Executive producer Kathleen Kennedy has given an update on the production of Episode VII at Star Wars Celebration Europe.
“The story and characters are all we’re talking about right now. We have an amazing team at ILM, who can create fantastic effects, but if we don’t have a great story and characters, the effects mean nothing.”
For Kennedy character and story are fundamental to making enduring blockbuster entertainment. She should know, of course, working on Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and ET, to name just three.
“I do think making huge popular culture, and I’ve had the good fortune to be a part of a lot it, well, it’s really hard to do and get right. And if you don’t spend the time you need on developing characters, and finding stories, complicated stories, the audience gets tired because they think they’re seeing the same thing again and again.”
Kennedy also went on to talk about the use CG effects, which many believe the prequel trilogy relied upon too heavily. Kennedy is uniquely place to comment on the relationship between traditional special effects and CG effects, since she worked on the very first CG effect ever created in the history of film (it was in Young Sherlock Holmes, if you were wondering). She was also the producer on Jurassic Park, which pioneered the technology that features so heavily in today’s blockbusters. It’s something she’s still clearly passionate about. “There’s nothing more exciting than to be involved in that kind of technological innovation,” said Kennedy. “When the story ideas you’re working on contribute to pushing the technology. I really think that’s what’s so exciting about our business. It’s the imagination drives that innovation and new design.”
But she’s also wary of films becoming overly reliant on such technology. Jurassic Park is a great example of how to successfully blend CG with practical effects, and it seems a similar philosophy, also informed by the original trilogy, will underpin the production of Episode VII. “It’s a conversation we’re having all the time in the development of Episode VII. Looking at all the Star Wars movies and getting a feel for what even some of the early films did in combination with real locations and special effects that’s something we’re looking very seriously at.” This resulted in a rapturous applause from the audience, and the odd waving of an illuminated lightsaber. “So we’re going to find some very cool locations that we’re going to use in support of Ep. VII. And I think we’re probably going to end up using every single tool in the toolbox to create the look of these movies.”
And when asked what was in that toolbox, Kennedy said, “It’s using model makers; it’s using real droids; it’s taking advantage of artwork that gets done that you actually can touch and feel. And we want to do that in combination with CG effects. We figure that’s what will make it real.”