If you ever walk into my studio you will notice three things: triple monitors, movie posters, and lots of film gear. Working mostly as a cinematographer, my expertise also includes writing, producing, directing, editing, and special effects. It keeps my current days here in the Hoosier State of Indiana pretty busy. In my free time I also created the Indiana FILM IT Project on Facebook. I have a passion for creating. To be able to make an impact with something I created and to entertain people by making them laugh, smile, or think is extremely rewarding. That’s just a great feeling, and that’s why I love my work.
Steven Spielberg’s Jaws might be one of the most influential films in history. It set the stage as one of the first, true summer blockbusters in 1975, paving the way for the cultural hysteria Star Wars would cause just two years later. Add to the fact that it stands to this day as a fantastic, well-made film, and it’s no wonder that its influence has seeped into the world of film and has devotees among the elites of the entertainment industry. Bryan Singer’s production company is called “Bad Hat Harry” from a line on the beach in Jaws. Ain’t It Cool News’ best journalist, Quint, takes his name from Robert Shaw’s salty character. I once even accidentally proposed marriage to my wife in the middle of the USS Indianapolis speech. (True story, but one for a different time.)
Jaws is no less important to those who create Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The first time I realized there was a hardcore Jaws fan on the crew of The Clone Wars was watching the thirteenth episode of the third season. “Monster” served as our introduction to the now-iconic villain Savage Opress. The homage from Jaws was subtle and CG supervisor Joel Aron later told me that he thought I might have been the only person who noticed it. But in Jaws (and in a few other Spielberg pictures) there is a lovely shot of a night sky, a quiet moment, and a falling star streaks across the frame. The moment is repeated in loving memory in “Monster” and it brought a smile across the face of the film nerd inside of me.
“I’m dead!” read the button pinned on me when I entered a hotel suite at the Hilton Arlington in Northern Virginia on a sunny Saturday morning in March 1998. According to the “Rebel Pilot Reunion” article in Star Wars Insider (Issue number 32, Winter 1996), I’d been missing since the Battle of Hoth, presumed to have been killed in action. Not so. Such rumors were greatly exaggerated. But they can lead to serendipitous resurrections.
Sometime after my resurrection, I’d been a guest at Ben Stevens’ DFW Toy Show in Plano, Texas. Managing the autograph line was Denise Clarkston, an exercise physiologist who is now with Ben’s Official Pix, the folks who book the “talent” for Celebrations. Denise invited me to be her guest at a Washington convention of the Star Ladies, one of three fan organizations that are now Club Jade. In 1998, their third annual con was in DC during the run of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s “The Magic of Myth” Exhibition.
Beyond blood ties, families are built around traditions. In my family, it’s tradition to embark on grand adventures together once a year. From driving into the midst of migrating herds in the Serengeti to wandering in the ancient ruins of Ephesus and Pompeii, we’ve created a treasure trove of memories shared through the generations. So last year when my father, our unofficial travel agent, suggested a trip to South America in the spring, I was very excited. I also told him, “Whatever you do, don’t interfere with Star Wars Weekends.” He honored my request, booking a tour that would return us to the US in early May.
In mid-March, Entertainment Weekly announced that Return of the Jedi would be screening at the CapeTown Film Festival. As an intrepid Star Wars blogger, my eyes lit up. This could be really exciting to attend, and on May the 4th no less… That’s when the realization struck: I was going to be in South America on that day, on a tiny touring boat in the middle of the Galapagos Islands. The prospects of Star Wars fun and mayhem, sharing in potentially exciting news breaking, came to a screeching halt.
I never thought I would give direction to Darth Vader. Granted it was for a Pringles commercial contest, but it was still a surreal experience seeing Darth Vader walk onto set for the first time. The entire cast and crew went silent for a moment. Years of childhood memories rushed to our minds. I think Darth Vader broke the spell when he asked, “So what’s my cue?” in a very non-Darth Vader sounding voice.
Through a crowdsourcing site called Tongal, I submitted and won a pitch to produce a video for Pringles and Star Wars, with the potential of it becoming a national TV commercial. My script was based on another crowdsourced idea called “Imitating Vader.” I thought the idea was great in its simplicity, but I was skeptical the Pringles can would really work as a voice changer. So I bought some Pringles and tried it out. To my surprise, it actually worked quite well. Pringles really should start printing “Free Darth Vader Voice Changer” on every can.
I was lucky enough to be in Walt Disney World for their May the 4th Be With You celebration this year. This one-day party at Hollywood Studios was clearly intended to be a warm-up for the upcoming Star Wars Weekends. It was way bigger and more involved than I expected, and the crowd was awesome. I didn’t do a scientific sampling, but it seemed like roughly 75 percent of the people we saw were wearing Star Wars shirts or even costumes. It was like an awesome fan street festival.
When you become a parent, your whole life changes.
I know — that’s the understatement of the century, right? But I’m constantly surprised at how becoming a mother changed my filter of the world around me, and especially changed the way I view media now.
For example, as a relatively new mom, (my daughter is three and a half years old), I now see the Star Wars trilogies in a completely different light, and wonder about things I never ever considered in a million previous viewings.