Well, there's a good reason for that. Just thinking about it makes me cringe in self-disgust!
I was SUCH an embarrassing FANBOY!!
Thank the force I'm SOOooo much cooler these days!
But guess what? They're making a NEW Star Wars movie and they're holding open auditions in London.. THIS weekend!!
..uh oh. I sense a disturbance in the force.. My inner fanboy is re-awakening.. That's not true.. that's impossible.. NOOoooooo!!!! (Fanboys will get this joke, the rest of you will probably just unfriend me on Facebook)
Like most kids that grew up in the 80's, my imagination was fuelled by the amazing pop culture of the time. It was a wondrous, magical time.. we'd be riding our BMX bikes on the street expecting to fly off into the sky, or we'd be collecting 'red dust' to fend off 'the visitors', occasionally we'd need to call on KITT with our state of the art digital watches to foil the local crime syndicate. It was all in a days work for a kid in the 80's. Then we'd get home in time to catch some awesome cartoons like 'Dungeons and Dragons' or 'Spider-man and his Amazing Friends'. Later we'd watch a (now classic) film that we taped off the telly or double taped from a rental at the video shop. Ah, halcyon days...
There was one thing, however, that sparked our imaginations more than anything else.. More than pulling apart the matrix of leadership and adding an '-imus Prime' to our names, more than skateboarding on the back of cars, more even, than running around high on coke (Coca Cola!) using the imaginary knives on the ends of our fingers to kill our friends in their sleep (it was the 80's.. you had to be there).
One thing that beat them all and pounded them into oblivion! One thing better than all the rest. One thing that provided more hours of playtime than anything!! One thing to rule them ALL...
Star Wars. Or the original Star Wars trilogy to be more specific.
Lightsaber fights, space-ships, a Muppet as a Jedi master AND admiral Ackbar?!!
The only thing that could've made it more perfect was if it had an Indian in it! (Remember, these are the days when if you saw an Indian on TV, you'd scream “There's an Indian on the telly!!” and EVERYONE would immediately drop what they were doing and RUN to the TV to marvel at the spectacle! ..only to see him beat up his wife or steal his kids and run off to Pakistan. Well, that's what happened in my house anyway) ..but it DID have a black guy in it, which in those days was acknowledgement enough. Oh yeah, and Lando. Make that two black guys. F**k it. We'll claim Chewie too. Chewie can be the token Indian, although compared to me, he's no way hairy enough!! ..while we're at it, we're claiming Teen Wolf too! (That's Teen Wolf one, not Teen Wolf Too.. ah forget it)
Star Wars was ALWAYS around.
..until sometime in the late eighties, it wasn't.
The toys were no longer filling the shelves of the local toyshop.. the stationary had disappeared and so too had all the other related merchandise. Hell, ITV had even stopped showing it as their number one Christmas movie!!
These were dark times. But rumour had it that in 1997, the long rumoured 'prequel' trilogy would hit our screens.. but that was literally, a lifetime away.
As the years passed I happened to discover that I was good at drawing and also pretty good at writing stories..
It seemed as though I was being primed for a career in the creative arts and Star Wars was STILL at the forefront my inspiration.
Star Wars played such an influential role in shaping me into the pop-culture aficionado (not a geek! Geeks are usually quite brainy.. this is also waaaaay before 'Geek chic', when now all of a sudden geeks are cool? WTF is that all about??!!); if there was going to be any new Star Wars movies I just HAD to be a part of them!!
So I did the only thing I knew how.. I wrote George Lucas a letter!!
And I got a response!!!
..ok, it wasn't from him, but it was a response nonetheless!! ..oh how I treasured that rejection letter! Haha.
After numerous attempts, I finally came to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to have anything to do with the making of Star Wars Episode I.. meanwhile I got myself an education and graduated just when filming was to commence in Australia on Episode II.
This time I wouldn't take 'no' for an answer!
I was all cocky and full of myself, and educated as a mother trucker. I was, simply put, the best man for the job!
..the fact that the job I was after was already being filled by some guy named George Lucas was neither here nor there! After Episode I, one thing was clear: he NEEDED my help.. and he was gonna get it, whether he liked it or not!
What exactly did I want to do?
Everything! Literally. The same thing I do with my own films right now. Write, draw, shoot, edit. EVERYTHING!
I'll write poetry!!
Haha. OMG! This is SOOOoooo cringe worthy I think I'm gonna be sick. But this, in my infinite creative genius, is exactly what I did!
Fortunately, Monsieur Lucas was no longer the butt of my attention, having successfully fobbed me off to his producer, a Mr Rick McCallum.
So I phoned up Lucasfilm and asked to speak to good ol' Rick. The main switchboard put me through.. the phone rang.. I'd already tried to speak to Geogre Lucas on the phone and was put through to his secretary who quickly shut me down, so I was expecting the same thing to happen here.
Instead, I spoke to a thoroughly lovely fella named 'Alvin'. Apparently ol' Rick was in Oz prepping Episode II for shooting, so he gave me the fax number for the Australian office.
Either Alvin was the most helpful person I'd chatted to, or a cunning genius who had successfully fobbed me off to someone else so I could spend all my time bothering them instead!
Thus began my RELENTLESS faxing to the Australian production office with my lyrical poetics!! ..and I do mean relentless! Begging, flattering, making myself seem more impressive than I actually am. Yep, I used every utterly embarrassing tactic in the book! ..just thinking about it makes me wanna hit the shower and wash off the shame! But it just won't wash off!
Finally, all that embarrassing behaviour paid off and I got the call. It was like 9am when my mobile started ringing.
Which idiot friend of mine would phone me, ME of all people at this ungodly hour?
'Hello?' I growled, still in my croaky morning voice.
'Hiii, is that Niiiish?'
'Hiii, this is Jacqui Louez from JAK films.' As every Star Wars fan knew, JAK films was the production name for the Star Wars films, taken from the initial of each of George Lucas's kids at the time. D'uh, obviously.
I quickly shook off my tiredness and coughed away my morning voice.
'Okay.' I said, all composed 'n stuff.
'Rick McCallum wanted to thank me for your.. letter..'
I could hear her fighting back the laughter as she rather kindly referred to my poetic masterpiece as a 'letter'.
I felt a tinge of embarrassment- a normal person probably would've died under an avalanche of the stuff.. but like I said in Chapter 1, I was pretty cocky back then.
She went on to tell me to not to come to Australia as they had nearly wrapped production, but said they'd keep my file on record, so you never know. I thanked her for the call. It was just like an Australian to try and keep a foreigner from visiting, but that's a rant for another day!
Sigh. I suppose it was for the best. I was still suffering from dizziness and living down under probably would've made it worse.. 'cos everything there is upside down.. right?
Anyway, I had my comic book stuff to do as well as work on my own film ideas AND get my global corporation going!
So, like any Star Wars fan back in the day, I followed the latest developments by checking theforce.net practically every day, all the while feeling like I wasn't fulfilling my destiny somehow. There was a yearning that kept telling me I HAD to be a part of the saga that literally gave me the desire to wanna make movies in the first place!
The months that followed graduation were sobering, as anyone that's been to University will tell you. It turns out the world ISN'T waiting to welcome you with open arms, but instead, waiting to turf you out on your ear, especially in the media industry!
They're not interested in new talent that wants to astound the world with a fresh take on established norms, they want drones that will work tirelessly to re-establish those norms to a new generation! Repackaging old sh!t. That's what life in the adult world is all about. Whether it be governments, movies or ideas. New and different has no place it seems..
What? Oh sorry, I let the bitterness slip out for a minute! Haha. Where was I? Oh yes, I was telling you about the time I went to meet the producer of Star Wars!
Well, so far Episode II had finished filming in Australia and it STILL hadn't happened. But I kept the faith. It was just meant to be.. like my being successful in EVERYTHING I attempt, is 'just meant to be' (Hahaha!).
So I set about my recovery and my stellar rise to fame, working on my submission for my own comic book series.
..it was another shocking blow when that didn't pan out either. I'd also been applying to jobs in Monday's media supplement in The Guradian newspaper.. again, without much luck.
I needed a break (..I still do).
In early 2001 it was announced that Star Wars would be coming to England to shoot 'pick-ups'.
Star Wars was coming back to England.. how could I NOT be a part of this??!!
Very easily, it turned out.
Anyway, I phoned Lucasfilm, again and spoke to Alvin, again.
This time I had a really good chat with the guy. I told him I'd been trying to be involved with the Star Wars films for YEARS and gave him the whole back-story. I told him that writing letters was one thing, but if I could get just 5 minutes to speak to Rick, I could really get my point across. Alvin told me that Rick was really busy, but he'd include my request in Rick's messages, and that if Rick was ever in England, he might give me a call.
That was that.
So far, I had avoided 'runner' jobs on film sets. I was waaaaaaaaaaaay too talented and waaaaaaaaaaay too much of a creative genius to start at the bottom and work my way up. I was ready to take the helm NOW, that very minute!
But after a what seemed like an ETERNITY of unemployment, in early 2001, I took my first and last ever runner job. It was unpaid, and though it was a laugh, it only served to reinforce my view that I really was too good to be doing the most labour intensive job on a film set, and not get paid for it.
But in all honesty, that was probably the break that lead to my meeting with Rick McCallum, the producer of the Star Wars prequels.
I can't remember how it happened. Most probably I kept faxing Lucasfilm.
But sometime in March that year, I got a phone call from an Indian lady called 'Raj' at a production office in Ealing Studios asking if I'd requested a meeting with Rick McCallum?
Er.. I had.
She told me to come by Ealing Studios on Monday morning.
It was one of those cliché moments you see being done to death in the movies, where the guy puts the phone down and then goes crazy with excitement.
This was my break! This was my chance to knock their socks off with my creative genius and secure my place in a galaxy far, far away...
There was just one, itsy bitsy, tiney winey problem.
I had nothing to show for all my much vaunted creative genius.
No credits to my name in anything! No short film (that I'd voluntarily show someone), no published writing or art work. Nothing. Not even a portfolio to show off my over estimated artistic prowess.
The meeting was two days away.. and I am the SLOWEST person at doing anything.. EVER!!!
I got out my finest sheet of A3 paper and with pencil in hand, set about filling it with alien creatures worthy of the Star Wars universe.. y'know, my own version of characters that could fill the Cantina bar and not look out of place. Bear in mind, I have literally ZERO artistic training.. this is all freestyle. I'm just being creative in the only way I know how: detailed doodling.
The moment of truth came around pretty quickly, and understandably, I didn't sleep until it did. Dressed in my finest, I strolled to Ealing Studios with the A3 paper in my hand; on it were the pencil sketches as well as a lifetime's worth of hopes.
I'd walked past those studios like a million times over the years, but in my nervousness, I managed to walk past them that day! Anyway, once there, I was shown to Rick's office (which was in a portakabin) and was made to wait.. agonizingly.. as he did his level best not to arrive.
His assistant, Isobel Thomas, phoned him informing him of my arrival and she told me he was running late.
I sat in silence a while longer as the rest of the office staff went about their business. I sat there doing my best impression of an inanimate piece of office furniture, hoping not to be noticed (I was cocky, but shy when people were about!).
A while longer had passed.
On the wall were various folders with schedules and names of departments etc. Nothing worth reporting back to the legions of fans hungry for information (not that I'd report such things anyway. It's taken me more than 12 years just to relay this story!!).
Isobel phoned him again.
She said she was very sorry, but Rick wouldn't be able to see me today as he was very busy and already very late.
I implored her that all I wanted was five minutes and I'd be happy to wait.
She let me stay.
Finally, Rick walked into the office and said his hello's to everyone. I continued to sit there, still doing my impression of an inanimate piece of furniture, not knowing where to look.
I'd seen the guy before on countless TV interviews. It's weird when you recognise someone from TV and then see them in real life.. he looked older.. and waaaay more American. His accent sounded more American too.
Nice chap though.
He did his best to avoid me, but when it came down to it, he was very polite and friendly and did actually try to help me.
He greeted me with a firm handshake and explained that he was very busy, but I should call him. His assistant, Isobel, scrambled to write down a number on a piece of official stationary.
I said I'd brought some artwork- he said I should show it to the head of the art department and sent someone to show me to their office.
'Thanks a lot' I gushed.
He shook my hand and smiled 'Not at all'.
American charm goes a long way in softening the blow.
So there it was.
My meeting with the producer of the Star Wars films.
Wasn't so bad, was it?
In the immortal words of Jimmy Cricket: 'Wait, there's more.'
The art department was headed by Peter Walpole? ..I think.
Whoever it was, they were English, and like everyone in this story, very nice, polite and friendly.
He looked at my crude drawings and paused.
He then broke it down for me.
He pulled a piece of paper from the desk and showed it to me (mega excitement! It was Episode II storyboard art by Doug Chiang!!).
He explained that my standard needed to be up there or better! That kids today (12 years ago) were multi-talented, and were well versed in traditional art AND digital art. It was an extremely competitive field, more so than when he started, and that to get a job on something like Star Wars, which was the most wanted film job in the industry, I had to be SLICK! Really talented AND experienced.
He was really cool and said I had raw talent (he was being polite), but I needed technical and draughtsman skills too.
I left feeling more enlightened, but still no closer to my dream of working on a Star Wars film.. further away if anything.
I'd come to terms with not working in the art department, but I could STILL be an asset on set!!
(..I'm like The Terminator. I just will. Not. STOP!)
A few days later, I returned to Ealing Studios, uninvited, just to try my luck.
It was a damp evening, around 6pm. I'd just arrived and was walking around the car park area when Rick McCallum just happened to be exiting one building and entering another.
'Hey! How's it going?
He'd seen me, recognised me and cheerily asked how it was going. So I told him, aggrieved as I was.
'Well you can make it go a lot better!'
I retorted in an accusing tone.
I mean, the nerve of it! I was proper rude, as if he owed me something.
'I'll call you.' He said waving me goodbye as he headed into the next building.
What an arse.
Me, not him!
Suffice to say, he never called.
I spent the next few weeks phoning and faxing him CONSTANTLY!
All to no avail.
Who the hell has time for rude people?
Chief among those lessons was to SPELL the name of the person you're writing to, CORRECTLY!! Can you believe I was sending Rick McCallum all this stuff and all the while I was misspelling his surname?! Jeez, how embarrassing can you get?!! Haha. Anyway.
I ALSO learned that opportunities WILL come.. you just have to be ready for them.
I'm pretty good at jamming my foot through the door and getting that opportunity.. I wasn't so good at doing something with that opportunity. No substance to back up the words.. not back then anyway.
Like I said, that was more than 12 years ago.
I tried to be involved with Star Wars Episode III too, but by then it was more a case of trying because I owed it to my childhood-self. I didn't expect to get anywhere, and I didn't.
I wrote to Doug Chiang, the head of the art department in the US, and he wrote me back some really cool emails, full of wisdom and advice as well as encouragement. In essence, he told me not to be fixated with Star Wars. Study, work hard, hone my skills and be patient. That's ALWAYS been the hardest thing for me to learn: Patience.
Life is short. How can I set long term goals.. when I'm struggling to realise short term ones that promise me instant success!!
Doug assured me other projects would come along, ones that are more exciting to me than the idea of working on Star Wars. He was right.
Anyway, that was the whole Star Wars thing.
The prequel trilogy turned out to be a huge disappointment and maybe it's a blessing in disguise that I never got to be part of it.
The idea of working on someone else’s projects has never excited me anyway.
I've been busy writing my own fantastical tales and faced much bigger rejections and much harsher truths than I encountered when I was chasing the Star Wars dream.
Now in my mid thirties, I still haven't made my mark on the film world or the world in general. Just another dreamer convinced that despite it all, his will be a story with a happy ending.
Last year it was announced that more Star Wars films would be going into production. They're going to be made here in England too.
The fanboy in me STILL wants to be at the helm..
I should be an established filmmaker by now. I should be answering the call from the new Star Wars bosses.. instead I'm still working on getting my first feature film made!
But funnily enough, that's exactly where I want to be. Fighting the good fight here in London town, rather than battling some fictional evil empire in a galaxy far, far away.
Sure, I could do an AMAZING job writing and directing a Star Wars film, but we live in messed up times; there's plenty of stories about characters living in this galaxy, right now, that need to be told.
But hey, if you're up for being a part of the new Star Wars saga, then you should TOTALLY go for it!!
Open auditions are taking place in London this very weekend!!
Check out the Star Wars Facebook page for full details.. and while you're at it, check out the 'Planet Nish' Facebook page too!! (..and don't be stingy when it comes to pressing the 'Like' button either!)
Finally, ..may the force be with you!