Star Wars: The Force Awakens–Producer Kathleen Kennedy

Goals

 

Kathleen Kennedy: It was really exciting, because there’s many people in the world of Jim Henson and where Frank Oz, the original Yoda and this craftsmanship was really fading away.

Many of those artists felt that those jobs wouldn’t exist any longer and that CG was replacing that artistry and I think one of the things that this movie will show is that because the craft has advanced technologically, the ability to have these characters in the same room with actors so that they can physically interact with those characters and physically interact with the droids, makes such a huge difference with regard to performance

You are not asking actors to stand only in front of blue or green screens and improvise those relationships, because the emotional connection between the actors in this movie and these stories are so important. It’s so fundamental inside of Star Wars, that we wanted to create an environment that would allow for that to happen.

Success: Definition

KK: It’s an interesting question because it isn’t part of the conversation the two of us have very often, and we are not sitting and constantly talking about those expectations.  We are talking about story and making the best movie we possibly can and telling a story that we think is going to reach as many people as possible and that embodies all the elements that JJ has been talking about and they are so important to Star Wars. And I think at the end of the day, this level of expectation I think only reflects this incredible sense of good will that everybody has around the world for wanting to revisit something that they have such fond memories of. And if that translates into huge box office which we certainly hope it does, great. If it doesn’t translate to the extent that is being projected, I don’t know what that may or may not feel like, because that isn’t the reason we sat down to make this movie and tell this story.

I would measure success based on what do people come way from the movie feeling? What does that re-ignite in the audience? Because I think one of the things that I am really excited about is that people want to go to the cinema to see this and nobody is saying, I want to wait and see Star Wars when it comes out on DVD in a few months, they want to go to the movies. And they want to go with their families and their friends and they want to have something that they can share with one another and I think increasingly, cultures all over the world are having less and less opportunities for families to get together like that and for people to really share something and everything is becoming so niche oriented that again, those are the ingredients I see as being success.

 

Pleasing the Fans

KK: There is no question that there is a pressure and a level of expectation, and there’s a sense of responsibility and all of those things enter into it but the greatest pressure I ever feel is, are we making the best movie that we possibly can and are we telling this story in the best way we can? There’s no one more meticulous than JJ.  I mean on every level, you have to wrestle things away from him, because he will continue to tweak and tweak and tweak until you literally, and it’s often my job to say, you can’t do that anymore, we are out of time and we have got to move on. But that’s what it comes down to is that I really believe that all of these things that you are talking about, the trappings if you will and look, it is show business, it is big business and yes, this movie sits inside probably the most largest, most successful entertainment corporation in the world, and our job is to make a great movie. And that’s what we stay focused on, and if we stay and deliver that, the rest will come. And I always believe creative leads. That’s the most important thing. You can’t take something that isn’t very good or just fine and expect it to do well. And the audience is going to recognize that too. So we made this for ourselves and yes, we certainly took into consideration the fans, but that’s been the primary focus of what we spend most of our time talking about.

With something so well known as Star Wars, for something that has been in the culture globally, and in most cases for 40 years, it becomes an interesting challenge because you have this huge fan base and a large part of the audience that genuinely loved to walk into this movie theater and not know a whole lot, they would like to be surprised.  We don’t get to do that that much anymore and so much of marketing is about telling you so much about the movie that nothing is left to the imagination and nothing is left to be surprised about. And marketing is usually left to build awareness. So in this case, in many cases we don’t have to do a great deal of awareness to build other than to let people know that the movie is being made and when is it coming out. We have an obligation to certainly sell the movie and market the movie. But I do think that we very intentionally and The Walt Disney Company worked very closely with us to pull the reins back as much as possible and to try to do some very careful strategic things and that doesn’t just mean in the United States, we spent a lot of time very early on working with each of the individual countries to look at what was important culturally and to look at places in the world, where Star Wars isn’t very well known and to strategize very differently how those countries would be handled versus places where there was already huge awareness. So yes, you are absolutely right that it’s been very frustrating as opposed to the way a lot of other movies work where the movie is shown way in advance and of lots of footage revealed way in advance, that has been a very conscious decision to try to hold that back as much as possible for the benefit of the audience and not to be difficult, but genuinely for the benefit of the audience.

Future of  35mm Celluloid

KK: I think that is very much open to discussion and it’s an intensely personal and creative choice still and there are many filmmakers who are trying to protect the use of celluloid and keep film very active. But I think the sad reality is, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to develop film and to make prints, and to have theaters that can continue to show film and there’s no question that the digital age is having a huge footprint on our business. With that said, I think and certainly what we experienced is, we are constantly looking at the value of having all those tools available to us, depending on the story that you are trying to tell and the effect you are trying to create and the emotion you are trying to elicit and the techniques you are using to try to achieve that, can be done in many different ways, and a hybrid of a lot of those techniques is I think what is exciting a lot of filmmakers today. So I don’t think one is necessarily replacing entirely the other, it’s really more to do with who is the artist and what are they trying to do and what are they trying to achieve?

Lucas Films

KK: We will continue to do both and I am in the midst of it right now. We are doing Rogue One and shooting that right now which is a digital movie but we pulled all the original Panavision lenses that were used for Ben-Hur and we are using those lenses on Airey cameras to create the look of the film. And in Episode Eight, we will go back and do entirely on film as we did on Seven. This was all on film.

The irony is that all of the people that are trying to use digital photography in the best possible way are studying film. They are trying to recapture what film looks like.

Future of Cinema:

KK: That’s such an interesting question, and Bob Iger posed that to ILM and Lucasfilm and our ex-lab team, to try and to begin to start to have these conversations about what is that futuristic cinematic experience going to be, because we are hearing about all these new technologies, whether it’s virtual reality or augmented reality or variations of that that are going to be an extension of the experience that we have in the theater and where that is all going and what the capabilities are for projection, we are actually doing a release with this film on dynamic range and Dolby Dynamic Range.  I don’t know if any of you have been able to see some of the testing on that and really fascinating and fantastic technology that allows you to actually see an image in a way that comes closer to what the eye actually sees.

KK:  The exciting thing is that there are a lot of people that are invested in of course trying to find ways in which the cinematic experience, going out to the theater and going out and experiencing something that is beyond what you can have in your living room, is always going to be the challenge and always going to be what exhibition is striving for and they will get there. In answer to your question, what will it be in 20 years? I don’t know, but it’s going to be fantastic. I mean just the few things that we have been able to see in the last two or three years and how quickly all of this is changing and the amount of resources being devoted to figuring that out,

It’s extraordinary and in France for instance, I was amazing with how quickly cinema shifted over to digital everywhere as fast as they did and I think that is only going to show around the world the ability to be able to make these shifts and adopt technology as part of the experience.