INTERVIEW: Phil Clarke

Interview by Tom Sheffield

Here at JUMPCUT ONLINE we have been fortunate enough to interview a number of people who have worked in all different areas across the film industry. Recently we had the pleasure of interviewing Phil Clarke, a screenwriter and script consultant who has worked in the film industry for the best part of 20 years. Phil has worked on films such as ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Star Wars’, and with the likes of Danny Boyle, Tim Burton, and George Lucas.

We wanted to talk to Phil about his time in the industry, learn some of his favourite aspects of the work he’s done and his current script consulting, and also see if he could share some helpful tips for any budding writers who may be reading this.


TS: Hi Phil, thank you taking time to talk to us. For those who may not be aware of your work, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers.

PC:  Would love to! I’m a freelance script consultant, a role I’ve been doing full-time for well over a decade now through my own company: PHILMSCRIBE.COM. This followed many years working in film on the sets and in the production offices of some major motion pictures, TV shows, music videos and commercials. I have also written for the screen – having a number of projects optioned –  and for the page, with several books published over the years.

TS: Can you remember what it was in particular that first piqued your interest in becoming a screenwriter?

PC: Honestly, I think it was a combination of things. Falling in love with visual storytelling through watching movies was a key factor. I have always enjoyed the physical process of writing. The look, shape, sound and meaning of words. Creative writing classes at school. Writing essays… This led to looking for jobs I wanted to do in the industry and writing was an obvious focus. This focus was further developed after being fortunate enough to work closely with established screenwriters: Chris Columbus, Steve Kloves etc. Reading about how Andrew Kevin Walker was working at Tower Records when he sold one of his first scripts. This gave me heart as I was working at Tower around the same time. And to quote the Mamet-written film ‘The Edge’, I thought “What one man can do, another can do.”

TS: What was the first film you worked on, and how did you find your first experience working on a film set?

PC: The first film I worked on was ‘Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’ back in ’97. Was strange as not three months earlier I had taken my mum to see ‘Return of the Jedi: Special Edition’ at the cinema, having just been made redundant. I’d have laughed in your face if you’d told me I’d be working on the first prequel that summer. Must admit: back then it was hard not to be a wide-eyed fanboy. A lot of it was a blur. My first time on set was for a scene in the vast Theed Hangar with all the sleek, shiny Naboo starfighters lined up. It was surreal. I was in awe. It really did feel like I was in a galaxy far, far away!

TS: What’re your top 3 films you’ve worked on and what about them makes them top 3 material?

PC: Hmm… tough one. ‘Sleepy Hollow’ would probably have to be #1. It was the first film I was involved in from the very start on early pre-production to final wrap. And I wasn’t quite so starstruck so I could really take it all in and learn. I was the studio’s Production Liaison so I was able to see and understand how every department worked and even after my shift was over, I’d stay behind and observe on set. Not a bad education watching Tim Burton, Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, Scott Rudin, Colleen Atwood and co work their magic.

‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ is a very close second. By this time I was freelance crew, working for the AD (Assistant Director) department. And it wasn’t long before I then became Chris Columbus’ on-set PA. If I thought ‘Sleepy Hollow’ provided me the perfect film education, this role would change my thinking. On top of my set duties, I had the enviable job of accompanying Chris to all other departments. I would even get to watch the previous day’s rushes with him and the producers – not something afforded to many.

My third choice would be ‘Enigma’. While not my first film, this was my first ever screen credit. This allowed me to experience film-making on a comparatively smaller scale, especially after my time on ‘Star Wars’. I found myself in the hub of the film-making process: the Production Office. Getting to work with some legends of the British film-making scene on a film adaptation of Robert Harris’ period spy novel was a fantastic experience.

TS: Can you tell us how you got into the script consultant game? What do you find most enjoyable about reading other people’s screenplays?

PC: I started reading other people’s screenplays during my film crew days. Then this developed into reading in-house for several production companies before deciding to go it alone and open up to those – how should one put it? –  outside the inner circle. I felt I could provide more help to writers this way. Provide a more personal service. Talk to writers directly and get to the crux of a story. Also, I was enjoying this side of things. I discovered I didn’t just have a passion for it, I was actually pretty damn good (if I am allowed to blow my own trumpet!) It does take a certain skill-set to be a good script consultant.

What’s most enjoyable about reading scripts? Well, I count myself fortunate to get to read stories every day in all different genres. Something not to be sniffed at. But specifically regarding my role, I love being able to help writers. More often than not writers find themselves too close to their work and are unable to pinpoint what might be holding their script back from fulfilling its true potential. I get huge satisfaction from providing writers of all levels with guidance, objective insights, benefits of my experience, heuristic advice that allows them to discover how to improve their drafts so they stand a better chance of success.

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TS: What’s the best piece of advice you ever received in regards to your writing? 

PC: The best piece of advice was the simplest I’ve ever been given. It was while working as Chris Columbus’ on-set PA on the the first ‘Harry Potter’ film, which also coincided with my self-education in screenwriting. I was reading every book under the sun on the craft at that time. I remember finishing one of Syd Field’s many books on the subject where he pushes the importance of his 3-act story structure paradigm with accompanying plot points and pinches. And one day while walking back to set with Chris – writer of such movies as ‘Gremlins’ and ‘The Goonies’ – I asked him what he made of Field’s focus on this paradigm and he looked at me and said:

“Just write an entertaining story.”

This helped me to realise I shouldn’t get too bogged down on these kind of details. Screenwriters are storytellers first and foremost and I was running the risk of forgetting this. Newbie screenwriters often become dependent on these writing books as they tend to always suggest there is a formula one can follow. This is comforting for the greenhorn scribe groping away in the darkness, but every screenwriter should always keep in the forefront of their mind the fact they are telling a story and if it engages and entertains, then it’s working. Simple.

TS: What are 3 pieces of advice you’d give to any of our readers currently writing a screenplay? Are there any common mistakes they should avoid?

PC: Always happy to dish out some nuggets of educative gold. Though they’ll have to be rather broad as giving specific advice is best done in context on an individual’s script.

First up I’m going to repeat Chris’ advice to me some twenty years ago as it’s THAT important.  Never lose sight of the fact that your job is to write an entertaining story. This may seem a rather obvious statement, but you wouldn’t believe how many scripts I read that fail to entertain. Many writers get bogged down in other details; paradigms, scene structure, character arcs etc etc. Now all these elements are important, but if your focus is always on telling an engaging story, then you’re not going to go too far wrong.

Nugget #2: Don’t rush your script purely to meet a particular script contest deadline. Far too many writers fixate on a particular competition and end up submitting a poor draft. I always advise my clients to COMPLETE, then COMPETE. These contests are annual so there is always the following year. And if that’s too long to wait, submit it to one of the many other quality comps that run at other times of the year so it allows you the time to ensure your script is truly ready. And of course this advice extends to submitting to production companies. Make sure your script is pure gold before you even think about letting the powers-that-be see it. First impressions count and are never forgotten.

And my third and final nugget: Don’t be precious about your writing. If you’re lucky enough that you get your script sold and put into production, then this advice is key. Know that you’re giving your script up for adoption. To multiple parents! And they’ll make all sorts of changes. This is because film-making is a collaborative endeavour. Selling your idea is your goal. Do this and you’ve succeeded. So write with this intention. The same advice applies when dealing with people who are trying to help such as a script consultant. Be open to advice. You don’t need to take it, but if you’ve got yourself a practiced, skilled, knowledgeable one, then the likelihood is that their feedback is only going to improve your work.

And as for those common mistakes, where to start? The majority of screenplays I read, especially from those who are rather new to the craft, tend to feature the same flaws. Here are three that come to mind:

A large number of scripts I read make the mistake of not being a clear-enough story, lacking in a distinct reason for existence. The story ends up being one big shrug. It’s as if the writer doesn’t know why they are writing this particular tale. It’s essential to know what your story is truly about. You have to ask yourself: why this story above all others? It’s as if a writer thinks producers and companies are just twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do but wait for you to finish your script. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a highly competitive market. I’ve heard there are as many as a million scripts written each year. Certainly wouldn’t surprise me. So your spec script has to be F***ING BRILLIANT. (Excuse the language, but I felt it necessary!) It needs to hit all the right notes, be bulletproof or you’re running the risk of it being passed on and being resigned to the Recycle Bin.

Many make the mistake of choosing the easy option, the first thought. This tends to result in a predictable, over-familiar, hackneyed piece. Spec scripts need to bring something new, something fresh. Be inventive, creative.

Many scripts I read lack any clear, coherent theme. Or the writer ends up being too heavy-handed with their message. And then the script ends up sounding preachy. The best writers express their moral vision gradually, subtly and in distinct story-pertinent ways.

I’ll rattle some off quick-fire now: Protagonists aren’t fascinating enough or have no clear story goal. The scenes have little or no conflict. The script has too much dialogue or too much action. Poor formatting. A lack of attention to spelling and grammar.

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TS: As well as your screenwriting and script consulting, you’re also a published author. Is there anything in particular about true crime stories that makes you want to write about them?

PC: Not particularly. I was commissioned to write those titles. An author for hire.  But I did find I got really into the subject matter, grim and grisly as it was. I have always been fascinated by human behaviour; I think most good writers are. And researching and writing about serial killers certainly allows you to see the extreme end of that.

TS: With all the reading you must do every day, do you have any activities or hobbies you like to do in your downtime that doesn’t involve reading?

PC: Absolutely. And it’s imperative to get some balance to all that sitting and reading. I’ve always been a very active guy. If I have one thing I love as much as film, it’s football. I’m in my forties now but I still try and play as much as I can. In fact, I love most ball sports. Tennis, squash etc. I also go running regularly. There’s some gorgeous countryside around where I live and I have a number of different running routes I like to hit. I also go on a walking holiday at least once a year somewhere in the UK. This summer I’m returning to the Lakes and Dales to do some rambling.

TS: Do you have any screenplays or books in the works at the minute you can tell us about?

PC: Most of my time is taken up with the consulting, as you can imagine. But I’m always developing my own projects whenever I can. Being a private person, I tend to keep my cards fairly close to my chest (so being interviewed like this doesn’t come naturally!) I’m developing two thrillers, one with a time-travel bent, the other involving sport. That’s about all I want to say about them at this stage. I’d also like to return to stories for the page too. There are a few non-fiction titles I have itching away at the back of my brain that I am sure will insist upon being written at some point in the future.

TS: Our final, and probably most important question today – we know you must get asked what you favourite films are a lot, but we’d really like to know is… does pineapple belong on pizza?

PC: It can, yes, but there are caveats. So the Hawaiian – ham & pineapple – works. I’ve done extensive research on this – but I would balk at having pineapple on, say, a Meat Feast. That just feels wrong on a number of levels. It’s all about the combination. The ingredients need to complement one another. And some just don’t go together. I mean, can you imagine an Anchovy and Pineapple pizza?! (One could draw some clear parallels between this pizza topping query and screenwriting if one looked deep enough…)

TS: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Phil. We wish you the best of luck for future projects.

PC: Been an undiluted pleasure. If any of your readers wish to contact me and discuss their work and how I might be able to help them, then please let them know they can contact me anytime in a variety of ways.

Website // Twitter  // Instagram //  Facebook

You can also sign up for Phil’s mailing list to receive more tips, news, and special offers! philmscribe.com button 1.0

 

 

 

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It’s Not Your Star Wars…

Written by Dan Massey

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away… People used to behave in a decent respectable way towards each other.

There has been a tonne of furore of late regarding ‘Star Wars’; the films and the fandom. More specifically, the treatment of talented actors, directors, producers and crew behind the latest installments in the ‘Star Wars’ legacy since it’s sale to Disney. Particularly post ‘The Last Jedi’, and pre the release of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, the atmosphere has reached toxic levels. The treatment of Rian Johnson, Kelly Marie Tran & Daisy Ridley, amongst others (but who I see targeted the most) is nothing short of disgusting and shameful. The idea to boycott a ‘Star Wars’ movie to prove a point and hurt the company and talent producing it is sad, especially from so called ‘fans’, who in truth are only doing themselves out of seeing a fun ‘Star Wars’ film on the big screen.

The reality breaks down like this; it’s absolutely fine to dislike a film, to criticise a story, character or a performance. It’s not ok to harass, bully and abuse hard working people who worked on those films.

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Yet all this got me thinking, what really are the issues the fandom has with the Disney iterations of ‘Star Wars’? The answers are complex and varied. A common criticism of ‘The Force Awakens’ was that it was a rehash of ‘A New Hope’. One of the most common criticisms of ‘The Last Jedi’ was that it was too different, a total disregard for the structure and lore of ‘Star Wars’. Another common theme amongst those who dislike everything Star Wars has done since TFA, is that “diversity and ‘social justice warrior-ism’ is being forced down our throats”.

A female protagonist? A black protagonist? An apparently sexually-ambiguous character? A female stormtrooper captain? A feminist, equal-rights focused droid? Asian and Mexican characters?

Well, that’s crazy, unrealistic and only included to force diversity upon us, let’s go back to the original films where all was good, men dominated the screen time and the Admiral of the resistance army was a fucking fish. Seriously, it’s a movie containing all kinds of Alien races, so let’s not get caught up on the race, gender and sexuality of the characters being unrealistic. It’s tiring, and while you aren’t racist or misogynistic if you dislike these films, you probably are if your reason for disliking these films is because of the inclusion of POC and female actors getting bigger, more important roles.

The most disappointing thing about all this, in my opinion, is that ‘Star Wars’ has always had deep-rooted messages and themes about society, politics, inclusion, failure, redemption, balance and inner conflict. It always had an overriding message of hope. The newer films take these themes and crank them up further than their predecessors. That’s a good thing; and reflects that society today is more open-minded, inclusive and accepting. George Lucas’ original vision was to create something that could provide moral guidance, a sense of spirituality that could transcend religion;

I see Star Wars as taking all the issues that religion represents and trying to distill them down into a more modern and easily accessible construct […] I put the Force into the movie in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people”

Obviously, mentioning George Lucas brings up an important point in the discussion, ownership. Now, as fans, we’re all important. As people, all of our opinions matter. None of that gives you ownership of ‘Star Wars’. IT’S NOT YOUR STAR WARS. ‘Star Wars’ doesn’t exist to be what you want it to be, it exists to be what the creators wanted to be. ‘Star Wars’ owes you nothing, so boo-hoo if the story hasn’t gone the way you wanted it to in your own mind.

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Now, I was born after the OT, saw them and fell in love with them as a kid. I’m old enough to remember ‘The Phantom Menace’ being released in cinemas, the line going all the way down the road, everyone in costumes, a full 16 years after the release of ‘Return of the Jedi’. 16 years. And it actually wasn’t very good. None of the prequel trilogy was actually great, and that was George Lucas telling the story George Lucas wanted to tell. 16 years! So spare me the talk of Disney ruining SW with its story direction and release schedule. We’re getting great ‘Star Wars’ movies almost every year. It’s a huge galaxy, there’s a million stories to tell, as long as the films are good and fun, there should be no issue. Who cares who makes them, so long as they’re good. George Lucas gave us three amazing films, followed by 3 average films and Jar Jar Binks.

So let’s look at the aforementioned issues; TFA being too similar to past ‘Star Wars’ stories. Lucas himself said that the stories always repeat, because that’s human nature. That was his vision for the expanded ‘Star Wars’ galaxy over time; and they do. Luke, a poor boy from nowhere, had incredible Force powers, and rose up to become the galaxies great hope against the evil of the Empire. In the prequel trilogy, Anakin, a poor orphan boy from nowhere, had incredible Force powers and rose up to become the galaxies greatest hope before succumbing to the Dark Side and becoming the greatest evil in the galaxy. TFA, Rey, a poor orphan girl has incredible Force powers, rises up to become the next great hope against the evil of the First Order. You could even make a prequel trilogy about Ben Solo’s rise and fall into Kylo Ren. That’s how in-sync the stories are. AND IT’S EXACTLY AS GEORGE LUCAS INTENDED IT.

Yet, it’s different. The themes of balance are much more present. Internal conflict, not only in force-sensitive people, but in a stormtrooper? The mindless soldiers of the Empire/First Order. That alone raised so many exciting new questions and possibilities, the exploration of the moral compass and conscience of Finn has been fantastic and fresh. Kylo Ren explores the inner conflict and pull of the light and dark more than any other character in previous ‘Star Wars’ films. It’s different because it’s more in touch with modern world views. It’s different because it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been or what you’re past is.

“Let the past die, kill it if you must”.

That line, apply it to the original films. The Skywalkers? The last of that bloodline is now Kylo Ren. Rey? A nobody. Snoke, unimportant, didn’t matter. Bold new steps in the way we tell ‘Star Wars’ stories, yet in line with how we tell Star Wars stories. It completely drives the saga in new directions while being faithful to the original ideals. Good vs bad, balance, inner conflict and redemption.

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In terms of Rey being a ‘Mary Sue’, why does nobody ever mention that Luke is the biggest Mary Sue of them all? He’s amazing at everything and quite easily dispels the pull of the Dark Side without a tonne of effort or sacrifice. I love that ‘The Last Jedi’ particularly explores the idea of Luke as a failure, to himself and to Ben, and the wider universe by his self-imposed exile. I love that there’s redemption for Luke, and his death is a sacrifice after finding inner peace and faith in the force again, knowing that Rey will restore balance and be the light vs Kylo’s dark. A large part of why I love that is because it’s such a fresh take on a central ‘Star Wars’ theme, failure. Obi Wan failed Anakin, and ultimately, he paid the price. His death was sacrificial, but willing, as he had found inner peace, and knew Luke would take up the mantle for the light vs the darkness.

Ultimately, ‘Star Wars’ doesn’t owe anyone anything, it’s not your ‘Star Wars’,  and people should be grateful that we get so much good SW content so often these days, whether it matches how it should of been in your head or not. Trust me, its better than waiting a decade and a half for a movie that didn’t match what you expected. But even when the prequel trilogy didn’t hold up in quality compared to the OT, that was fine. Agree to disagree, discuss what you’d have preferred and your critiques by all means. But, above all, be a decent person and resist the dark side of online abuse and bullying.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below, or discuss with us over on Twitter – @JUMPCUT_ONLINE

 

The Adventures Of Luke Starkiller as Taken From The Journal Of The Whills: Saga One: Star Wars

Written by Chris Gelderd

Every great idea comes from your imagination, or rather; your imagination that has been inspired by something or someone else to give you said great idea.

George Walton Lucas Jr, the founder of small production company Lucasfilm since the 1960s, had a great idea for a movie in 1974; a Flash Gordon adventure. This was encouraged by his love of the Flash Gordon serials and the works of visionary director Akira Kurosawa. Before the seed was planted however, George Lucas had successful graduated from the University of Southern California and been turned down by the United States Army due to his diabetes. So, the only course that beckoned was his love for film.

After a few low-budget films under his belt like the panned ‘Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB’ in 1971 the well-received ‘American Graffiti’ in 1973, Lucas set his sights on buying the rights to Flash Gordon to make his own epic adventure film for the big screen. However, even with the help of his friend Francis Ford Coppola, George failed to acquire the rights and his vision was crushed

But this was a man with a dream, and one way or another he was going to achieve it! So, after ‘American Graffiti’ performed well, George began writing his own sci-fi adventure with a synopsis entitled ‘Journal of the Whills’. And so over the course of the next year, a vision started to come together that fused inspiration from world cinema, various genres and even his pet dog Indiana. Multiple drafts were done, and he threw ideas around trying to think what audiences would want to see; visions of a fantastical future, or adventures of a mystical past? Characters started to come together like General Annikin Starkiller, a large green smuggler with gills called Han Solo and mysterious villains known as Sith.

It became a classic story of good v evil, heroes and villains. A fantastical quest across the stars taken by a band of heroes to save the day, and a damsel in distress, held by evil villains as they try to conquer the galaxy. With conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie helping George turn his ideas of spaceships, sprawling planets, huge control rooms, armoured villains and roguish heroes into reality, by the time the fourth and final draft was complete, the story of Luke Starkiller, Jedi Knight, was ready to go. Securing a budget of $8.5m and the backing of 20th Century Fox, George laid the foundations through 1975

Forming his own visual effects company called ‘Industrial Light & Magic’, George began hiring the talent to bring his story to life. Visual effects engineer John Dykstra. Cinematographer Gilbert Taylor. Producer Gary Kurtz. Composer John Williams. Editor Paul Hirsch. Location scouting took place across America, North Africa and Europe to seek out locations ripe for turning into desert worlds and bustling cities, and Elstree Studios in London was hired for the more focused and controlled shooting.

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Young actor Mark Hamill was cast as Luke Skywalker – formally Starkiller – and with little experience to his name, George felt he was the perfect unknown face to become a young, naïve farm boy thrust into a galactic adventure.

Carrie Fisher, following a debut opposite Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn in ‘Shampoo’, took the role of Princess Leia, a member of the Galactic Senate and royal family, beating off competition from Jodie Foster, Karen Allen and Amy Irving to bag the role.

For the smuggler Han Solo, George Lucas wanted a new face for the role and so initially rejected young carpenter Harrison Ford, whom had worked with Lucas before on ‘American Graffiti’. It was only when Ford read lines for the auditions that his delivery actually won him the part, beating off competition from Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson, Steve Martin and Billy Dee Williams to name but a few.

To counter his cast of unknown faces, Gary Kurtz made it clear that George needed some established actors to give the film credibility. For that, veteran actors Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness were cast as Governor Tarkin and Obi-Wan Kenobi respectively to add depth and a gravitas to their roles and importance to the story.

Theatre and radio actor Anthony Daniels was cast as protocol droid C-3PO who would act with his voice and body alone behind a full costume. Kenny Baker, standing at just 3ft 8 was cast as astromech droid R2-D2 to help control and operate the droid from inside. Rounding out the aliens and droids was Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, a 7ft gentle Wookiee with fierce loyalty to the heroes of the piece.

The physically imposing bit-part actor David Prowse was cast as Sith Lord Darth Vader, our villain clad in black. Due to his West Country accent, his physical stance was all that was needed. Orson Welles was wanted to voice Vader, but due to him being too well known, George cast American actor James Earl Jones for his deep and menacing voice as Vader, recorded in post-production to help create a villain full of mystery and danger.

With many more British and American talent filling out the rest of the cast of good guys and bad guys, ranging from farmers to pilots to aliens and soldiers, the shoot commenced in March 1976.

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It initially became more surreal as it went on. Cast and crew injected their passion and professionalism into the shoot for a film that seemed to be nothing but a “children’s film”. The harsh climate of Tunisia hampered external shots and proved difficult for Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker to work in, confined to their robotic suits, let alone the armoured clad Stormtroopers on set. The sets on Elstree were difficult to fit out and light correctly with their dark and brooding black and gray colours. Furthermore, director George was a very quiet and introverted man on set. Focused, serious and adamant to battle on to get his dream to the big screen, he was difficult to work with at times and many of the cast tried to crack his serious shell.

Even the actors, having as much fun as possible, found it one big joke. Harrison Ford lauded the script – “you can type this shit George but you sure can’t say it” – and production design – “there’s a princess with weird buns in her hair”. Kenny Baker felt the film was going to be a flop. Alec Guinness at times felt the film was mindless and had no real direction.

George was diagnosed wish exhaustion and hypertension by the end of shooting. Post-production was also a tough time in getting the visual effects right, working to a tight deadline that pushed a Christmas 1976 release back to summer 1977. Convincing studio execs and peers to have faith in the film was also tricky. It was a tough film from start to finish, and the budget expanded by $3m to a total of $11m taking in re-shoots and added effects. Composer John Williams recorded the soundtrack in March 1977 with the London Symphony Orchestra to help tell the story with music, not just words.

With little faith and marketing from Fox, only 40 theatres ordered the final cut of the film.

On Wednesday May 25th 1977, George Lucas’s dream of a small scale sci-fi space saga was finally released to low expectations.

It was called ‘Star Wars’.

40 years to that day, the rest, as they say, is history…

May The 4th Be With You – More Than Just A Convenient Date

Written by Chris Gelderd

The fourth of May… The day that comes but once a year.

To many, just another day of a season, but to most it’s a day beyond anything this galaxy could prepare us for. It’s a day to celebrate all things Star Wars. Is it official? As in a celebration made official by LucasFilm? No.  But it has transcended boundaries, as Star Wars always does, because it is now recognised by George Lucas himself, and even by Disney, as a day that means so much to fans of the franchise around the world.

The first organised celebration of the day only came later in the years in 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema, where fans gathered for trivia games, cosplay competitions and big-screen presentations of internet based tribute films, spoofs and sketches. And even now, Disney incorporates special Star Wars themed attractions and events at their parks on this day because, while not a national holiday, it has something stronger than a government backing to make it a memorable day – the backing of fans!

But even before then, going back to the late 1970s when ‘A New Hope’ blasted audiences into another galaxy, May the 4th became the day when fans could wear their t-shirts and costumes with pride, play with their toys in the streets and generally do anything related to Star Wars, because it was THEIR day.

And in the world media, the first official incorporation of the Star Wars-themed date was back in 1979 when Britain elected their first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Author Alan Arnold, who was working on ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ at the time, remembers:

“Margaret Thatcher has won the election and become Britain’s first woman prime minister. To celebrate their victory her party took a half page of advertising space in the London Evening News. This message, referring to the day of victory, was ‘May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations,’ further proof of the extent to which Star Wars has influenced us all.”

The date soon spread across the world and it was used by fans to further bring the escapism of Star Wars into their everyday life, almost as if fate allowed it to happen. However, the question is more than just landing on a convenient date, what garners a film franchise the right to be globally celebrated.

It is almost a day specifically created in perfect unison with the most ground-breaking and popular film franchise of all to allow fans to celebrate it, and say thanks to it, how they see fit. This is rather a beautiful thing when you look at it, because this day is something created by fans to share with other fans. Not by the studios or production teams, but by the fans who were given these films who now want to show how much they mean to each individual in any way they see fit. They also want to give something back to the people behind the films, the books, the toys, games, clothing….it’s the ultimate fan love letter.

So what better way to celebrate the franchise? It’s not like you don’t have much to choose from. How will you celebrate your love for Star Wars? How about one of the following;

The classic movie marathon. All current seven episodes and our latest spin-off ‘Rogue One’ in order. But, you have to include the ‘Clone Wars’ animated movie set between Episodes II and III, right? At just over 17 hours, it can be done and will take you right from ‘The Phantom Menace’ to ‘The Force Awakens’, spanning  66 years of galactic history and ready to continue this year in December with ‘The Last Jedi’.

Read a good book or three. With SO much material out there spanning some 25,000 years BEFORE ‘A New Hope’, a wealth of canon and non-canon adventures await you from acclaimed authors including Timothy Zahn, James Luceno,  A.C. Crispin and Troy Denning.

Grab a controller and get online for a day of gaming on a classic or next-gen console with a stack of Star Wars games that span the whole saga. Play as heroes and villains from both sides of the Force in land, sea or air adventures ranging from first person shooters, puzzle games, MMORPG and arcade classics.

As you can see, there is so much to do and it doesn’t stop there. Have a Star Wars themed house party! A trivia game at work! Bake Star Wars cakes for your friends! Spam social media with so much Star Wars knowledge your monitor implodes!

The possibilities are endless, but there is no right way or wrong way to smother yourself in Star Wars goodness and know that millions more are doing the exact same thing.

And let’s not forget the new date creeping into fan’s calendars following May the 4th. It’s the revenge of the 5th! 

So this is just a little glimpse into the formation of a day by the fans and for the fans to celebrate everything that is Star Wars. Let us know what you’re doing to mark the day and show us via our social media outlets on Facebook or Twitter.

Thank you, and remember….

Indiana Jones And The Tomb Of Quiet Optimism

Following last year’s announcement, the prospect of a fifth instalment to the Indiana Jones franchise was met with some level of cynicism, especially when many Indy fans would argue that ‘The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ should have remained a nice idea. Nevertheless Indy 5 has turned a lot of heads of late, especially following Disney’s recent announcement of a 2019 release date.

This time around we are given several reassurances that it won’t be worse than the previous film, in fact some may be forgiven for holding some keen anticipations for Dr Jones’ fifth adventure. Firstly, Harrison Ford has thrown his hat into the ring and has said he will reprise the role of Indiana Jones, whilst Steven Spielberg has naturally taken to the Director’s chair. The bigger news of course is that Disney acquired the rights to the franchise back in 2013, leaving many to ponder whether this could be a ‘The Force Awakens’ style reboot?

Spielberg has told fans that George Lucas will be an Executive Producer. Having conceptualised the plot for all the films in the series so far (three out of four can’t be bad), it remains unclear how much ‘hands on’ involvement Lucas will have on the untitled Indy 5 project. Reports suggest that Lucas has taken a back seat, allowing script writer David Koepp and Steven Spielberg to deliberate about where the whip snapping archaeologist should go next. Supposedly pen is yet to take to paper, that said Disney studios have allowed some breathing space by announcing the release date to be 19th July 2019. Although my heart breaks a little every time I catch a glimpse of ‘Crystal Skull’, my inner movie-nerd is quietly anticipating which baddies will disintegrate into dust in Indiana Jones 5.

Written by Mark F. Putley