Q&A With Director George Lucas
Jim Ward (VP of Marketing at LucasFilm), Moderator
Friday September 7, 2001 - Skywalker Ranch, CA
QUESTION: Actually I had a question about the starwars.com the weblink aspects of DVD. What are the concerns about CD-ROM materials being on the website as opposed to being on the disc is that they don't have a life, they don't last, the movie goes away and after awhile the content goes away at the website. Is the idea of this link something that you continue to be growing in the future (?) involved and...
(Jim Ward & George Lucas)
JIM WARD: That's a fair question. We have a thriving ongoing regular site, starwars.com. We wanted to give those people that made investment in our DVD something that was special to them, and we certainly want to do that. Over the course of time how will that manifest itself? I honestly can't tell you. It's a very fair question though. I would hope that we could be able to maintain that and keep it fresh as best we could, but I can't really make any promises now because it's actually new frontier for us and so we're just going to have to explore as we move on.
QUESTION: Do you see it as a place where you had to make hard decisions about what to include and what you wouldn't include in the DVD? Do you see that as a place where some of those things can go?.
JIM WARD: Absolutely. That's the great part about it, we can put a lot of content up there, we can do a lot of things with the DVD itself. We could have special checks, as you watched the DVD on your monitor you can be involved in special checks situation and other content that we couldn't (?). Absolutely. Absolutely.
QUESTION: When does the website launch, the one for DVD?
JIM WARD: The website will be up on the day of launch (?) coexisting.
QUESTION: Is there a temporary page up there now where if you click it says coming soon?
JIM WARD: No there's not. No.
JIM WARD: Yeah. You wouldn't be able to find it anyway because you have to have the DVD.
QUESTION: Are there any retailer-specific big promotions around this that you can tell us about?
JIM WARD: Well we have quite a retail partnership as you might expect through our Licensing group, and we have a lot of exciting programs with those folks ranging from Walmart to Target to all the major players where we have some really fun things planned so yeah, check it out.
QUESTION: Any ideas what the numbers are that have been shipped to retailers, in the (millions?)?
JIM WARD: No, and I'll tell you when I first came here, my boss Gordon Radley who is the President of Lucasfilm taught me a very good lesson and that's never to underestimate or overestimate what you can do. So we're going to put them out there and we hope the demand is there and if it is that's great and we'll have to see. But I wouldn't want to venture to say.
QUESTION: Do you guys, with the marketing campaign for the DVD, are you kind of doing the same thing you did with the VHS, are you putting more money into it or equal? How exactly are you marketing it?
JIM WARD: More money into, I'm sorry...
QUESTION: Into actually the actual campaign, like are you going to do more commercials, more press, more events to publicize it's coming out on DVD...
JIM WARD: Well we're certainly obviously doing more press, I mean we didn't try to do this type of activity for the VHS. In terms of the kind of activity, yeah we're going to launch it in a very strong way. This is obviously a competitive quarter, but we also think that the quality will speak for itself as well. So it's kind of apples and oranges with VHS because it's a little bit different kind of situation, different medium.
QUESTION: I know we're supposed to confine our questions to Phantom Menace, to this DVD, but it's a DVD-related question. Is there discussion of releasing the first three on DVD? Is this kind of, is this going to be watched to see how this works in terms of ?
JIM WARD: No we have no real plans at this point in time. I think you saw and you've been through the kind of process at least that we undertake to do a DVD. George is in the middle of directing and creating Episode II, he's beginning to write Episode III, we don't have any real plans at this point.
QUESTION: Will the documentary air on television as any kind of special to launch the DVD or anything like that?
JIM WARD: Not at this point in time, no. It's just really specially for the DVD itself. However the film itself will be debuting on Fox Network Television on November 25th. But no, this is just for the DVD.
QUESTION: There was a discussion I had with another reporter and that was concerning will the teaser for Episode II be on the new site that's linked on the disc? I wasn't sure if you had mentioned that yesterday or if there were any plans to do it?
JIM WARD: I have no idea, you'll probably have to get the disc and maybe check it out someday. (laughter)
QUESTION: Similar to the documentary that's on this disc, is someone also now following Episode II in process?
JIM WARD: Absolutely. We have a documentary crew, a part of which is here today documenting this very thing, by doing the exact same thing Jon did and they have been involved from the beginning of the development of Episode II through the production and they're daily going down to ILM exactly the same thing. Just a different crew.
QUESTION: On the last re-release of the Trilogy on video, there was a value added part that had sort of a teaser for Episode II. Was there a decision not to include that on the DVD and why?
JIM WARD: Yeah again, we wanted this DVD to really focus on Episode I in and of itself. And to be honest with you, there's bit rate budget issues and it's a trade off and we really wanted to put what we felt was the best stuff on there.
QUESTION: What was the reasoning behind doing the Starfighter material?
JIM WARD: Well you know it's a very popular game. A lot of our core fans not surprising are also videogame/PC gamers. So this is an opportunity to let them have an inside into the making of the game as well.
QUESTION: How long did it take you to decide on the price?
JIM WARD: How long did it take to decide on the pricing? Well that's an involved process and I should mention that, we have phenomenal partners at 20th Century Fox as our distributors, and we work with them on a daily basis on all of these kinds of decisions. And the pricing strategy comes from years of their experience, their ability to feel the pulse of the marketplace. Our desire to get the best value proposition to our consumers that we possibly can. So it took awhile as we were developing the entire plan. But they gave us really great guidance on that.
QUESTION: I'm wondering why you decided to release The Phantom Menace DVD now as opposed to say next, is it May when Episode II is released? Was there a reason?
JIM WARD: We wanted to release it when it got done. Because it did take awhile to do. Also one of the great things that we've learned about Star Wars is that people like to celebrate it and they like to give Star Wars things as gifts, and this is a nice opportunity to move into the Christmas timeframe. But it seemed like the best confluence of both seasonality and when we could the thing done.
QUESTION: Do you see yourselves for Episode II trying to shoot for a same date DVD/VHS release?
JIM WARD: We haven't got that far. We're trying to get this thing out the door but to be honest with you we haven't made any plans as far as that goes.
QUESTION: This is kind of another ancillary DVD question. Will Mr. Lucas' production schedule and the other Star Wars projects at Lucasfilm prohibit him from addressing some of the other non-Star Wars properties that you guys have, and even some of the smaller ones like a Young Indiana Jones?
JIM WARD: I'm not sure his production schedule necessarily will inhibit that, but we are issuing Willow this December, or actually the end of November with our partners at 20th Century Fox, November 27th. So no, in some of those areas we are moving forward.
LH: Alright we're ready.
JIM WARD: Super. OK, well I'll just introduce George Lucas.
JIM WARD: OK. I'm not going to repeat the questions because it's like, it's like a pain.
LH: OK, we'll get somebody to write it down.
JIM WARD: Alright, I'm sorry. OK guys, OK let's start right over here.
QUESTION: Very soon Francis Coppola's going to come out with Apocalypse Now redone which includes 50 extra minutes, and there's been several other big releases. Has there been any discussion about this DVD thing among filmmakers like you and Francis Coppola about how it's different, how it's special?
GEORGE LUCAS: No. I think every filmmaker ends up having to compromise in order to deal with the theatrical experience. And so given their druthers I think most filmmakers on their own without even consulting with each other says 'gee if I'm going to put this on DVD and the length doesn't matter, I can put material in that I really love.' You know it used to be called Director's Cuts and now it's just called DVD. (laughter)
QUESTION: Historically speaking, how do you think Phantom Menace will be seen say 100 years from now? How it will be thought of?
GEORGE LUCAS: Well I have no idea, I mean obviously I won't be around so it won't make any difference but at the same time I would guess that they will be thought of as the first chapter in a six-part movie. So that it'll be thought of really as Star Wars, not as Phantom Menace.
QUESTION: I was thinking more as far as cinema goes because it seems very kind of (??) where people were trying to figure out how to make a movie for the first time?
GEORGE LUCAS: Well, I don't know. I mean when we made Star Wars with a sort of pioneering in its own way too but now it's sort of old hat. You know people forget very quickly the technological advances that are made on each movie. I guess there are technological advances made all the time. It's a progression of the medium, especially in terms of being able to incorporate digital characters and sets and that sort of thing. It had been done before but not on the scale. And you know the next film will be more extreme and I assume that when I make the third one it'll be even more extreme.
QUESTION: Was there any initial hesitation going to DVD or have you been very confident since you first considered this format?
GEORGE LUCAS: No. The biggest issue is I wanted to do something special and I wanted to make it have a lot of interesting things on it. And in order to do that it took us quite a bit of time, we had to actually, in essence, shoot material. I mean we had shot it and cut it, but we hadn't done the special effects on it so we had to finish sequences that had been abandoned. Which took quite a bit of time.
QUESTION: Was there anything unique about Episode I that you wanted to address in particular when coming to DVD? Anything you wanted to show fans about the process or anything about the film itself?
GEORGE LUCAS: No. (laughter) No, no, no, I mean we do so many behind the scenes documentaries, and we do so many things and the market is so broad, it's hard to come up with something that is specific enough for me to be saying well this is something I want to do. I mean you give a general overview, you get behind the scenes, a lot of material that nobody has seen before. And you get a chance to see the scenes that were cut out and in the documentary it explains a little bit why they were cut out and the problems that a director has in having to trim this film down to satisfy an audience on a Saturday night.
QUESTION: How do you feel about the finished product, and is there a favorite feature that you have on the disc?
GEORGE LUCAS: Well I'm very proud of the finished film. I mean it's really, I love it and I think the interface is great. I'm happy to have those missing scenes back and finished, it was fun to finish them. You know you do things that you never really get to complete so you never really find out whether they're going to work or not, and that was a lot of fun to see that all put back together again.
QUESTION: Did you learn anything new about the film in revisiting it for DVD?
GEORGE LUCAS: We ended up putting a few things that we'd cut out back into it just because when I finally saw them finished and I cut them in and I looked it and I said, it's really better with this stuff in here than it is without it. And in a lot of cases in this kind of a movie it's very hard to make this kind of movie because it's made in theory. And then at the very end you get to see it finished. Where normally you'd do a rough cut of a movie, that's pretty much the movie so it's not a theory any more it's a reality. But with this kind of a film, the film hasn't even been shot yet, in a lot of cases. So you're cutting things out that haven't been shot yet. So you're saying well I'm not sure if this is going to work so you just cut it out and you never see it actually work or not work. That's a very different way than most people make a movie. And so in this particular case I was able to finish a few things and I said when you cut this in here it just works great so I'm just going to keep it there. So there are scenes that were cut out but there's also a little bit of adjusting in the film itself which I was very pleased about.
QUESTION: You talked in the documentary about the challenge of creating three or four new environments in each film. And I wonder now with DVD getting to the extent that it is where you know you have Shrek coming out now and Godfather and Snow White where they're just putting hours and hours and hours of extra things and getting more innovative all the time with new extras. Is this creating yet another challenge or stress level for you to have to try to up the ante for DVDs now as well?
GEORGE LUCAS: No, I think that a DVD should be organic. But there's certain material that traditionally has been included, you know the commentaries and now we have some behind the scenes things. We have a great deal of behind the scenes footage that we shoot because I have lots of other plans to do other things. And I obviously I don't shoot certain scenes just to end up on the DVD. I haven't gotten that far yet. I'm not sure, I assume someday people will do that but I don't think I will.
QUESTION: We all know your original plan was to wait and release all six films to DVD at one time. Why did you change your mind? Thank you, but why?
GEORGE LUCAS: Well there's a lot of pressure on the market to release them and that sort of thing, and we were also in a situation where I wanted to complete the film. I mean I wanted to do the behind the scenes, I wanted to do the scenes that were taken out. And I really needed to have the people who were involved in it do it. If I'd waited for another four years when I finally made the third and the final and finished it, it wouldn't be as easy to accomplish all that. And once you've accomplished it and you've spent the money on it then it makes sense to release it. And so now I think with these first three we will be releasing them as everyone else releases them, which is in the normal schedule after the initial theatrical release of the movie. Then I'll do the first three, because they're kind of vintage and it'll take a little bit more work. (Interview continues)
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