One year ago today I sat in this very spot and sighed. I had just returned from a dream trip, and things were about to change...
It's hard to believe how much one year can change a person's life, and usually if one is busy, it can go unnoticed, but if we take a second to look back it can be mind boggling. For example last year my wife, Lisa and I went to San Fransisco to spend some time soaking up that beautiful city. In the back of my mind I had this burning desire to go to Lucasfilm Ltd.
At the time I was writing on a modest little blog I had cobbled together with my friends. If you have heard the first to episodes of the Talk Star Wars podcast you'll be familiar with Andy, Steven and Paul. We had lashed together a tumbler account, a facebook page and a Twitter account, bolted on Pinterest, Instagram, you name and we were using it, until we were floating around on this rickety raft of a blog called MGFN (Movie Geeks Film News). Whilst I was in San Fran I thought, if I could sneak into Lucasfilm I would have something pretty special to put on the blog. Then I got home a and things went crazy...
The first teaser for Star Wars The Force Awakens dropped on Black Friday last year and kicked our rickety little raft of a blog into full tilt boogie mode. We were writing and podcasting like crazy, bringing in new contributors and creatives, tinkering with new podcasts and YouTube shows, and spending a lot of time "under the hood" debugging this and optimising that. I wandered off my path a little, which is why I think I neglected to cover my experience in San Francisco.
Enter Talk Star Wars
In an effort to refocus, I stepped away from MGFN and launched Talk Star Wars. TSW will be a space for me to focus on my true passion, Star Wars. With so much going on I'll be able to cover plenty of news with the occasional editorial (like this one!) that might be of interest to other Star Wars fans. So, a year late, here's my Lucasfilm story:
Golden Gates And Little Bronze Men
Lisa and I had just spent the morning at the Golden Gate Bridge, we had walked the bridge and taken (seemingly endless) photographs, one of which now lives in the stairwell of Talk Star Wars HQ! On the trip back to our hotel our driver said, "and over here is the Presidio, home to George Lucas' Lucasfilm Ltd..." Lisa and I exchanged quick glances as the driver finished his sentence, "...if you can find it. There are no signs." His schtick had a sing-songy rhythm to it, like he'd said the same line a million times. "Challenge accepted, can you let us out here please?"
I wasn't even bothered about how I was going to get back to Presidio Park. We jumped out and hit the pavement. Off in the distance was the Golden Gate Bridge, my eyes travelled back a little, the Presidio must be there-ish. "Lets go." I set off at a brisk "can you slow down a bit" pace, my long legs making it easy to cover enough ground to illicit complaints from my good lady wife being pulled along in my wake. With every step, days and weeks were dialling back on this particular Star Wars fan's clock. Butterflies had started to multiply in my stomach. How many things in your life have that effect on you? If it's one thing, you're a lucky person.
When one walks into Presidio Park one is struck by its beauty. It is the very embodiment of the term "Immaculately Manicured". Beautifully kept lawns, tiny little nooks with ponds and benches are peppered about the place, and it's so peaceful. There are a number of buildings, each one beautifully maintained, and decidedly unpretentious considering their nature, and each very plain, no signage indicating who owns them or want their function is. Wandering through the park makes you think about spending the day there, lazily gazing at the bay, listening to trees rustle, watching the sweaty Star Wars nerd drag his long suffering wife behind him in his desperate search for nerdvana! Yep, I tore threw this park like it was a trial standing between me and exit from hell. As we got closer to the edge of the park, passing plain white building after plain white building, I started to feel the pang of disappointment, those butterflies were becoming angry leaden moths now, and I was slowing down. Then we turned right.
I'm certain, although I have no proof, that a shaft of light broke the clouds and hit the ground before me. Trumpets blared and harps played somewhere in the distance as a singular monolith came into view.
On a plinth in the middle of a legendary fountain (although its presence had slipped my mind as a frantically searched for Lucasfilm) sat Jedi Master Yoda, in the form of a regal bronze statue. I did one of those double intakes of breathe that catch in the throat, you know the most people reserve for their new born children, I used mine wisely, on Yoda! My eyes moistened as Lisa caught up and stood next to me. She gets it, she took my hand and said, "you found it...". I silently nod. As I studied Yoda I was becoming acutely aware, that beyond him stood the holy grail...
I thrust my camera into Lisa's hands with a guttural instruction akin to "take picture" and I slope off to stand beside Yoda. I was surprised by how quiet it was, no hoards of fanboys, no excited children, and it's in moments like this that one gets a glimpse at ones very soul. Mine is quite black it seems, as my eyes narrowed into slits and I rubbed my hands together whispering "it's mine, all mine!" That soon passed thankfully as I was overtaken by terror. Lisa had suggested we go in.
One does not simply enter Lucasfilm
I approached the glass of the building as it if we're a sleeping lion, and, without any grace, pressed my sweaty, flashed face, eyes moist with my inner child's tears, against the glass and cupped my hands around my eyes. There was a dull squeal as I slid my stupid face from side to side trying to take in everything. This will be the only time I get to see what's in here...
"Shall we go in, ask someone if it's OK to look around?" Lisa asked.
Poor deluded woman. I slowly turn to look at her, five year old me is now fully in control . "One does not simply enter Lucasfilm," my voice is positively alive with contempt for the suggestion that we might simply walk in, "One must..."
A door quickly opened as an employee left on a Starbucks run, "You can go in if you like..!" She said as she hurried pass.
If my eyebrows had raised any higher they'd have slipped into my back pockets. At this point I seem to remember Lisa needing to pilot me though the door and around the foyer like a giant, clumsyremote control version of the man she once respected.
Layed out before me were treasures the likes of which cannot be imagined. But fortunately they could be photographed so I can include a bunch of them here.
From Luke's Lightsaber to The Dark Lord Of Sith himself, every thing I've worshipped since I was a tiny boy was right there before me. The Darth Vader costume is a thing of beauty. I wonder if it's screen used. If not it's a breath taking replica. The face of the mask has highlights painted onto it, exactly like the version used onscreen. The purpose of which is to give the illusion that the mask was shiny without the complications of difficult to hide reflections. Check it out below.
There are just so many wonderful things about that lobby, and you can be sure that's as far as I went, th lobby. The people at Lucasfilm are wonderful, bearing in mind they must see the sort of regression I went through everyday. It's truly magical, to be propelled back to a younger version of yourself in that way. When I stood next to Boba Fett, I remembered years of watching The Empire Strikes Back thinking, "He is the coolest!"
As we left and made our way to Starbucks for much needed coffee and cake, I started noticing things I'd missed on the way in. A cardboard Clone Trooper in an office window, a model space craft on display, ILM crew member tee shirts being worn by staff locked in conversation as the bustle back and forth.
This was all mere weeks before the first teaser trailer dropped for The Force Awakens. I wonder how much was going on to prepare for that release whilst I was there, licking windows and choking back tears?
The moral of this story is if you find something in life that can give you as much joy as I experienced simply by being in its presence, cherish it. Make it a part of your life in a way that allows you to celebrate it every day. And if you're lucky enough to find someone who understands what that thing means to you, cherish them too.
Shortly after leaving Lucasfilm, Lisa and I wandered over to the Walt Disney museum and I went through that entire gamut of emotions again! But that's a story for another day...
Thank you for reading,