Star Wars Are My Wars

We can all see your life is EXTREMELY interesting!!  You do travel a lot, meet a lot of people, etc, but what I have found most interesting about you is how well connected you are to your favorite films.  You even couldn’t watch films at one point due to one of your personal challenges which must have been difficult. So, if you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, which movie would it be and why?

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

It has to be noted that The Shawshank Redemption is my favorite movie of all time and I could watch that film over and over but Star Wars has had a profound effect on my imagination and ideas of storytelling from very early on.  It was with an old camcorder that I would make stop-motion shorts with my Star Wars toys, used to recreate every scene from the film in my sandbox, digging a Sarlacc pit, and forcing Luke to walk the plank.  I wore out more than one VHS copy of the movie.

So for that reason, if I was in this theoretical desert island scenario (which of course would have a working standard voltage outlet and a DVD player/television combo for me to view the film on), I would have to go with the original 1977 Star Wars film, Episode IV: A New Hope.  I’ll get to the core of the story and the film’s direct effect on me, but besides inspiring me to make films, it also set so many landmarks in the film industry.  Biggest blockbuster for the time.  Most difficult and original special effects combining so many techniques and inventing new ones.  Small budget film that was misunderstood by many studios and executives but took a few that really cared and saw George’s vision to see it through (namely Alan Ladd Jr.).  There are parallel struggles to many start up filmmakers trying to push new ground and get their little-engines-that-could out into the world.  It pushed a huge leap forward in spin-off merchandising and marketing.  It spawned new ideas in structuring back-end deals for the filmmakers and actors.  Too much to even mention… so in that respect, some of my first insights to the inner workings of Hollywood came from being a giant Star Wars fan and soaking up every article, book, etc that I could find on the topic.

Now the film itself.  Wow.  Profound impact.  I think every few years I see it, I connect with something else about it.  I mean, the plot itself isn’t new.  What is these days?  A hero’s journey; it’s no secret from where Lucas drew his inspiration.  Like Avatar out now… same old story… told in a new and exciting way.  Space… what seems futuristic he set “a long time ago…” – it’s HISTORY!  The spaceships are broken down, not everyone wears shiny, white robes and travels in flying cars that ride in silence from building to building (he’d save that for the prequels and water down the whole saga… fuck… DROWN the series more like it).  But the story of Luke.  What boy on this planet can’t connect to Luke Skywalker?  I grew up in Amherstburg, Ontario.  I live in Windsor, Ontario.  Now, I believe in my city and the people around me here, but really, in the grand scheme of the Entertainment universe, I couldn’t live any further from the centre of it all.  I need an Obi-Wan (producer) to show up at my door step and whisk me away on a fantastic adventure… well, that’s the dream at least… I think my continued path will require being a little more proactive.  That craiglist ad “Missed Connection:  Looking For My Ben Kenobi” isn’t doing the trick.  So here’s Luke… he wants to join the academy and become a pilot, maybe even join the great rebellion against the Empire one day.  So vague… we don’t get details… but we know that this war is something huge… and only the most brave, loyal, and adventurous soldiers want to sign up.  He’s a farm hand living with his aunt and uncle.  See, my hometown and current city is surrounded by farm fields and mostly blue-collar factory work.  It’s a great community and I  would never knock the roots upon which my parents built our family, but there’s something in me that craves more, wants more out of life and, as a teenager, it was increasingly frustrating that it was hard to see a path to get to my academy… Film School.  Like Luke, I was going to have to “stay on another season and see about joining my friends next year”.  I couldn’t afford film school; I had to work and try to save for the next year.

Once off his desert planet and his adventure on it’s way, Luke made some great friends, friends he’d never have known without his course in destiny kicking in.  Again, I can relate.  My best friends have all come from my adventures and follies in filmmaking.  My friends that recognize my potential, kick my ass when I need it, accept me regardless of many giant and glaring flaws.  Friends that are ready to do battle against any Empire I set my sights on.  It is disappointing that not a single one of them owns a Millenium Falcon for us to skip around town in.

The larger part of Luke’s quest is recognizing a power he has inside himself.  The Force.  It’s what surrounds us, penetrates us, binds the universe together.  This is what Obi-Wan tells us and Luke.  Some like to relate the Force to faith.  I am not a man of faith.  I don’t know what I believe.  Many would argue that I currently live my life the way I do due to that lack of faith.  I’m told a man needs faith to have a guiding force in their life.  A measurement to hold all actions and behaviours up against.  I agree to a certain extent.  I’ve always thought, with a lack of faith in religion, perhaps a man (or woman of course) can believe in themselves.  Do the right thing, all of that.  I’ve had a belief in myself from early on.  In my writing, in my ability to get a project done, in my ability with film and video to tell a story.  If that’s arrogance, then so be it, but I’ve always felt it and known there was something there, at least a base to develop.  The problem is that I lost my way for years.  Literally years.  I let the demons in.  I let life’s vices get a hold of me in more ways than a blog could possibly outline.   In Star Wars, that would be The Darkside.  You see, the Force has two sides:  light and dark.  Jedi’s, once the heroes of the galaxy, Obi-Wan amongst the last of their knighthood, is hopeful that Luke can learn the ways of the force and become a Jedi like his father once was… but if you’ve seen the movie, you know how terrible that ended for Daddy dearest.  Luke could end up the same.  The basic message is we all have a choice… and if you start with a few bad choices… if you live with recklessness and a lack of faith and care and concern for even your own self, health, heart, and mind… the darkside can grow within you and eventually consume you.  The vices of life: be it women, greed, power, fame, fortune, ego, drugs, alcohol, competitive nature, on and on… these are all the darkside in our modern world.  Read the bible.  It’s stated time and time and time again.  If you decide you are a master of your own destiny and find ways to make excuses as to why exercising your vices is a good idea… well, it’s a steep slope and it can only end in once place.  If you’re more a Dr. Suess fan, you might know it as “the waiting place”.   It’s a place when you hit rock bottom and you don’t always realize how you got there or how fast it can happen until you’re there.  It’s when a warrior is pushed most that he has the choice between giving into the darkside forever or taking whatever might he have left in his heart and mind and pushing forward… always a harder path to correct oneself and become the hero they were always foreseen to be.  Star Wars has taught me to always be aware of the darkside and even as I’ve given into it in my own galaxy’s “dark times”, I’ve yet to be consumed full, which leaves a path to getting out of it.

See, even Yoda didn’t want to train Luke.  He was too old, too brash, too ego driven, too reckless.  It’s again, half the reason I haven’t stepped further with my career than I have thus far.  Reckless.  Lack of true focus on my talents and projects and potential.  In order for a Jedi to reach their potential and finish their training, they need to be of open mind and soul and be ready to bust some serious ass in training.  They will have to face their fears, bury their demons, and push forward.  One can use the darkside to get there but as all of us must realize, there’s nothing but a lonely island waiting for us if we go this route.  You ultimately can’t conquer over outer evil forces if you have evil in your heart.  It will just add to the cycle of that evil and never really find a balance in the Force.

So Luke learns his baby steps in the force, fights the Empire, rescues the Princess, and takes on a Death Star… and up until 9/11, Star Wars was our only example of one tiny plane having the ability to destroy an entire super structure!  He’s told to trust his feelings, his instincts.  Basically, believe in yourself and you can do anything, no matter the odds.  But you have to have that belief.  You can’t be a musician with a ton of talent and an amazing demo reel, surrounded by tons of people telling you how great it sounds and how wonderful you rock a crowd night after night and get anywhere.  You really can’t.  You will stumble.  If you don’t believe in yourself.  If the force is not strong in you, you should quit and try something else because the path will be far easier and more rewarding.

Now, in my thirties, my connection to the movie changes again.  The importance of recognizing your true friends and not being afraid to open up about your shortcomings and errors in life.  Your friends are there for you, you need them to survive and grow and be held accountable.  Luke was “too old” to be trained, but ultimately proved everyone wrong, and even with the incident in the cave realizing he could be his own worst enemy… he goes on to (and I know I’m getting into trilogy territory here and outside of just the one movie.. but my blog, my answer so fuck off!) prove everyone wrong… narrowly avoid giving into the darkside entirely and assisting to bring a full redemption despite the odds… balance, success- a true leader.

Maybe I still have that in me.  Maybe I needed to stumble to know the risks and the pitfalls of living an empty and unproductive life.  Maybe it’s all that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Maybe I’m left with enemies and doubters and make the fight harder for myself.  More absolutely here than maybe but regardless… the shadow proves the sunshine.  No light without the dark, etc etc.  Shit, even as I write this, I haven’t truly realized the impact of this movie on me and the life lessons we can draw even from that nerdy, little science fiction, action figure heavy, space story!

So there you have it… the one film I could watch again and again and choose as the only film to watch the rest of my life if it came down to it.  It connects with me.  It feels like more than just a movie to me.  That’s what great stories are.  They get under your skin and they affect you.

Oh and I almost forgot… what male hasn’t picked up a Christmas paper wrapping tube and “swooshed” it through the air, complete with sound effects… who doesn’t want a lightsabre???  That’s reason alone to sign up for the Jedi religion and teaching… sure, it’s for all the wrong reasons… but is it any different than just turning Catholic so you get into heaven with no real concern for how you spend your time on earth?

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