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MCCALLUM RICK: TALKING STAR WARS

With just three weeks to go before shooting wraps at Fox Studios in Sydney on Star Wars Episode 2, producer Rick McCallum agreed to a unique live interview with Andrew L. Urban, in association Popcorn Taxi, in front of many Australian filmmakers and the general public.

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 distributing it.

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 in character.

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 director."

"praised Australian crew for being flexible and talented"

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 day’s work.

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Rick McCallum

SOME OF THE ISSUES COVERED:

Why the extreme secrecy on the set?

Why shoot it all digitally?

Why come to make it in Australia?

How is George Lucas to work with?

See Andrew L. Urban's interview with Rick McCallum on the VHS release of Star Wars Ep 1 (April 2000)

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OUR REVIEWS: STAR WARS EP 1







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