Episode 2 – The Empire Strikes Back. A few friends and I spent most of last Saturday watching two of the three Star Wars DVD’s. Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. I realize that sounds pretty geeky but it was a really good bonding experience. It was me in a living room watching a 50″ television with three friends who are all film directors.
I’m not a film director. Although I have directed short films and what is called “2nd Unit” on films before. 2nd Unit is a group of people who go around shooting stunts or inserts or whatever the main unit (aka 1st Unit) doesn’t have time to shoot. Things like closeups of feet pressing gas pedals during a car chase or shots of what the actor is reading in his hand or cars flipping over and blowing up (my personal favorite).
The funny thing about our little group that day was we all had one major thing in common, beside or love of gadgets, pizza and asian supermodels. We are all roughly the same age and all work in the entertainment industry and all saw Star Wars when we were kids and all of us found it a life-changing experience.
I don’t know if I knew exactly what had happened to me at the time. After all, I was only a boy. I did feel it though. Something came alive in me in that dark theater on May 27, 1977. As I said in my previous post when I watched Star Wars earlier in the month, I knew something important was happening to me. I knew for the first time what I wanted to do with my life. I knew for the first time who I wanted to be.
We all had that same experience. As I looked at the faces of my friends last Saturday I didn’t see a bunch of jaded guys in their mid-thirties with nagging wives, crazy girlfriends, studios gutting their movies or any of that. I saw a bunch of kids watching something extrordinary. I saw a bunch of kids who, despite their age or what had happened, or not happened, in their careers or their lives, were able to put that aside for a few hours and relive what it meant to be a kid again.
So, whatever George Lucas did to the movies. How he changed them or added this shot or these silly characters, he can’t change what the film and the experience means to us. No amount of “enhancements” can alter that. We were lucky enough to grow up at a time when movies were about something and had the potential to change people’s lives.
I have spoken and written about what a golden age the seventies were for movies and how those times are gone. Star Wars came out at a time when we needed something to believe in. Vietnam, Watergate and the other events of that time were a little easier to handle when presented with such a bright and hopeful vision of the future. The idea that we are all part of a whole and that a force binds us all together is a powerful message.
It’s a message we could all use today. Unfortunately, the hollywood of today, with its corporate ownership, audience testing, direct marketing and quest for profit, is incapable of producing something like that. Just as tragic, the so-called “independent” studios are all but gone as well. Swallowed up by their corporate parents and unable to exercise much creative control over their projects or to take a chance on any “risky” fare.
All is not lost, however. Somewhere, perhaps in a darkened theater right now, is the next visionary who will finally get it and do something about it. It might have even been one of the guys in that living room with me on Saturday. And that’s the greatest thing about showbiz and life in general. You just never know what might happen. After all, tomorrow is another day.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.