Star Wars Celebration Europe took advantage of the face time to highlight the diverse team working on the franchise with fantastic panels like The Art of Storytelling. The trend continues with two members of the Story Group speaking to geek-centric podcasts recently.
Last week Carrie Beck, Lucasfilm’s Vice President of Animation Development, joined Star Scavengers, a LEGO Star Wars focused podcast hosted by Johnamarie Macias and Aaron Goins. Beck gives a great interview, sharing insight into her decision to join the Story Group and her role in Lucasfilm. Beck is credited as a creator of Disney XD’s animated hit Star Wars Rebels alongside Dave Filoni and Simon Kinberg. During the interview, Beck explains her position as facilitator of the creative process of The Freemaker Adventures and how she got in the trenches with LEGO building to understand the property and the audience.
Creative Executive Rayne Roberts spoke with Black Girl Nerds, which is a fantastic podcast. Star Wars fans are likely more familiar with veteran Lucasfilm employees Pablo Hidalgo and Leland Chee with similar job titles. Roberts relates her path to the Story Group and elaborates on the many hats she wears as a talent liaison and film production executive. Additionally, she has some hand in the book side. She shares a fun moment of the reveal of Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens from concept to reality. When asked about characters in Rogue One, Roberts deftly sidesteps the question and gives an answer about the innovative filming techniques that will make the upcoming movie an immersive experience.
“As were [writers] Larry Kasdan and Michael Arndt. Because had it just been the three of them talking about these characters and not having input from myself or [co-producer] Michelle Rejwan or [head of story] Kiri Hart, who knows if that opinion would have been said? It’s not to say that it would have headed in a bad direction, but they actual got input from a point of view that they wouldn’t normally have. In many cases it just changed certain things by small increments. But cumulatively it makes a difference.”
~ Kathleen Kennedy to L.A. Times
It’s obvious that both of these women are busy working hard to bring us the best Star Wars possible. Early in the Star Wars Rebels Recon video series fans got to see them both share insights. This year the recap show reverted to a somewhat less diverse slate of interviews, focusing more on Dave Filoni, Henry Gilroy, and Pablo Hidalgo. While it is always thrilling to hear from those gentlemen, it is important for young women to see that creative doors are open to them as well. As Beck noted in her interview, the name Kathleen Kennedy on blockbuster movies empowered her to enter the field. Roberts does hint that there will be an exciting announcement soon about a diversity initiative in England, where the movies are filming.
Critically looking at the Story Group, there is no doubt it is making a difference in many big ways. Star Wars still has work to do, though: the San Diego Comic-Con Star Wars publishing panel had one woman, a children’s book artist; the adult fiction novel/short story line-up is back to old form with a testosterone-heavy roster; the writing/directing gender-diversity landscape for animation hasn’t changed; and no women or people of color are slated to write or direct a movie. The over-arching production sensibilities for diversity can make a difference, and there are many examples of positive portrayals of female characters coming from male creators. Undoubtedly, the progressive movement in storytelling happens when the creators — authors, writers, directors — reflect a diversity that exists in the audience. Recently editor Jen Heddle tweeted about Jesse J. Holland as author of Finn’s Story and television animation writer and creator Jen Muro announced she is now working with Lucasfilm. Hopefully the trend continues.
“They are really, really making a huge effort across the company to put more focus around casting women and putting women in positions of responsibility, with directing and various other positions inside, different lines of business in the company,” Kennedy says. “It’s not just about casting female protagonists. It’s gotta be across the board throughout the industry. I think Hasbro, who’s making toys for a while, they were perhaps a little reluctant to move too quickly with something that’s been such a successful boys line. I think they’re recognizing that selling to girls is just as effective as selling to boys. More and more the lines are being blurred as to deciding ahead of time that some things are for boys and some things are for girls. I think that’s a big part of the conversation. It’s all of these areas that are contributing to change really happening. Over the last several years that I’ve been in the business it seems to me that this has been a topic of conversation every few years. Then everybody thinks it’s a trend or that it’s a significant change. And then it doesn’t really move the needle. I think that’s — hopefully— what’s going to begin to happen now. It’s going to be real change. And not just perceived change.”
~ Kathleen Kennedy to L.A. Times
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