first day of new Star Wars shooting

A great new article offers a peek behind the curtain into the brand-new Lucasfilm. It’s a profile of Kiri Hart, the company’s vice president of development, who is described as the Star Wars version of Kevin Feige. She’s the one primarily responsible for making sure all of the new Star Wars stories connect to each other and are up to the level of quality Star Wars fans expect. We’re talking TV shows, movies, video games, theme park attractions, the works. Basically, she has one of the best jobs in the world.

In the interview, one piece of information really jumped out. It’s the fact all the ideas for the upcoming Star Wars movies – both the main Episodes and spin-off films – have come from within Lucasfilm. They were created by Hart and her story group, approved by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, and then assigned to filmmakers Hart and her colleagues thought were worthy. So stories of Zack Snyder going to Lucasfilm and pitching a Seven Samurai style film a few years back were exaggerated.

You can read the Wall Street Journal stories on Hart here and here. But below are the two particular pieces we want to call out.

First up, from this profile:

For coming “Star Wars” movies, including Episodes VII, VIII and IX and three spinoff pictures that will be released between 2015 and 2020, Ms. Hart has developed ideas in-house and hired outsiders to execute them.

“I’ve been sitting down with filmmakers and writers, talking with them about what they love about ‘Star Wars,’ and playing matchmaker,” she said.

And then this quote from an interview excerpt:

We pretty quickly arrived at a content plan that stretches out for several years and we didn’t go looking for those ideas. Those existed internally. We were in a situation of looking for people to help us execute the ideas we had.

Now, when you hire J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank to execute some of these Star Wars movie ideas, obviously they’re hired because they’re talented and passionate. All of the stories are going to be developed and expanded in ways the story group didn’t originally intend. You can imagine, on Episode VII in particular, very special care was likely paid to every single detail because the film will have such a big impact on everything going forward.

Still, it’s oddly surprising that these stories, in their most raw form, were not created by the filmmakers. We’d heard rumors that J.J. Abrams in particular was very adamant about changing George Lucas’ original idea for Episode VII. Hence Michael Arndt’s script going bye-bye. Perhaps that film was an exception to this approach outlined by Hart.

But I love the idea of that keepers of everything related to Star Wars are truly controlling Star Wars. Look at how Kevin Feige runs Marvel Studios. He’s not writing the scripts or directing the movies. He’s just the man who makes sure it all works. Hearing other voices outside of the filmmakers provides a much-needed perspective and alternative point of view.

The Wall Street Journal article says that Hart has a team of five people in her story group. According to the always correct Wikipedia (har!), those names may include Carrie Beck, Diana Williams, Leland Chee and Pablo Hidalgo. However, I’ve heard those may not be correct anymore. I’m also curious if Simon Kinberg, Dave Filoni or some others fit in to that group. An e-mail to Lucasfilm for more information has not been returned as of publication. But whoever these people are, they are the ones behind all the stories, characters and speculation we enjoy on a daily basis.

What I’m even more curious about though, and we’ll surely find out once Episode VII is released, is whether filmmakers are ever going to be able to pitch their own ideas. If Zack Snyder really wanted to make a Star Wars version of Seven Samurai, could he? Hart does suggest in the interview that Lucasfilm is open to tackling other genres in the Star Wars universe. “I think there are boundaries, but we don’t want to rigidly define them,” she said. “It’s obviously not slapstick comedy, but there’s room for many different stories and genres that still feel like Star Wars.”

I think that means, yes. Once Star Wars is reestablished as the driving force Disney wants it to be, things could potentially get funky. But nothing is happening without Kiri Hart’s say-so.

What do you think about this sneak peek into the world of Lucasfilm?

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