Ready for more Star Wars? We sat down with Star Wars Rebels Exec Producer Dave Filoni. Photo credit: Louise Bishop/MomStart.com and LucasFilm.
Star Wars Rebels Exec Producer, Dave Filoni
This is the second time that I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Star Wars Rebels Exec Producer Dave Filoni. The first time was for Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion. I love talking with Dave. His passion for Star Wars really comes through. He’s a fan, just like the rest of us.
Have you been keeping up with Star Wars Rebels? We get an inside look from Dave as to what’s next for Rebels and how it ties in to the Star Wars storyline.
Dave talks about how this is all one big story. Even though Star Wars Rebels is a TV series, it’s still part of the overall Star Wars saga. There is even some character cross over between Star Wars and Star Wars Rebels. He is able to collaborate with Kiri Hart of the story group as well as Gary Whitta and Gareth Edwards.
It’s a bunch of people having discussions and talking about the things they like, things they don’t like. Getting different opinions, and then, I always feel strongly about them going off and making their choices. And I did Saw for the part that I had to do him. And CLONE WARS set him up and, but I was excited that anybody could see where that went. So if anything, you’re more involved and that has huge pluses. Because you get to see it. But at the same time it’s like you’ve seen it and you’ve read it.
And then you work on it. So you keep trying to find for me as a fan, little pockets of STARS WARS that you don’t know. Which are almost treasured for me at this point. I would be lying if I told you it’s not really fun, even 12 years later.
Dave goes on to say that it isn’t so much about creating a new storyline or tying into the existing storyline or his part in it all.
A good story didn’t need me, they hunt me and my help. The STARS WARS universe was great before I got there, it’ll be great long after I’m gone. And that’s just how I feel about this, it’s not my story. I’m privileged to be in a position where I get to add to it. I’m very grateful for that. But when I look at the work we’ve done in animation especially, and the characters that we’ve added like Captain Rex, we had Chopper and Ezra, Sabine and Kanan and Hera, adding those characters can give us dimension in ways that the franchise didn’t have before. Especially when you get to add female characters.
I think it’s telling the stories that’s been long overdue. And so we’ve been telling the stories and adding dimension to these characters. That’s the great part. And it’s fun when you have a tie-in but I like it when it’s more of a wink. It’s not something that was ever missing, if it was important, they would have done it. So I’ve always kinda looked at it that way. And I learned a lot of that from my years of working with George. So it’s fun to do, but you have to be careful that don’t overdo it, that your fandom doesn’t get in the way of telling a good story.
If you have been keeping up with Star Wars Rebels, you now know that Forest Whitaker continues on as Saw and is appearing in Rebels. Woohooo! I love Forest Whitaker so seeing him in Rebels is awesome! Dave said that it was a huge benefit having Forest join the cast of Rebels.
And so it’s always exciting when we have people come and maintain their character. You have great continuity. They’re always incredibly gracious and super fun to work with.
But he was fantastic, it’s one of the secrets to, when you’re a very good director, you just have a really great actor. And so he doesn’t need a lot of advice — I just gotta put him into place and tell him what’s going on. And he’s just fantastic.
So it was great to work with him and it’s added to a long list I think of incredibly wonderful performances that we’ve had in STARS WARS across the board. Not just on REBELS. But across the board. I just love that they want to do it, with is my favorite thing.
My generation certainly grew up with Star Wars. It was a part of our childhood and now we get to continue loving Star Wars as adults. We get to share that love with our kids. As an animated feature Star Wars Rebels is able to reach both adults and kids. Is it hard for Dave to balance that?
When I talked to George he would always say he created STAR WARS for kids. That was the big thing. Yeah. When I was a kid it was a great thing because my parents liked it. It’s not that they didn’t like everything else but they were very big into opera, very big into the symphony, very big into those top types of stories. And there is a great relationship between those stories and what STARS WARS presented. So it wasn’t talking down.
And there were a lot of things to talk about, as a family. And characters that we could relate to. So I think especially in the beginning, a lot of fans would come up to me and say, “Dave, why are you making REBELS for kids?” That’s such a perplexing question to me. I would say to them well, when did you first start watching STAR WARS? When I was six, and it was the greatest experience I ever had. And I’m like, okay. So my whole goal is never to take that experience away from kids, its to involve everybody in it, to make it a place where the best compliment we can give for the series is that it’s something that the family watches together.
And I’ve had that, parents tell me they watch it with their kids. There are some challenging things we get too, especially when you deal with the Jedi. Things get dark at times. But you always have to monitor that, you know, it’s like fairy tales have frightening moments in them. Otherwise when you shine bright and things are good all the time, it doesn’t shine as well. I was raised reading Tolkien, THE HOBBIT and things of that nature. C.S. Lewis and there are scary parts in those books. But then when you come through, I mean, Darth Vader is intimidating. Everybody says, “Oh, Darth Vader, put Darth Vader on,” I’m like, okay. But this isn’t – he’s scary. I used to be a little kid and freak myself out just thinking of how he breathes.
I would be alone and be like, Oh my gosh. But that’s what you want – kids to be afraid of the bad guys, because they’re evil. And they recognize that. And so I just always think of those stories I had as a kid and those relationships I had. And I try to make something that’s not as much for myself but for my younger self. But my older self will still watch it and be like, that’s cool. It’s a delicate balance. Because I see honestly, in today’s world, I see like a danger in a lot of the fans that have grown up. You kind of have a generation of filmmakers now, they’re all fans. More than you ever had before, I think.
And they’re very vocal about being fans. Which is great. It’s great because they have the understanding of why the material is important. But there’s a danger of trying to take the material and accidentally change it into being for them now. Their 40-year-old self. And you see that kind of in a lot of different franchises out there, that things get darker. And you kinda go – but that’s not what I remember I liked as a kid. But there’s that impulse to say like, yeah, but now I would do this. And wouldn’t that be cool?
But you just always have to remember, STARS WARS is a story ultimately, right, the original trailer says, A boy and a girl in a galaxy. Which is the big opening of the door, and a wonderful thing. And a magic thing. And the adventure. So I just try to maintain that.
If you’ve kept up on my #RogueOneEvent coverage, you saw my visit to Skywalker Ranch. So incredibly cool. I was thrilled to just be in this amazing area, to be in the theater that George uses to watch his films, etc. Dave actually gets to WORK with George Lucas. I can’t even imagine. Dave talks about what it’s like to work with George.
Oh, it’s fantastic. It’s the greatest education I could have asked for, in what I do. It was like going to film school on a daily basis with George Lucas. And he is incredibly knowledgeable, he’s incredibly patient. I had to earn that relationship, I had to earn the things I got to do. The challenge I’m in CLONE WARS was to learn how to do this his way. Show him that we could do it as a group.
And then he would let go of it more and more, which he absolutely did as we went on with the series. But it was very challenging, he absolutely knows what he’s doing. If I left the tiniest shot a couple frames long, he would watch it, and I’d be like, oh no, I see. Because you know, you must have the experience, you’ll never notice many of the mistakes you have made until you are sitting next to the person you need to show it to. So we’d edit an episode all over and over and over again. And he’d come and sit down and with my editor and I’d be like, ohhhhhhh, why didn’t we fix that?
You know, but it was a great experience. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And everything that he taught me I recall, I wrote down. And I keep teaching that to people today, no matter who it is, that I come across inn the story of STARS WARS saga. You know, obviously I’ve added my own ingredients to what I do. But I always try to approach it from that perspective that I have. And that’s why I’m not trying to make my version of STARS WARS. Though as the year’s go on, I suppose that’s inevitable. But I’m trying to remain true to the point of view that he had, that he wanted for these characters he thinks.
Because it’s not mine, but like I’ve said before, I’m just a part of it. But I have a job to maintain the integrity of this thing, to keep it special. As special as it was for me growing up. So that’s the way I see the goal. And hopefully we have achieved that. I’m so far very pleased with REBELS and how it’s evolved. And I think that by the end, it’ll be something that fits nicely in the STARS WARS galaxy.
Dave was then asked what the one thing was that George taught him.
There are’s so many things. I mean, we had all kinds of sayings in editorial. Mainly it was editorial, how to look at the story, how to cut the story, how to move things. I torment everybody with it. And the script in that sense is just a beginning point. It’s not ever per word. And so the scripts that will always go the easiest for me is the ones that I write ahead of time. Because I know how I’m gonna shoot it the whole time. But there’s how you write something, and there is how it needs to be shot.
And those things can conflict and then you see the lines need to change and you don’t have all these sets and all these characters all the time. So yeah, he just taught me to be incredibly flexible with the opportunities that are on hand. And when you see something, to go for it. And it’s better to attempt to do something great than to just stay safe. He will push. And we would look at some stuff we were doing, and he would say, “You know, we’re right on the edge at this time, this is either really gonna work, or people are gonna hate it. But we’re gonna go for making this great.”
He used to say, “Dare to be great.” Which is something I always say to my team, and it seems simple, right? Of course, everybody thinks that when they start out. But it’s amazing how many times you pull yourself up or you hold back or you get afraid. And in STARS WARS as with everything, fear is the root of everything that is failure and jealousy and greed and evil. That’s my real education, is in The Force. That was the biggest education.
During the event, we got to preview two new episodes of Star Wars Rebels. I’m so excited for what’s to come! One of them included Forester Whitaker’s character Saw. I had to keep that a secret!! I couldn’t tell anyone. But now the secret is out of the bag. If you haven’t been keeping up, it’s time to binge watch! Get to it!
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