The Force Awakens Production In Review! Writer’s Roundtable Volume 2 (Part 1 of 3)
Having a brand-spanking-new Star Wars movie in production is extremely thrilling and, although the drips of official information have been excruciatingly (in a good way) methodical, we of the Blogosphere have been extremely active. Well, IF you thought the first leg of production was “tame” then all Hell broke loose after the brief August hiatus which swiftly carried us into the exciting kickoff to the holiday season with the release of the first The Force Awakens teaser trailer. Let’s review this amazing roller coaster ride in our second ever Roundtable from the writers that brought the stories to you after you make the Hyperspace jump.
MILD SPOILER ALERT!
IF you have been spoiler free and have NOT followed this summer’s production closely — great self-discipline, by the way — then there may be some spoilerific info ahead. Also, I’d like to take this moment to reveal a special surprise. This time we decided to shake things up a bit by also asking Jason Ward, Editor-in-Chief of MakingStarWars.net, and friend to the starwarsnewsnet.com family, to join us on this edition of the Writer’s Roundtable! PUNCH IT!
DAY EIGHTY SIX:
AUGUST 11th, 2014 > Via Twitter, and following a pattern established at the beginning of Principal Photography, JJ Abrams releases a picture of a hand-written card announcing the winner of the Force For Change/UNICEF Sweepstakes. The picture is extremely notable NOT so much for the card but what is holding the card — a robotic hand, which suggests that it is from the production. The burning question — Whose hand is it???
Whose robotic hand was holding the announcement of the Force For Change/UNICEF sweepstakes?
Pomojema: Luke’s, no question. Some of the details on it match up with the interior of the hand that was show briefly in The Empire Strikes Back, and the background looks like it was shot on Skellig Michael Island, which we know Mark Hamill shot scenes for the movie.
DEKKA129: The wrist area sure looked like what we saw under Luke’s synthflesh at the end of TESB. But then again, that could just be some standard cybernetic hardware in the GFFA, so who knows? I’d say that if the cyborg rumors are true, perhaps it’s his metal mitt we saw.
Viral Hide: This pic was posted at a moment when the severed hand rumors started. My guess is that it was either a joke or it belongs to a minor character from the movie. (no major character a cyborg, remember:) )
Jason: This one really has me puzzled still. The hand has appeared in concept art for the main villain. That makes me think the hand is that of Andy Serkis’ “Uber.” That said, it does still match the Skywalker hand in a lot of ways.
AUGUST 12th, 2014 > The production took a scheduled break in August in order to give Harrison Ford’s leg the last bit of time to heal. BUT time was not wasted as reports spilled-in that JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy were holding a summit in London with other filmmakers responsible for Disney slash LFL’s slate of upcoming Star Wars movies. The filmmakers in question included the First Spinoff writer and director team of Gary Whitta and Gareth Edwards, as well as Rian Johnson writer/director of Episode VIII.
Episode 7 is on hiatus and many involved in sequels and spinoffs headed to London. To be a fly on the wall at THAT meeting…
— Eric Vespe (@EricVespe) August 11, 2014
The London “summit” seems to have been a meeting to develop the BIG picture of what the Star Wars saga entails beyond Episode VII. What do you guys think about the “universe-building” tack that Disney has taken with Star Wars?
Pomojema: In all honesty, it’s really not all that different from what Lucasfilm was doing before the buyout. The big difference now is that Disney-Lucasfilm seems to have a uniform plan for the franchise instead of letting a number of writers/illustrators/programmers do their own thing. While I don’t think the strategy that pre-buyout Lucasfilm was utilizing was a bad thing, I do think it would have meant that Star Wars media would progressively fade more into obscurity with a lack of film to keep interest in the franchise running. Thankfully, Disney seems to make sure that we will keep getting Star Wars movies whether we like it or not – and hey, why wouldn’t we like it?
DEKKA129: While I applaud the commitment to continuity (especially given George Lucas’ “Continuity is for wussies!” attitude whilst making the PT) my concern is that they might try to create too many slick little connections between various characters and events throughout the saga, creating another version of the “what a small galaxy!” thing that I felt dogged the PT.
Viral Hide: Obviously, Disney is not rushing things. It’s apparent that they want to do this the right way. It’s great to know that the whole process works under the supervision of Abrams and Kennedy. The franchise is in good hands. Really strong directors, writers and cast are involved with the movies. That’s very important.
Jason: I think the BIG picture is being handled by the Lucasfilm Story Group. With films, television, novels, comics, and everything in between, it seems to me it was more about “tone” than a post-Force Awakens universe. People like Rian Johnson have to continue the Star Wars story and he has to begin it without ever having see The Force Awakens. The “summit” over the hiatus seems to have been a way to make sure the disparate films coming our way are interfacing in tonally compatible ways.
AUGUST 15th, 2014 > In one of the first BIG leaks of the Episode VII production, pics of an alleged new stormtrooper design disrupted the internets. The updated designs prove to be very exciting! Subsequent internet snooping determined that the picture was in fact legit, confirming that we will be seeing a sleek new form of stormtrooper as well as some exciting new iterations such as the “incendiary stormtrooper” with Space Balls the flamethrower. The kids really love that one!
What do you guys think of the new Stormtrooper design?
Pomojema: It’s great – you can see how it evolved from the previous incarnation of the helmet and how much more tactical it looks. Bravo, Tony To, or whomever came up with the design!
DEKKA129: I like it, for the most part. Clearly whatever is left of the Empire is still funded by some very deep pockets if the troopers are still getting armor upgrades. Kind of shoots my old theory that the Imperials would be scrapping their way along like the Rebels did in the OT, of course. But yeah, I think the design works very well.
Viral Hide: I like the generic ones and their more futuristic look. Also I love the Chrome Trooper design (the battered one from Doug Chiang.)
Jason: I’m actually really proud of the designers. They pulled off evolving the Stormtrooper’s design. Touching something iconic is difficult. With the prequel trilogy, they had to reverse engineer things and that gave them a lot of freedom. For the sequel trilogy, these designs have to follow an iconic and established design. When we saw them on screen [in the teaser trailer] they were simply Stormtroopers, new ones. There wasn’t any cognitive dissonance in attempting to interpret the design. To me it says the design is successful.
Aside from the “incendiary trooper” what other iterations will we see or do you want to see?
Pomojema: I think that new versions of the Scout Troopers, TIE Pilots, and Sand Troopers are given at this point. As for what I want to see, a Stormtrooper that doubles as a riot policeman would rock my socks off. I would love to see Dark Troopers appear on-screen (Star Wars Commander establishes that they’re still canon).
DEKKA129: I assume we may see some version of a snowtrooper, but I’m also wondering if we might eventually see a suit designed for mountain terrain. It also seems like they’re way overdue for an underwater variation of the trooper gear.
Viral Hide: Well, we’ve heard about the new Tie pilots, the regular Stormtroopers, the Incendiary Troopers, the Chrome Troopers and their leader. I’m sure there could be more. I love the ROTJ Scout Troopers, so I hope to see a new upgraded version in TFA (i.e. for the Puzzlewood scenes.)
Jason: Well, we will see TIE Fighter pilots. They look really cool. They have a pull down visor that can act as a blast shield or targeting computer. The eye lenses evoke the new design and the old. I have seen some gunner Stormtroopers that are nearly identical to the new Stormtroopers, but they appear to have slightly different chest armor. I think the Chrome Stormtrooper squadron is going to seriously rock.
Echo-07: I’m completely excited to see this alleged “Chrometrooper” and hope the rumor of a Gwendoline Christie Chrometrooper commander comes to fruition with her having a cape and wielding a lightsaber — the whole nine yards! I’m also hoping for the black “Shadowtrooper,” which Disney has pulled from the old “legends” EU and has promoted through their various toy licenses. I suspect they will become “canonized” through the new films.
Jason: For the record, I think Chrome Stormtroopers rock, but the Shadow Troopers look pretty dumb. “Just paint it black” is kind of weak, inspirationally speaking.
Echo-07: Aww . . . LOL
Are the Stormtroopers going to hit something with their lasers in the ST or will they continue to be inept?
Pomojema: I think “threatening” should be the word to use here – the armor’s a lot more sinister-looking. While I don’t think we’ll ever see a Stormtrooper gun down a main character, I do think they’ll be more tactically-adjusted and make more ruthless opponents. Star Wars: Rebels established that, at least prior to the Galactic Civil War, the Empire was more interested in getting Stormtroopers out there en masse instead of making the most effective soldiers possible – with their leader dead, it would not surprise me to see that the Empire put more resources in building a better soldier.
DEKKA129: Something? Very likely. SomeONE? Well . . . let’s not put too much pressure on the poor saps to suddenly learn to hit moving targets, eh?
Viral Hide: Actually, I was surprised how dumb they made the Stormtroopers in Rebels. I really hope Abrams changes that. And I’m sure he will.
Echo-07: Agreed. But remember the Rebels Stormtroopers have to be as incompetent as the OT Stormtroopers. I also agree that JJ has made them more badass.
Jason: From what I’ve seen, conceptually speaking, they set up the new Stormtroopers as an intimidating and dangerous force. However, I have seen them bleeding out on the battlefield and being eaten by monsters, so they’re still as susceptible to death as ever, it seems.
DAY ONE HUNDRED THREE:
AUGUST 28th, 2014 > Production Resumes! Entertainment Weekly Tweeted the following:
DAY ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN:
SEPTEMBER 9th, 2014 > Fan Matthew Myatt accidentally discovers an Episode VII film set from the air. Matthew Myatt took some snaps of the Millennium Falcon at a location called “Greenham Common” during a fly-over as seen in this Tweet.
Myatt then offered to take fans over the site. It was subsequently revealed that this episode was foreseen by JJ Abrams and co. as they attempted to hire the advanced warning protection from a company called “Drone Shield.” However, Drone Shield dropped the ball and did not deliver the requested equipment.
The fly-over marked the first behind the scenes footage fans saw of the production, albeit unofficial . . .
The Greenham Common filming leaked due to an accidental fly-over. Aside from fly-over leaks what do you think about the leaks or lack thereof?
Pomojema: I think the absence of any huge plot reveals in the leaks that have occurred generally shows that Disney/Lucasfilm/Bad Robot has their act together, and I’m glad for that. As far as that leak went, I think it was cool that we got to see what some of the new ships look like.
DEKKA129: I’m beyond impressed by J.J.’s ability to keep a lid on this whole thing. I know that’s something that he’s always done with other projects, but so far it seems like he’s kept a far tighter level of secrecy around this production than any of the other Star Wars movies. As somebody who tries to avoid spoilers, I appreciate the hell out of this.
Viral Hide: I’m pretty fine with the amount of leaks we had so far. Actually it’s kinda weird that an Abrams production has so many leaks. We had the Abu Dhabi, Puzzlewood, Greenham Common, Pinewood photos, which is pretty big compared to his previous projects. And yet we don’t know much about anything.
Echo-07: Great point! Despite the leaks, the plot and characters are confused. Hell, none of these “insiders” leaked the names.
Jason: There are so many leaks on this film. There are a ton that aren’t even spoken of (yet). The thing is, you have a film with an extreme interest to it. You have a crew that got into filmmaking because of Star Wars and now they’re working on it. You have people in the area making other films that are not Star Wars, tripping out on seeing truly amazing stuff walking by in the distance. You have off-site contractors glancing things without being under NDAs. You have disgruntled employees on the film. You have enthusiastic employees on the film. It’s a perfect storm for leaks. It is a situation where “the more you tighten your grip, the more systems will slip through your fingers,” type of situation. It seems to make it all the more fun for people to talk about it when they’re not supposed to. I think it’s incredible there are so many.
What do you think about the Black X-Wing?
Pomojema: I don’t think it’s going to have any super-special-awesome feature that makes it unique from other X-wings; that being said, I do think the color scheme indicates that it will be used by an important character and not just any run-of-the-mill pilot.
DEKKA129: I really dig it. I’m not sure if it’s some mercenary’s personal ship, or if it’s some sort of indication of a squadron leader or what. But the concept does remind me quite a bit of Manfred von Richthofen’s blood-red Fokker triplane in WWI.
Viral Hide: Either we are going to have a new squad for stealth missions or it’s the Republic’s hero ride, made this way to differentiate it from the others in battle.
Jason: The black X-Wing is a weird thing. It looks really cool. But it feels really gimmicky at the same time. There is no reason it cannot exist. So the fact it does is fine. I just worry about how it will look next to the others in space. Will it look cool or will it ruin the look of a cool shot because it just doesn’t visually work next to the more classic looking ships?
. . . Which, eventually, led to more leaks via purposeful snooping as Star Wars fans began to climb fences and breach the site to take photographs of the production which culminated in a shot purportedly believed to be Adam Driver in X-Wing pilot’s flight suit.
DAY ONE HUNDRED SIXTEEN:
SEPTEMBER 10th, 2014 > Star Wars: The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams Tweets out a note about purchasing the new Apple watch. The shiny background seems to reflect light, hinting at very Imperial design aesthetics:
What did you guys think about the Imperial design aesthetics we saw in the JJ Apple Watch Tweet?
Pomojema: I’d say that the bit we saw in the Jon Oliver “Last Week Tonight” video was more revealing and more indicative of the design aesthetics, along with that corridor leak from way-back-when. But I think it generally makes sense that Empire’s visual aesthetic hasn’t changed a whole lot, since they kind of go with a “rule by fear” sort of stance on governing.
DEKKA129: It’s cool to see that the old Death Star “fluorescent light” wall pattern will be returning in some capacity. I wouldn’t read so much into it as to assume that this actually means we’ll be seeing a new Death Star, though. (J.J. has to realize that he’d almost certainly be flayed alive for sticking fans with a Death Star “three-peat.”)
Viral Hide: Good to see some old fashioned Empire designs.
Jason: That’s another one where the design is more of the same. It’s cool that it will tell us we’re in the same universe we know and love. On the other hand, I always want to see new designs.
DAY ONE HUNDRED SEVENTEEN:
SEPTEMBER 11th, 2014 > In not-so-Earth-shattering news, Greg Grunberg, actor and childhood friend of JJ Abrams, confirms that he does, in fact, have a small role in Episode VII. This isn’t surprising as Grunberg has had roles in many Abrams projects such as, Alias, LOST, Mission Impossible III, and Super 8.
— Greg Grunberg (@greggrunberg) September 11, 2014
We know that Greg Grunberg has a role in the film, probably an alien or Stormtrooper, and we know that there have been a lot of celebrity visitors to the set — Kevin Smith, Daniel Radcliffe, Simon Pegg, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Jackson, and Daniel Craig. Are we likely to find out after the movie has been released that this is the most star-studded production of 2014?
Pomojema: Simon Pegg was being pretty cheeky in his response; not only did he not answer the question of whether or not he’d be in the movie, he also repeatedly mentioned that his face might be distracting in a Star Wars movie. Luckily, in these days in Hollywood, motion-capture can cover you on that front – it made Nathan Fillion look completely unrecognizable in Guardians Of The Galaxy. As for those other actors, if they’re in, they’ll only be cameos, and pretty hidden ones at that.
DEKKA129: Absolutely. It’s Star Wars, after all. People have grown up with it for nearly 40 years now. The fact that, after we’d all assumed that we’d seen our last new Star Wars movie years ago, we’re suddenly getting a decade’s worth or more of new SW films has to have brought out the inner ten year-old in half of Hollywood.
Viral Hide: I highly doubt it. I’m almost sure that Pegg is in. Especially after he attended the wrap party. Not sure about Cumberbatch. The rest – no.
Jason: My guess is that they will remain as uncredited roles for some time. I saw Attack of the Clones in 3D and people were still asking if there was any truth to N’Sync being in the film or having even been on set and that was over ten years ago.
DAY ONE HUNDRED TWENTY FOUR
SEPTEMBER 18th, 2014 > In a video response to Zack Snyder’s Star Wars/Batman mashup battle fans around the world are treated to the first new filmed footage of the Millennium Falcon in 31 years [12 if you count Attack of the Clones.] The 38 second video called “Hunka Junk” takes us on a moving shot over the exterior of the ol’ girl ending inside a circular indentation in the maw where a camouflaged “Tumbler” version of the Batmobile is hiding.
Who won the Star Wars/Batman Mashup war?
Pomojema: I’m going to have to go with DC on this one, because they actually managed to make C-3PO look cool.
DEKKA129: Well, Star Wars of course!
Jason: The Batmobile is like the most beautiful prom queen ever. Everyone loves her. She’s beautiful. But the Falcon? That’s an international super model. It was a different league. Batman got outclassed. The Falcon smoked the Batmobile. Now, if a DeLorean was involved, we might had a better competition.
Viral Hide: Ha, we’re biased on this one.
Ha, ha. Yes, I suppose that was a a bit obvious. Anyway, that’s a wrap for Part I. Be sure to check back soon to check out Part II of this special Writer’s Roundtable series of Blogs.