An epic behind-the-scenes Star Wars story . . . with NO SPOILERS.
Background: The Publish That Launched A Thousand Geeks.
When my oldest daughter, Katie, was in the first grade, she picked out a Star Wars water bottle and a Star Wars backpack to convey to school. An extraordinary determination, the same one made by a crop of first graders each fall. When the boys at school repeatedly taunted her for being a feminine Star Wars fan, she cried. I wrote about the Star Wars bullying on my blog.
It was the submit that launched a thousand geeks. People of all ages and walks of life wrote to Star Wars Katie about how they’d been bullied for their geeky and nerdy interests. The comments got here in so fast that they crashed the ChicagoNow server. For months, the feedback and tales and gifts kept coming. The 501st Legion even determined to difficulty Katie her personal customized-made Stormtrooper armor. The boys at college stopped taunting Katie and as an alternative invited her to play.
The Fall of Our Fall
Throughout most of elementary college, Katie belonged to a core group of girlfriends, and she by no means lacked for firm. Sleepovers, playdates, birthday parties – all were frequent and regular occurrences.
However issues changed overnight as she started fifth grade. Fifth grade women are a tough crowd. We watched different children stroll to highschool in teams and in pairs, but Katie was at all times alone. Her little sisters, ages 4 and seven, were her fixed companions. Thank God for her little sisters, always her champions. The weeks passed, and there were no playdates, no birthday social gathering invitations, and no sleepovers. The isolation was crushing.
As our woman grew unhappier, so did our family. Tears replaced our smiles. The times dragged and the nights were long.
And then LucasFilm Referred to as
My mobile phone rang. It was LucasFilm. There was a room full of people who wanted to tell me one thing. Four-yr-previous Cleo was balanced on my hip, yelping about wanting to look at a movie. I tried to take heed to the telephone as I shushed her.
“We’ve got some exciting information. We might like to ask Katie to come see the filming of Episode 7 on the set in London. “
“There may be one other boy whose household is coming as a part of a Make A Want journey, and we thought it could be nice to invite your loved ones, too. But you aren’t allowed to tell anybody you’re coming, and you cannot write about it or take any photos.”
I despatched my husband a textual content that said It’s essential to call me. We scrambled to make plans to fly to London. This is crazy, we stored telling one another.
The Day Katie Flew The Millennium Falcon
From my journal:
Immediately is October 16, 2014. It was probably the most outstanding days of our lives. Little Cleo will probably by no means remember it, but I’m sure that the rest of us will. A silver Mercedes minivan picked us up on the Royal Backyard Lodge in Kensington at 9:30 am. The driver took us to Pinewood Studios. We have been met by LucasFilm workers Morgan and Suzie and cameraman Dave.
A few minutes after we arrived, the household that got here via Make-A-Want, joined us. The dad and mom, Chuck and Lori, have three youngsters –10-yr-outdated Andrew (who was there for his Want), 7-year-old Sarah, and 4-yr-outdated Johnathan. Their kids are nearly the identical exact ages as our children. Katie is eleven; Annie Rose is 7; Cleo is four.
Our two households hit it off instantly. Katie and Andrew started chatting about Star Wars inside two seconds of assembly. Lori felt like an old good friend, and we discovered that we each had been Northwestern graduates.
Our set visit started in Theatre 7, the John Barry Theater, the place Pinewood shows dailies of whatever is being filmed. First, we watched a 12-minute promo piece about Pinewood Studios, adopted by a second piece about George Lucas and Star Wars.
We asked countless questions of the forged and crew. Morgan instructed us that that they had recently been filming in Abu Dhabi, and on the primary day of filming alone, they consumed over 30,000 bottles of water. There were 800 folks on the Power Awakens workforce, and every person wanted three bottles of water an hour to remain hydrated within the one hundred fifteen-degree heat.
Two months earlier than the filming started in Abu Dhabi, the entire costumes, creatures, cameras, set supplies and gear had been loaded onto an enormous ship and sent over by sea. After filming the desert scenes, all the things had been shipped back to Pinewood.
Dave, who was following us round with a digital camera, instructed us how strict safety was at Pinewood. Only individuals with certain ID tags had been even allowed to carry cameras across the set. And at the end of each day, they were required to show their cameras in. Nobody was allowed to take away a camera or any movie from the set. The only phones allowed on set have been issued by Pinewood, and even these phones have been collected at the end of the day.
As we chatted, the crew handed us mud-coverings to pull over our shoes. Although the solar was shining, it had been raining on the skin set the previous week, and every part was thick with gooey mud. We clomped onto the set, the place they have been filming a giant battle scene between Stormtroopers and Chewie and Han Solo. Finn (John Boyega) was also on set.
J.J. Abrams, the Director of Star Wars Episode 7, came over to satisfy every of us. My husband Andrew told him, “I’m an enormous fan of your work.” J.J. talked with us in regards to the set and hung out and chatted with every kid.
The forged and crew paused filming to greet us. Chewbacca came over to play with the six kids – the three from our family and the three from Lori and Chuck’s household.
As we chatted, Chewbacca picked up child Cleo, who appeared like a tiny dot in his arms. He lifted her high in the air and swung her back and forth. She hugged him and giggled. Chewie rooted around in his bandolier and found some lollipops to offer to Katie and Andrew.
My husband Andrew heard a voice behind him say, “He’s being really nice to them. He ate the last three that had been here.” Andrew turned to respond. It was Harrison Ford standing beside him, watching Chewie play with our children. Flabbergasted, Andrew managed to stay out his hand and say, “It is a pleasure to satisfy you.” Harrison Ford smiled and chatted with us and hung round till it was time to begin filming once more.
They were in the middle of filming a battle scene, and J.J. defined that there were going to be a number of massive explosions. They moved us all to a safe spot near a massive temple the place we might watch. We would be clear from falling debris, but shut enough to see completely. We watched them rehearse the scene five or six instances.
The explosions guy stated into his loudspeaker, “Reduce. Okay, now we are going to place quite a lot of shit up within the air. Oops, sorry, children.” The children giggled and hooted at the usage of the word “shit.”
It took about twenty minutes to get the scene prepared for the explosions. A man walked round setting strategic fires and another man had a machine that produced smoke. Some folks had been busy cleaning off soiled Stormtrooper costumes, spraying them with bottles of water and wiping them clear of the thick mud that was on the ground as a result of heavy rain on the skin set the day earlier than.
J.J. Abrams known as over his loudspeaker for an additional rehearsal of the scene, and we watched Harrison Ford and Chewie run ahead and begin shooting. Then they spent about fifteen minutes piling Stormtroopers on a rock, splayed out to look as in the event that they had been lifeless. Annie Rose was amazed at how nonetheless they held their awkward poses for such a very long time. “Those guys are doing a extremely good job!” she exclaimed.
In between takes, Harrison Ford looked over at us and made humorous faces at the children, inflicting them to giggle appreciatively. One time he danced somewhat jig. Chewie waved to all the children. Younger Andrew’s dad and mom had been watching him as he laughed. “He is been through a lot,” his mom advised me. More than most people can ever think about.
It was time to movie the live action. Lori and that i noticed a Stormtrooper who had been consuming an apple hastily stash the apple behind a rock and pull on his helmet. “When i watch the movie,” Lori informed me, “I will remember that there was an apple hidden behind the rock on this battle scene.”
It was time for the two large explosions. They had been introduced as Boom 1 and, seconds later, Growth 2. Earlier than setting them off, J.J. Abrams came over to us to let the kids know there could be loud noises, in order that they might cover their ears and not be afraid. Annie Rose was dancing across the set chanting, “Blow it up! Blow it up!” and we all had to shush her so they could do the take.
During the day, we realized amazing info and particulars concerning the filming. All of the scenes have been all shot with old-fashioned film, not digital, with 1970s lenses to replicate the feeling of the unique trilogy. For safety causes, the scripts for every day’s filming are printed out – paper copies only – and at the top of every day, the paper scripts had been collected and shredded. We had to sign in depth NDAs earlier than going on set. We could not convey cameras or phones.
After the filming of the scene was completed, we made our method off the pretend mounds of rubble and adopted Suzie and Morgan off the dwell set. The actors waved goodbye to us.
The following place they introduced us was to the Millennium Falcon. A workforce was doing a little reside filming with BB-eight inside the Falcon, and the kids hunkered down quietly among the crew, watching. After the scene was filmed, the 2nd unit Director let younger Andrew work one of many cameras; then each of the other youngsters took a flip. This was actually happening.
Katie and Andrew noticed the Dejarik table and shouted and pointed. The kids all piled in and sat at the Dejarik table. “This is unbelievable,” Andrew and that i kept saying to one another. Younger Andrew’s mother and father had equally huge grins as they watched their three children romp around the inside of the Millennium Falcon. The six children found the sick bay, and so they each took a turn resting in it.
One of many film crew explained to us that this was the largest contiguous Millennium Falcon ever constructed for filming inner scenes. The external Millennium Falcon had already been taken down, as filming of exterior photographs had been accomplished just a few days prior.
Then the kids found the cockpit.
Katie jumped into the pilot’s seat within the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, madly flipping switches back and forth. She turned and grinned broadly at us. In that second, she was free. It didn’t matter what was occurring again in school; it did not matter that she was struggling with the complexities of being adopted. Our daughter was flying the Millennium Falcon. There was only room for pure joy. Her new good friend Andrew was flying beside her, pushing buttons and flipping switches, his face reflecting his pure joy, and in that second, he was freed from the ache and suffering of his illness.
I heard Cleo and Annie Rose arguing over whose turn it was to pilot the Falcon next. They began pushing and shoving one another and grasping for the controls. “Women! Don’t break the Millennium Falcon!” I ordered. Lori and that i giggled at the picture of two little ladies coming to blows over who gets to fly the Millennium Falcon.
As we have been exiting the Falcon, one of many crew advised us that a Lego is hidden in the ramp. It was painted to look just like a part of the ship. We scanned the wall until we found it. “Will it ever show up in any filmed parts?” Andrew asked. “In all probability not,” Dave advised us, “however everyone knows it’s there.”
The next set we visited was a glance-but-don’t-touch set. “This is a sizzling set,” the kids were warned, “which implies every thing is exactly because it needs to be for filming. You should not contact something or move anything round, okay?” The kids promised not to contact, however just to be secure, Andrew and i decided to play man-to-man defense on our youthful daughters, tailing them as they wandered across the surprisingly giant room.
After leaving the new set Exactly as we discovered it, we visited a set that is a hallway the place something vital happens (Morgan and Dave wouldn’t say what!). It has blast doorways that are closed, and there is blast mud on the floor. Morgan defined how each tiny element is attended to in creating each single scene. For instance, J.J. likes darker grey dust for some scenes, so there were artists who took the time to paint darker bits of grey mud and lay it out on the floor. The crew spent time debating which mud was the precise mud.
Dave and Morgan and Suzie took us exterior so that we might make our way to the following set. As we have been strolling along the highway, a golf cart came tearing around the corner. We jumped out of the best way. Harrison Ford was driving, and there have been a number of passengers, and he slowed down and waved and called good day. We all waved and called out greetings. Chuck laughed and mentioned, “Cannot you see the headlines? Make-A-Wish family plowed down on set of Star Wars by Han Solo!” Apparently, Harrison Ford likes to drive his own cart around the set. We saw him driving round a number of extra times.
Our ultimate visit at Pinewood Studios was to the Creature Room. The guys working in the room let the kids try on masks, including an outdated Darth Vader mask that was half the scale of Cleo’s whole physique. It was improbable.
Just as we entered the room, there was a big table lined with blasters and guns. The brand new blasters are black and white, and whenever you pull the trigger, a puff of pressurized air is released that helps the gun have the feeling of actual kickback. The kids have been allowed to follow capturing them. There have been loud popping noises as they tried totally different guns. I reminded my women that these had been pretend guns for the sole goal of entertainment in a fictional movie. “It’s possible you’ll not level one of these guns at another particular person, especially at your sister.”
My husband Andrew talked extensively with the man in control of the creature room, who defined that there are 66 new creatures for this film. The man answerable for the room advised him, “When now we have a go to like this, all of the dads want to talk to me, and all the children wish to play with the stuff.” The go to is as exciting for the mother and father as the youngsters!
He defined that there’s little or no CGI concerned in Episode 7. J.J. actually wished to return to the texture of the unique three films. Most of the creatures and robots and droids in Episode 7 are achieved with masks, actors and animatronics.
There have been masks in each corner of the room. Jars of paint, finely-tipped brushes, and art provides lined the shelves and tables. Drawings and print-outs of creatures have been taped to the walls. The head of an infinite creature took up a big portion of the room. “We call her Susie,” the man in control of the room defined, “though that’s not what she known as in the movie. That is just her head, and it takes two folks to operate it from inside. Her body is too large to maintain in here. Wait until you see it in the film. We’ve got precise people inside it making it transfer.”
At the top of our go to to Pinewood Studios, younger Andrew and Katie each obtained a gift. Katie’s was a lightsaber and Andrew’s was a big motion figure. All the kids acquired Unhealthy Robot baseball caps. We exchanged data with Chuck and Lori and returned our safety badges. Solely Katie and Andrew had been allowed to keep their badges as souvenirs. Katie’s has VIP written on it, alongside together with her photo, her identify, and underneath, it says “Princess Leia.” Andrew’s is the same besides that underneath his photograph, it says “Jedi Knight.”
After which it was over, and we piled into the town automotive and drove away. It was a dream. However it was actual. Some dreams really do come true. Just when our household needed it most, we received the present of happiness from Star Wars.
I am so grateful for the chance, for the closeness it provided our household, for the life-altering memories that we created. This journey was the happiest I’ve seen Katie in a very long time. She felt celebrated and special; I saw an ease and a self-confidence that we used to see incessantly however that has been absent as she has handled the stresses of being a tween. All day today throughout our visit to the set, I had this feeling of awe and amazement. I will always remember any of this.
Reflections a 12 months Later
The visit to London stays one of many highlights of our household’s existence. All through fifth grade, Katie struggled. We supported her in each means doable. The Star Wars trip was a brilliant spot within the darkness.
To our delight and relief, sixth grade has been a a lot better 12 months so far. Katie is back into the fold with a superb group of girlfriends. She walks with children to high school; she has sleepovers; she is giggly and chatty and social. She gave her permission for me to write down about her loneliness last year. She mentioned, “Individuals should know that these items occur. Everybody has bother discovering a pal typically. This year has been one million occasions higher.”
We communicate with younger Andrew’s household. The implausible news is that Andrew is doing better than he was a year ago and has even completed therapy; his household is celebrating the discharge of Episode 7 by renting a small theater and having a social gathering.
Episode 7: The Pressure Awakens
At present I saw an early screening of The Force Awakens. As I watched the film’s opening scenes, my heart raced with anxiety. For thus many months, our experience on the set of The Pressure Awakens has been this big great secret. I could not speak about it or write about it. I harbored a fear — what if the movie itself wasn’t what I built it as much as be?
So because the amazing scenes unfolded in front of me, I felt relief and delight. I needed to shout out, “I was there! I remember that part being filmed!” The interactions between characters were rich and nuanced. I didn’t count on to snort as a lot I did. John Boyega was really funny. Humor is used at just the correct moments to break tension, and the filming appears to be like genuine.
As a mother of three daughters, I am all the time looking for strong feminine characters to show to my ladies. Episode 7 doesn’t disappoint. Rey is more than fearless. She is resilient and resourceful. Rey has the heart of a true hero and comes to help these in want. Normal Leia is empathetic but centered, and she is not afraid to replicate on her previous decisions. On this film, the women are usually not supporting characters. They’re the spine of the film.
The practical attire worn by both Basic Leia and Rey is a welcome departure from the extremely sexualized costumes we see on most female heroines and superheroes. The unremarkable clothes of the female leads permits the viewer to guage the characters by their performing and their stories as a substitute of by their look. And is not this what all of us deserve?
I can honestly say that the entire experience of The Power Awakens has changed my life. May it do the same for you, and will The Pressure Be With You.
Carrie Goldman is an award-successful creator and speaker. This publish first appeared on her weblog Portrait of an Adoption on December 16, 2015. Comply with Carrie on Twitter and Fb.