By shooting Star Wars Ep 2 digitally (no film stock), Lucasfilm saves enough money
– over US$3 million – to finance an extra 32 shooting days. But this isn’t
the only benefit, as Rick McCallum explained. There is the benefit of having ‘instant
rushes’ on large tv monitors and fast access to material for rough editing, plus the
opportunity to send images to ILM in California for CGI work to be done overnight for
viewing by George Lucas and the team next morning.
"to distribute its films digitally via satellite"
Within a few years, Lucasfilm wants to be able to distribute its films digitally via
satellite to specially equipped cinemas, delivering super quality images and sound at much
lower distribution costs. This would make it feasible to show films to even small
audiences without the downside risks associated with printing film and physically
Over some 45 minutes, McCallum also answered questions ranging from "why the
secrecy?" to "how does George Lucas work?"
It took weeks of preparation and negotiation to arrange, but the Q&A with Rick
McCallum on Monday night at Hoyts Cinema 1 at Fox Studios turned out to be both
informative and entertaining. McCallum, in a dark blue windcheater, battered trousers and
working shoes, spoke fluently and with both humour and candour. Seated on an armchair in
front of the screen, occasionally swigging from a bottle of water, he was at ease. When a
show of hands from the audience revealed a large number of filmmakers, he said quietly
with a smile, "Beautiful."
Asked how different it is to be a producer who doesn’t have to pitch a project and
raise the finance, McCallum said the problems were just "different". There was,
in Star Wars, the demanding task of having to create a whole world from scratch,
"everything from every light switch to an entire set." And much of it in a
computer: he pointed out that of the 2 minute trailer screened prior to the interview,
only about 8 seconds was actual filmed footage, the rest was CGI.
"security and secrecy"
On the question of security and secrecy, McCallum explained that with today’s
technology, intellectual property theft was a serious threat; with months of post
production to go, ideas or images stolen can be used and replicated – and
commercially exploited. That’s why Lucasfilm was angered by the publication last week
(in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph) of an unauthorised photo showing Ewan McGregor dressed
As to working with George Lucas, McCallum explained his relationship with the director
as "collaborative" and said Lucas would listen for input from anyone and use
ideas that coincided or supported his own vision. "But he finds writing the hardest
part of the process…he’s in love with editing, that’s his thing."
Asked how he as the producer put pressure on Lucas the director to get his script
finished in time (it was three days prior to shooting when Lucas finally delivered the
finished screenplay), McCallum smiled: "Give him a shooting date, like any other
"praised Australian crew for being flexible and
The production, said McCallum, came to Australia tempted by savings of around 30%,
largely due to exchange rates. He also praised Australian crew for being flexible and
talented – and less strictly unionised than their American counterparts.
McCallum prepared for the interview clutching a glass of Petaluma unwooded chardonnay,
having walked across the Fox lot from the professional area to the cinema after the