up to hire me to do the DVD part of the thing, I actually hadn't had this frank conversation like you know what should be the tone of it and do you have any feelings? And he said Jon give me the dirt, show me the stuff that's really going to make this thing seem real. Do you have anything where people are screaming at each other in the trenches and that's kind of in the spirit in which it was made. We really tried to flip on it's head the idea of a "making of" and try to bring out the juicy stuff that we have.

Jim Ward: What's up for you Jon? What have you been doing? You got sick of us so… (laughter) …said look I've done this, I'm moving on to bigger and better things.

Jon Shenk: Right. You have to understand, for a documentary filmmaker I was involved with this project for two and half years shooting it, and then another three, four, five months in the editing stage - that's a long time to be on a project. And the reason I became a documentary person is that probably, a lot like you guys, I like to move from story to story and have my life constantly turned upside down. It's sort of the nature of the business. So I felt like when I got to the end of it I was really ready to move on. Not because I didn't thoroughly enjoy it, I did. I just felt like for a documentary person I was ready for somebody with fresher eyes to take over. So actually since then I have a small documentary film company in San Francisco called Actual Films and we do PBS documentaries and all sorts of non-fiction film stuff.

Jim Ward: OK, well Jon thanks so much.

Jim Ward - Vice President Marketing, Lucasfilm Ltd.

Q: Actually I had a question about the starwars.com the weblink aspects of DVD. What are the concerns about CD-ROM materials being on the website as opposed to being on the disc is that they don't have a life, they don't last, the movie goes away and after awhile the content goes away at the website. Is the idea of this link something that you continue to be growing in the future?

Jim Ward: That's a fair question. We have a thriving ongoing regular site, starwars.com. We wanted to give those people that made investment in our DVD something that was special to them, and we certainly want to do that. Over the course of time how will that manifest itself? I honestly can't tell you. It's a very fair question though. I would hope that we could be able to maintain that and keep it fresh as best we could, but I can't really make any promises now because it's actually new frontier for us and so we're just going to have to explore as we move on.

Q: Do you see it as a place where you had to make hard decisions about what to include and what you wouldn't include in the DVD? Do you see that as a place where some of those things can go?.

Jim Ward: Absolutely. That's the great part about it, we can put a lot of content up there, we can do a lot of things with the DVD itself. We could have special chats, as you watched the DVD on your monitor you can be involved in a special chat situation and other content that we couldn't fit on the DVD. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Q: When does the website launch, the one for DVD?

Jim Ward: The website will be up on the day of launch.

Q: Is there a temporary page up there now where if you click it says coming soon?

Jim Ward: No there's not. No.

Q: Are there any retailer-specific big promotions around this that you can tell us about?

Jim Ward: Well we have quite a retail partnership as you might expect through our Licensing group, and we have a lot of exciting programs with those folks ranging from Walmart to Target to all the major players where we have some really fun things planned so yeah, check it out.

Q: Any ideas what the numbers are that have been shipped to retailers, in the (millions?)?

Jim Ward: No, and I'll tell you when I first came here, my boss Gordon Radley who is the President of Lucasfilm taught me a very good lesson and that's never to underestimate or overestimate what you can do. So we're going to put them out there and we hope the demand is there and if it is that's great and we'll have to see. But I wouldn't want to venture to say.

Q: Do you guys, with the marketing campaign for the DVD, are you kind of doing the same thing you did with the VHS, are you putting more money into it or equal? How exactly are you marketing it?

Jim Ward: More money into.

Q: Into actually the actual campaign, like are you going to do more commercials, more press, more events to publicize it's coming out on DVD…

Jim Ward: Well we're certainly obviously doing more press, I mean we didn't try to do this type of activity for the VHS. In terms of the kind of activity, yeah we're going to launch it in a very strong way. This is obviously a competitive quarter, but we also think that the quality will speak for itself as well. So it's kind of apples and oranges with VHS because it's a little bit different kind of situation, different medium.

Q: I know we're supposed to confine our questions to Phantom Menace, to this DVD, but it's a DVD-related question. Is there discussion of releasing the first three on DVD? Is this kind of, is this going to be watched to see how this works?

Jim Ward: No we have no real plans at this point in time. I think you saw and you've been through the kind of process at least that we undertake to do a DVD. George is in the middle of directing and creating Episode II, he's beginning to write Episode III, we don't have any real plans at this point.

Q: Will the documentary air on television as any kind of special to launch the DVD or anything like that?

Jim Ward: Not at this point in time, no. It's just really specially for the DVD itself. However the film itself will be debuting on Fox Network Television on November 25th. But no, this is just for the DVD.

Q: There was a discussion I had with another reporter and that was concerning will the teaser for Episode II be on the new site that's linked on the disc? I wasn't sure if you had mentioned that yesterday or if there were any plans to do it?

Jim Ward: I have no idea, you'll probably have to get the disc and maybe check it out someday. (laughter)

Q: Similar to the documentary that's on this disc, is someone also now following Episode II in process?

Jim Ward: Absolutely. We have a documentary crew, a part of which is here today documenting this very thing, by doing the exact same thing Jon did and they have been involved from the beginning of the development of Episode II through the production and they're daily going down to ILM exactly the same thing. Just a different crew.

Q: On the last re-release of the Trilogy on video, there was a value added part that had sort of a teaser for Episode II. Was there a decision not to include that on the DVD and why?

Jim Ward: Yeah again, we wanted this DVD to really focus on Episode I in and of itself. And to be honest with you, there's bit rate budget issues and it's a trade off and we really wanted to put what we felt was the best stuff on there.

Q: What was the reasoning behind doing the Starfighter material?

Jim Ward: Well you know it's a very popular game. A lot of our core fans not surprising are also video game/PC gamers. So this is an opportunity to let them have an inside into the making of the game as well.

Q: How long did it take you to decide on the price?

Jim Ward: How long did it take to decide on the pricing? Well that's an involved process and I should mention that, we have phenomenal partners at 20th Century Fox as our distributors, and we work with them on a daily basis on all of these kinds of decisions. And the pricing strategy comes from years of their experience, their ability to feel the pulse of the marketplace. Our desire to get the best value proposition to our consumers that we possibly can. So it took awhile as we were developing the entire plan. But they gave us really great guidance on that.

Q: I'm wondering why you decided to release The Phantom Menace DVD now as opposed to say next, is it May when Episode II is released? Was there a reason?

Jim Ward: We wanted to release it when it got done. Because it did take awhile to do. Also one of the great things that we've learned about Star Wars is that people like to celebrate it and they like to give Star Wars things as gifts, and this is a nice opportunity to move into the Christmas timeframe. But it seemed like the best confluence of both seasonality and when we could the thing done.

Q: Do you see yourselves for Episode II trying to shoot for a same date DVD/VHS release?

Jim Ward: We haven't got that far. We're trying to get this thing out the door but to be honest with you we haven't made any plans as far as that goes.

Q: This is kind of another ancillary DVD question. Will Mr. Lucas' production schedule and the other Star Wars projects at Lucasfilm prohibit him from addressing some of the other non-Star Wars properties that you guys have, and even some of the smaller ones like a Young Indiana Jones?

Jim Ward: I'm not sure his production schedule necessarily will inhibit that, but we are issuing Willow this December, or actually the end of November with our partners at 20th Century Fox, November 27th. So no, in some of those areas we are moving forward.

George Lucas


Jim Ward: OK, well I'll just introduce George Lucas.

Q: Very soon Francis Coppola's going to come out with Apocalypse Now redone which includes 50 extra minutes, and there's been several other big releases. Has there been any discussion about this DVD thing among filmmakers like you and Francis Coppola about how it's different, how it's special?

George Lucas: No. I think every filmmaker ends up having to compromise in order to deal with the theatrical experience. And so given their druthers I think most filmmakers on their own without even consulting with each other says 'gee if I'm going to put this on DVD and the length doesn't matter, I can put material in that I really love.' You know it used to be called Director's Cuts and now it's just called DVD. (laughter)

Q: Historically speaking, how do you think Phantom Menace will be seen say 100 years from now? How it will be thought of?

George Lucas: Well I have no idea, I mean obviously I won't be around so it won't make any difference but at the same time I would guess that they will be thought of as the first chapter in a six-part movie. So that it'll be thought of really as Star Wars, not as Phantom Menace.

Q: I was thinking more as far as cinema goes because it seems very kind of (??) where people were trying to figure out how to make a movie for the first time?

George Lucas: Well, I don't know. I mean when we made Star Wars with a sort of pioneering in its own way too but now it's sort of old hat. You know people forget very quickly the technological advances that are made on each movie. I guess there are technological advances made all the time. It's a progression of the medium, especially in terms of being able to incorporate digital characters and sets and that sort of thing. It had been done before but not on the scale. And you know the next film will be more extreme and I assume that when I make the third one it'll be even more extreme.

Q: Was there any initial hesitation going to DVD or have you been very confident since you first considered this format?

George Lucas: No. The biggest issue is I wanted to do something special and I wanted to make it have a lot of interesting things on it. And in order to do that it took us quite a bit of time, we had to actually, in essence, shoot material. I mean we had shot it and cut it, but we hadn't done the special effects on it so we had to finish sequences that had been abandoned. Which took quite a bit of time.

Q: Was there anything unique about Episode I that you wanted to address in particular when coming to DVD? Anything you wanted to show fans about the process or anything about the film itself?

George Lucas: No. (laughter) No, no, no, I mean we do so many behind the scenes documentaries, and we do so many things and the market is so broad, it's hard to come up with something that is specific enough for me to be saying well this is something I want to do. I mean you give a general overview, you get behind the scenes, a lot of material that nobody has seen before. And you get a chance to see the scenes that were cut out and in the documentary it explains a little bit why they were cut out and the problems that a director has in having to trim this film down to satisfy an audience on a Saturday night.

Q: How do you feel about the finished product, and is there a favorite feature that you have on the disc?

George Lucas: Well I'm very proud of the finished film. I mean it's really, I love it and I think the interface is great. I'm happy to have those missing scenes back and finished, it was fun to finish them. You know you do things that you never really get to complete so you never really find out whether they're going to work or not, and that was a lot of fun to see that all put back together again.

Q: Did you learn anything new about the film in revisiting it for DVD?

George Lucas: We ended up putting a few things that we'd cut out back into it just because when I finally saw them finished and I cut them in and I looked it and I said, it's really better with this stuff in here than it is without it. And in a lot of cases in this kind of a movie it's very hard to make this kind of movie because it's made in theory. And then at the very end you get to see it finished. Where normally you'd do a rough cut of a movie, that's pretty much the movie so it's not a theory any more it's a reality. But with this kind of a film, the film hasn't even been shot yet, in a lot of cases. So you're cutting things out that haven't been shot yet. So you're saying well I'm not sure if this is going to work so you just cut it out and you never see it actually work or not work. That's a very different way than most people make a movie. And so in this particular case I was able to finish a few things and I said when you cut this in here it just works great so I'm just going to keep it there. So there are scenes that were cut out but there's also a little bit of adjusting in the film itself which I was very pleased about.

Q: You talked in the documentary about the challenge of creating three or four new environments in each film. And I wonder now with DVD getting to the extent that it is where you know you have Shrek coming out now and Godfather and Snow White where they're just putting hours and hours and hours of extra things and getting more innovative all the time with new extras. Is this creating yet another challenge or stress level for you to have to try to up the ante for DVDs now as well?

George Lucas: No, I think that a DVD should be organic. But there's certain material that traditionally has been included, you know the commentaries and now we have some behind the scenes things. We have a great deal of behind the scenes footage that we shoot because I have lots of other plans to do other things. And I obviously I don't shoot certain scenes just to end up on the DVD. I haven't gotten that far yet. I'm not sure, I assume someday people will do that but I don't think I will.

Q: We all know your original plan was to wait and release all six films to DVD at one time. Why did you change your mind? Thank you, but why?

George Lucas: Well there's a lot of pressure on the market to release them and that sort of thing, and we were also in a situation where I wanted to complete the film. I mean I wanted to do the behind the scenes, I wanted to do the scenes that were taken out. And I really needed to have the people who were involved in it do it. If I'd waited for another four years when I finally made the third and the final and finished it, it wouldn't be as easy to accomplish all that. And once you've accomplished it and you've spent the money on it then it makes sense to release it. And so now I think with these first three we will be releasing them as everyone else releases them, which is in the normal schedule after the initial theatrical release of the movie. Then I'll do the first three, because they're kind of vintage and it'll take a little bit more work.

Q: American Graffiti which has been on DVD for some time, for anyone who has read about what you had to go through with Universal to make that film, seems to be one of your most personal. So I was just curious why you chose to record your first feature commentary for Star Wars? Is this a film you're more proud of if that's possible? I mean because I know you're probably proud of all your features, but why did you start now?

George Lucas: Well I don't know. I didn't have a lot to do with the DVD of American Graffiti, it was actually a Universal project. And I think when they were doing that I was actually shooting Phantom Menace or something so I wasn't even around to do it. I'm not quite sure what happened on that, but this one, we did ourselves. The American Graffiti DVD was put together and released by the DVD Department at Universal. They don't actually ask whether you want to do it or not. They just go ahead and do whatever they want to do.

Q: Would you possibly like to revisit it sometime and do a commentary?

George Lucas: I don't know.

Q: In the documentary we saw you in a lot of challenging and stressful situations, and you seemed very calm and unflappable. Is that your general style making films, or do you think we didn't see, and if so how do you remain so calm?

George Lucas: Well, I'm not very calm about raising my kids. But I've done this for a long time now. And I lose my temper every once in awhile just like anybody does under those kind of conditions, especially when they go on for months. But generally, 90% of the time that's the way I am. And it's just my constitution I guess. It's the way I work. I don't like a stressful set. I don't think yelling at people really accomplishes too much.

Q: I just wanted to raise something that came up earlier, which is the question now that you've got all the responsibility for the DVD to release, three insert scenes, you know show extraneous material. You said earlier that what used to be called the Director's Cut is now called the DVD, but do you think in some sense that film it's quite difficult to say at what point a film is finished, or that there's a final version or a definitive version? And particularly your decision to finish scenes that you'd set aside and think about putting some of them back, putting one of them back. It muddies the waters in a way. This may not be a bad thing, maybe you think that's a good thing. But there's no, there's a fuzzy sense of when a film is finished, no?

George Lucas: Yeah. Now it's not unlike all other art forms. All the other art forms have that advantage, improvised additions and you know for things to be touched up or redone. You know an artist especially, you go into any studio and you'll find a lot of paintings sitting on a wall that were finished five, 10 years ago that the artist is just sitting with until he's really happy with it. And even sometimes they sell the paintings come back and revisit it. Not that often. But I think with film, like anything else as far as I'm concerned, the film is finished when the Director is gone. So to speak. And you know it brings up another issue that a lot of us have been campaigning for in the last 10 or 15 years which is artists' rights, because more and more it's going to get to a point where people can re-cut each other's movies and studios can re-cut your movies and do the same thing that now is essentially left to the director to do. And then you're going to get some very distorted views of movies. It's like what happened in the theatrical experience. And you know you hear all the complaints from the directors, that's not my cut, that's not what I wanted, you destroyed my movie. And right now we're sort of getting that back through the DVD process of actually making it more the way we, the filmmaker actually originally intended it. But then there's always this danger that the studios take it back and say well I don't care what he wanted I'm going to do the new DVD which is the better cut. You know, the executive/middle management cut. The corporate cut. And we're looking to try to see that there is some protections about who actually gets to re-cut these movies. And then as far as I'm concerned the artist should always have the right to re-think what he's done because that's ultimately what people are interested in.

Q: Expanding on the idea of commentary, how did you enjoy, what was it like sitting down revisiting the film and talking about it and would you want to do that again on your future work?

George Lucas: Yeah, I'll do it again. I mean again at this point, I don't know I've seen some (?) actually not a great deal of time and sort through it in a very comprehensive fashion, generally what happens is you sit down and watch the movie and just talk about it. So you know it's whatever sort of comes off the top of your head at that particular moment. My feeling is that in the future they will become more prepared in terms of there will be a theme going through it or some kind of issue that is being dealt with or many issues. Because there's so many things you can talk about that it's a kind of an arbitrary amount of information that comes out at any given moment. And (?) usually you're doing well when something is right so you don't have enough time to second guess what you've said.

Q: There's only seven cut scenes on the DVD and there's numerous other cut scenes from the film. Was it difficult for you to make a decision on which scenes to complete?

George Lucas: I picked the seven that are actual scenes. I mean we can just sort of go through and cut random dialogue or you know we tried to get things that actually developed into a real scene that went on for at least a minute. You know sometimes a little bit less but you know we tried to get substantial things, in the end you cut out an enormous amount on a movie. You know there's another ˝ hour of bits and pieces and things that are kind of not really relevant to anything. And they're not relevant to an entity that was taken out, it's just trims and cuts and lines that are lost and that sort of thing.

Q: One of the scenes I was hoping to see, that I've seen pictures of, is Obi-wan being lectured in the swamp by Qui-Gon after his saber burned out.

George Lucas: In the end you know it's like four lines. I mean the scene is there, it just would be longer. And it's the kind of thing that overall in looking at the movie I felt that that discussion didn't really fit into the movie. It's relevant in a more grand scheme of things, which is relevant to the movie that I'm making now and kind of things, it's a kind of minor version of what Jabba the Hutt was in New Hope. Which is is it's not really relevant to A New Hope but it is relevant to Return of the Jedi. And, you know, (?) in the second one too but mostly when you go back to see the last film. And this is just a couple of lines that sort of resonated against similar kinds of lines that are going on in this movie. But you know in the end it's a shading, it's not really a big issue. And in a lot of cases you're sort of trading off shadings that might be appropriate in the grand scheme of six movies, but not appropriate in the individual movie as it exists. Unfortunately I'm writing a novel and I'm writing it a chapter at a time. And one chapter comes out every three years. So each chapter has to kind of work unto itself. And it's kind of tricky, because you don't want to do things that bring the whole thing down just because if you saw the whole thing at once it'll all make sense but it doesn't individually. So I have to kind of weigh those two things against each other all the time.

Q: You were talking a minute ago about some of the things that we saw on the documentary that were interesting, and one of the things that surprised me and I'm imagining it's going to surprise a lot of people to see it, is that scene when you're sitting in the editing room and the editor is like, you're pulling material from one take and from another take to combine it into something that you want. And I don't think a lot of people realize that that's even possible, the technology that you can combine such disparate things maybe. And I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on, it's now possible, I mean you're able to do something if somebody moves the wrong way you can fix it.

George Lucas: Well it's an advance. Again, it's sort of the technological side of the craft of filmmaking. You know people usually don't go into long discussions about editorial tricks and things that we use all the time to get performances out of people or to try to make sense out of scenes that inherently don't make sense. And so this just moves that whole toolkit further along. It's like word processing being able to move paragraphs around and do things like that. Or Photoshop, where you can touch up photos or you can move things over, or you could take things out. You know in the digital world these things are kind of old hat. You know they just haven't been applied that much to film, at least not to feature films but you know in a lot of commercials and video. Let's just say it's more of a film school issue than anything else I think, and most of the students do already understand how you can slice and dice a frame and make it be what you want it to be. Especially if they've had any experience with animation.

Q: Were there parts of the DVD included for more hard core Star Wars fans? Was it meant for a general audience? Both?

George Lucas: Well I think it was meant for both. I mean we tried to have a little something in there for everybody, but a DVD is like everything else, it's designed really for everybody. It's not designed for a specific group.

Q: Was there any parts that you put in for the hard core fans?

George Lucas: I don't think so.

Jim Ward: Well I think it depends. Certainly some of the aspects of the deleted scenes are, as we talked about the Rats Tyrell family, that you've got to really be hard core to know who Rats Tyrell was and that inside joke. But it's really funny just if you looked at it in general. So it's a blend. And that's what's wonderful about Star Wars.

George Lucas: Well we put in there, you know I put in there, mostly things that we all liked and all of us that had worked on the movie and people who were involved in the movie kind of the things that got added in and what the documentary was about and all that sort of thing. So in a way it was for the hard core fans because it was for us.

Q: What kinds of movie experience does watching DVD represent to you? Do you enjoy renting a DVD rather than going to a movie Official?

George Lucas: I generally go to the movie theaters. I mean I go to the movie theaters to see what's happening now and then I watch DVDs for older movies that are no longer in the theaters. So I don't really choose one or the other. If I want to see Dr. Strangelove I can't go to the movie Official. But if I want to see something more contemporary, Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back I have to go to a movie Official.

Q: I was just wondering, Rick had said earlier that right before you went to Australia to film II, that you hired the crew for the DVD. Were you going back and forth in terms of working on each project? Were those simultaneous?

George Lucas: Yeah, in this particular case the crew that worked on the DVD some of them had worked on the film and I gave a lot of instructions when I left. And then they'd come and visit every once in awhile in Australia. But I didn't check in at the same level that I would on the film that I'm working on now. I sort of let them have a little more freedom because they knew pretty much what to do, they'd worked on the film, they knew how it all went together. And there wasn't a lot to get on them about because there weren't really a lot of decisions that had to be made.

Jim Ward: Time for a couple more questions, and I want to make sure that I get people that haven't asked one yet. So you've not asked one? OK. I trust you.

Q: Is it hard for you to come here and talk about the DVD, should your mind be preoccupied with Episode II?

George Lucas: Well it is actually. I'm over there editing right now, had to deal with a particular scene. But I sort of let the editors fend without me for a few minutes and hopefully they'll have things sorted out by the time I get back.

Q: With each film pushing the edge of technology, do you think people will be surprised that you actually write the scripts with pencil and paper as opposed to using word processing?

George Lucas: I don't know. I mean people I guess have a tendency to think you're one way or the other, and people come out here and they see this is all sort of Victorian and they say oh my God I thought this was all going to be really fancy and high tech and look like some Frank Gehry museum or something. But you know, that's not what my personality is at all. I'm not a techie. And I've never really claimed to be.

Q: As a movie lover I grew up in an era of the first Star Wars films. There was no real "making ofs", there was no DVD. I'm just wondering as a filmmaker do you ever worry that you might be showing too much and therefore destroying the magic of the process of movie making?

George Lucas: Well I think it's like anything else, and especially like the writing process or anything else. I think especially for young people it's important to let them know how all these things go together because I'm hoping a lot of them will get into it and do it themselves. So it becomes a kind of an educational process. It's not something that was available when I grew up. You know we couldn't even see movies unless we went to school and actually it was showing that night. And you were just stuck. Now you can pretty much see any movie you want at any time you want. It's an amazing transformation that's taken place. I think the other end of it is that by doing the documentaries, there's a lot more revealed, a lot more going on with the filmmaker. When I also went to school nobody really knew who directors were except film students. You know maybe Hitchcock or some of the people that have been on television, but you know generally it was a pretty quiet behind-the-scenes job. Now it's not. And we're obviously allowing more and more entry into the creative process of exactly what we do and how we do it and what it's like on the set every day when you're actually doing it. Because for the most part there's cameras around all the time, recording almost everything that goes on. And that's a little intense. I mean it's like a space station, you're in a zoo. I guess if lions and tigers and bears can stand it, directors can too.

Q: With the DVD release you've really seemed to have embraced the online world with communicating with your fans, and you mention earlier that you were pressured to release Episode I. To what extend do people on the internet get together and talk about your movies and communicate, influence both you as you're looking at the Star Wars franchise on DVD but also as the story continues and you create the Star Wars films.

George Lucas: When I did Phantom Menace and rather than doing Phantom Menace which is two or three years ago, I started to read some of the internet stuff for the first time. And you know I found it rather disturbing in its complete fantasy life. I mean about 2% of what I read that had any credibility whatsoever in terms of being true. And the rest of it was just complete BS that had been created by somebody somewhere. And at first you sort of say well they can't say that, and this is crazy, why would they, what are they talking about? I was doing it pretty much when I was editing, because I didn't have anything else to do and sort of in between I'd sort of read the internet. And then, because it's the only thing I don't have time for. And after I finished that movie and everything I stopped reading the internet. And I haven't really gone back because it's not, in a way it's just not relevant to what I do, in any way. So I just stay away from it. It's like reading reviews. People expressing their opinion for whatever reason and that's fine, but in the end I've got too many other things to do to spend my time sort of listening to 10,000 opinions.

Jim Ward: George, thanks a lot.


Complete Phantom Menace Coverage:
The Phantom Answers - Answers to Your Star Wars Episode 1 Questions
Skywalker Ranch - Our Trip Report
Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace DVD Review


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