Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Droidmaker FAQ

Strange when you end up with new attention for projects that were on your plate a few years ago. Actors have that when they are out pimping their movies. It's not always obvious, but they are promoting work they did months or sometimes years earlier. And they are often working on some other movie while they're talking excitedly about last years production.

But i've recently received a few emails about DROIDMAKER things and I thought i'd just post a couple quick general answers. I'll paraphrase the questions, and try to be on point.

1. Why did you write DROIDMAKER?
Actually, I had a reasonable answer in this interview at Unidentifed Sound Object. The shortest answer is - I thought someone else would, but they never did. And it seemed like time.

2. What does "George" think of this book?
It is my understanding that Lucasfilm feels like I did a good job, and while there are decisions i made and things included that they would have preferred i not, in all, I think they're okay with it.

If this sounds like I'm dodging the question, i'm not -- but it does demand a bit of background. In researching this book, almost no one currently employed by Pixar (and no former executives of Lucasfilm) were willing to go on record and cooperate, as much as they wanted to, if I didn't have the blessing of Lucasfilm at some level. Lucasfilm, for their part, almost never cooperates with outside projects like this, and as of 2004 had been denying journalists access to Lucas for eons. I had a challenging pitch: I wanted Lucasfilm's cooperation, and I wanted to interview George, but I wasn't willing to give them access to my work. Needlesstosay they were all exceptionally uncomfortable with this deal. In the end, and not without some degree of discussion, George agreed with me: for the book to have any journalistic integrity, Lucasfilm not only couldn't publish it (they asked) but they couldn't have any say-so about the content. The company cooperated in unprecedented ways, and the people I interviewed came out from every corner to share. Lucasfilm was the picture of transparency and without that this detail and accuracy would not have been possible.

But there was a down side to this openness: Lucasfilm would do nothing to promote or endorse the book. Even acknowledging its existence would be a kind of tacit endorsement. I wasn't allowed to present at the Star Wars fan events, and none of the company-owned websites (e.g. were willing to review or comment or alert the millions of fans. And ultimately, George himself would never comment - because whether he liked it or not, that too would be seen as endorsing something, and attract attention. Thus: they have privately confided that I did a fine job, but neither George nor the company will go on record. One has to understand they have numerous complicated rights agreements, where even a single image sometimes has enormous financial strings, targeted market segments, and so on. Promoting my book might expose them with regard to others who have paid for certain content rights.

Anyway, most of this is in the past and I think the academic and historical merit of the book have become evident, and the b&w low rez images in the text don't pose a real threat at this point.

So -- I have no idea what George thinks of the book. But i can't imagine he doesn't like it. I'm pretty sure all the Pixar guys feel good about this (I was met warmly when I presented it at a big event at Pixar in 2006).

3. Am I still touring and giving presentations?
Yes and no. I did a hectic 20 city tour back in 2005-06, but since then I only give a few presentations each year, usually to larger groups: at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, at Yahoo!, at the Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley, at the VIEW Conference on computer graphics in Turin Italy... and yes, if you have a cool group and you'd like me to come present, I'm told it's an entertaining talk -- send me an email or leave a note and we'll see if we can work something out.

4. Did I work on Star Wars?
No. I am not sure why this comes up so much. No, I was 13 years old when the original Star Wars movie released, and I was neither a technical advisor nor an expert on anything at that point. And I didn't work on the prequels either. I have friends who did, but not me. But it's true that Lucasfilm launched my career in film, and was responsible for my subsequent status as an "expert" on digital video and editing.


Jonas said...

I'm reading the free download on my phone right now and I must say a big thank you for your incredible work and generosity. It's an important era in movie making and deserves a thorough account of what happened.

I almost feel bad for not paying, but since it's kind of a pain to read the notes and sidescroll to see the images on the tiny screen I will definitely buy this for my collection when I'm done.

Thank you.

Rubin said...

On your phone? wow. good effort...

dare i say: spring for the hardback!

B-Scene Films said...

Wow. Very generous, Mr. Rubin. I bought the book about a year after it came out and it remains one of my favorites.