I’ve often written of my love of Star Wars. If you’ve known me for longer than 5 minutes then you know this about me. The original 1977 film changed my life. Star Wars is a very personal thing for me but I know no one really knows fully why so I figured it was time I said.
When I was 3 going on 4 I saw Star Wars in the theatre and it was the first time I became fully aware of the moving image. I immediately became invested in what was happening on the screen. The profound images of a galaxy far, far away with characters and visuals unlike anything I could imagine. In those moments I fell in love with movies and with visual storytelling. Everything was different for me. I became much more interested when I watched other movies or even TV shows on television. The way stories were told this way. Long before I knew the technicalities of what went behind the scenes my mind seem to take notice of shots and editing and music and dialogue and everything. I even played with my toys differently. My eye became a camera and I would go in close for a close up into my action figure and pull out for a wide shot. I’d repeat actions and have things play out in sequences. This is before I knew what any of it was but subconsciously I was learning how films were made.
As I got older I would watch any behind the scenes video that was shown on TV (in the days long before the internet) and read a ton of movie magazines and became enamored by the few pictures of a film set they would have. Anything that had any mention of Star Wars made my interest in it ten times more exciting. My imagination went on overdrive as I would start imagining movies in my head. My toys were my actors and props. My room became the set. My eye the camera.
I became like Luke in many ways. I looked out over the setting sun(s) (especially since I rarely wake up for dawn) and dreamed of something more that seemed so far away from me. Of one day following my massive creative longing to make movies. The names of directors were just as important to me as the name of the actors. I was like a sponge that soaked in every and all film information I could find. Even as a young kid when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up my answer was always,”I want to make movies.” Adults would laugh at how cute I was but I couldn’t have been more serious. Even in school when teachers would go around the room asking all of the other kids what they wanted to be some day my answer was the same. I’d get the same how cute type of reactions. As I got older the responses became a little different.
I think at some point in people’s lives others assume you put away your childhood dreams and look more realistically at your goal in life. My goal never changed. To me it was realistic. It only became more intense. There was no back up plan for me. I wanted to make movies. Nothing else. I had a few teachers who, nicely, told me I should consider other options. One teacher was pretty adamant about it at the start of my senior year of high school. By the end of that year he came up to me and said I should keep going after my dream because by then he saw how much I was determined and how much it meant to me.
All of that was started from that one day when this young kid saw Star Wars. I loved everything Star Wars. The toys, the soundtracks, and obviously the ongoing story which carried on through The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. As I grew up and went to film school and my life went through different twists and turns the thing I always fell back on was my love of movies and my love of Star Wars. Putting in a Star Wars film was always what I needed to rejuvenate and inspire me. It is why it has been, and always will be, my favorite film.
When the news came that George Lucas was going to make Episodes 1 through 3 I was so excited. I never thought I would see the day. We always heard of the infamous longer story that he broke up into segments and I even bought a rough treatment back in the early 1990’s which was in fact the rough outline of what became Episode III. Despite what you may read on social media and endlessly on television there are a lot of us that love the prequels. I am not apologetic about it either. I have always defended them and I always will.
In fact, the prequels saved my life.
Here is where things get a little more serious. I debated whether or not I would go into this but I figured it was time I tried opening up a little about some dark times. As I anxiously await the release of the new film I am rewatching all of the “old” ones. Tonight I finished the prequels before I move onto Episodes IV through VI. Or the original trilogy. Rewatching them made me think of how much I am tired of seeing the hate they receive but also of everything that went on in my life when the films came out.
To be blunt, there were three times in my life when I went to a dark place and I thought of suicide. That my life had no meaning. These were many, many years ago by the way. There is no need for concern today. One of those times I vowed I would never tell anyone about and I haven’t nor will I. The other two are sort of known by a select few while details remain silent. I’m not exactly the most open person in the world. And I just assume forget those times though I suspect I never will. One of those times that fits in here was before the release of Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace. My life had taken a turn for the worst in every possible way where I wondered whether going on was even worth it. I didn’t really have anyone in my life, no friends or anyone to go to. I felt alone. And my film dream seemed the furthest away it had ever been. There is more, a lot more, but that will remain secret. Basically I became an empty shell of a person. I started on a path of self destruction. It was a dark time for me. It’s hard to describe what it’s like when you fall that deep into thinking your life doesn’t matter. It’s probably a good thing I can’t describe it. The thing that saved me, literally saved me, was my childlike excitement over Episode 1 coming out.
I luckily reconnected with an old friend who is also a huge Star Wars fan. We would talk all the time about how much we were looking forward to it and after we both saw it we would have these hour long conversations about little details we thought were amazing and what we thought it meant in the bigger story and where things were going in the films. Magical conversations really full of wonderment and creativity. The kind that reignite a creative spark you thought was long gone. I would end up going to see it several more times and eventually it helped make a decision about where my life would go.
I reached a crossroads in my life where the option came down to either turning my life around and pursuing those dreams I had almost given up on and finding that meaning I seemed to have lost or go further down the path of destruction that I had gotten out of a little thanks to Star Wars. There was a long night when the decision was finally made and because of it I sit here writing this today.
During the following years when Star Wars Episode II Attack Of The Clones and Star Wars Episode III Revenge Of The Sith came out I rebuilt my life. I got in contact with more friends and made new ones. I got back into filmmaking and turned things around. My excitement over the films grew and the magic continued to inspire me.
I love all things Star Wars. I love all of the films and rewatching them this week (for the millionth time) leading up to the release of the new film is only the reminder of how wonderful they are. They still inspire me all of these years (decades) later.
Star Wars is a very personal thing for me. Star Wars bashing of any kind does feel like a personal hit to me because of what they mean for me. To equate it to something it’s the same thing for anyone who was inspired by something specific which changed their life in any way. Whether it was a movie, a song, a painting, a teacher, or even the moment you knew you fell in love with another person. It’s that special moment that you remember forever. Those moments are personal for us. Star Wars was that for me. So every time I read and see horrible things about any of the films (mainly the prequels since they get the most heat) there is a part of me that goes right back to that moment when my life changed and I’m reminded of what they have done for me. It’s hard not to take it personally. So next time you want to take a cheap shot at them please don’t do it around me.
It is ironic that my life is once again at a crossroads (though not in such a negative way thankfully) and it is on the verge of what I also thought I would never see, the continuing story of Star Wars on the big screen. Once again I am as excited as a child. When I hear the commercial on TV and I’m in another room I come running as fast as I can to see it. That excitement, luckily, has not diminished.
The original film (along with the original trilogy) changed my life. The prequels saved my life and I can’t stress that enough. Here’s to seeing where the new trilogy takes me. Hopefully to that galaxy far, far away … and hoping my goal of making a Star Wars film (or anything remotely in the Star Wars universe) comes true.
*Most photos taken from StarWars.com.