During the Star Wars Roque One Event we had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Filoni who is the Executive Producer of Star Wars Rebels. Right before talking with Mr. Filoni we watched two upcoming episodes and let me just say WOW!
This was my first experience watching Star Wars Rebels and I was really impressed. We don’t watch a ton of cartoons in the house so I never really know what to expect. I could see John and I sitting down to watch Star Wars Rebels. The story line was great for kids and adults.
Mr. Filoni was very friendly, open and fun to talk with.
Q : Do you take more joy into kind of creating your own storyline? Or do you really look forward to those points and those parts when you can kind of tie into the existing storyline?
I never really have a huge feeling about tying in. A good story didn’t need me, they hunt me and my help. The STARS WARS universe was great before I got there, it’ll be great long after I’m gone. And that’s just how I feel about this, it’s not my story. I’m privileged to be in a position where I get to add to it. I’m very grateful for that. But when I look at the work we’ve done in animation especially, and the characters that we’ve added with Captain Rex, we had Chopper and Ezra, Sabine and Kanan and Hera, adding those characters can give us dimension in ways that the franchise didn’t have before. Especially when you get to female characters from this explosion. I won’t even say explosions, the interest has always been there.
I think it’s telling the stories that’s been long overdue. And so we’ve been telling the stories and adding dimension to these characters. That’s the great part. And it’s fun when you have a tie-in but I like it when it’s more of a wink. It’s not something that was ever missing, if it was important, they would have done it. So I’ve always kinda looked at it that way. And I learned a lot of that from my years of working with George. So it’s fun to do, but you have to be careful that don’t overdo it, that your fandom doesn’t get in the way of telling a good story.
Q. Talk a little bit about bringing Forest Whitaker on.
Yeah, it was a huge benefit to us. You know, anytime that you see – we have an attitude about the characters. Which is, if the person that kind of originates the role, the person especially on screen, we want as much continuity for the audience as possible. Yeah, it’s like when you have people, because, for example, he is a very big STAR WARS fan and a lot of these actors do as much because of the opportunity because they love it.
And so when they say the character’s gonna continue, they absolutely would like to continue being the character. They don’t really care what form it’s in. And so it’s always exciting when we have people come and maintain their character. You have great continuity. They’re always incredibly gracious and super fun to work with. It might not be the last one you see in that regard, on REBELS, afraid of a spoiler. But I can say that. Don’t want to get in trouble.
But he was fantastic, it’s one of the secrets to, when you’re a very good director, you just have a really great actor. He doesn’t need a lot of advice – I just gotta put him into place and tell him what’s going on. And he’s just fantastic.
So it was great to work with him and it’s added to a long list of incredibly wonderful performances that we’ve had in STARS WARS across the board. Not just on REBELS. But across the board. I just love that they want to do it, is my favorite thing.
Q. You did a great job of creating parent and kid-friendly animated feature. How hard is it to balance that?
Thank you very much! I appreciate that, ’cause it is a goal of mine. Because I feel very strongly. When I talked to George he would always say he created STAR WARS for kids. That was the big thing. When I was a kid it was a great thing because my parents liked it. It’s not that they didn’t like everything else but they were very big into opera, very big into the symphony, Very big into those types of stories. And there is a great relationship between those stories and what STARS WARS presented. So it wasn’t talking down.
And there were a lot of things to talk about, as a family. And characters that we could relate to. So I think especially in the beginning, a lot of fans would say that they would come up to me and say, “Dave, why are you making REBELS for kids?” ‘Cause that’s such a perplexing question to me. ‘Cause I would say to them well, when did you first watch STAR WARS? When I was six, and it was the greatest experience I ever had. And I’m like, okay. So my whole goal is never to take that experience away from kids, is to involve everybody in it, to make it a place where the best compliment we can give for the series is that it’s something that the family watches together.
And I’ve had that, parents tell me they watch it with their kids. There are some challenging things we get too, especially when you deal with the Jedi. Things get dark at times. But you always have to monitor that, you know, it’s like fairy tales have frightening moments in them. Otherwise when you shine bright and things are good all the time, it doesn’t shine as well. I was raised reading Tolkien, THE HOBBIT and things of that nature. C.S. Lewis and there are scary parts in those books. But then when you come through, I mean, Darth Vader is intimidating. Everybody says, “Oh, Darth Vader, put Darth Vader on, ” I’m like, okay. But he’s scary. I used to be a little kid and freak myself out just thinking of how he breathes.
I would be alone and be like, Oh my gosh. But that’s what you want – kids to be afraid of the bad guys because they’re evil. And they recognize that. And so I just always think of those stories I had as a kid and those relationships I had. And I try to make something that’s not as much for myself but for my younger self. But my older self will still watch it and be like, that’s cool. It’s a delicate balance. Because I see honestly, in today’s world, I see like a danger in a lot of the fans that have grown up. You kind of have a generation of filmmakers now, they’re all fans. More than you ever had before, I think.
And they’re very vocal about being fans. Which is great. It’s great because they have the understanding of why the material is important. But there’s a danger of trying to take the material and accidentally change it into being for them now. Their 40-year-old self. And you see that kind of in a lot of different franchises out there, that things get darker. And you kinda go – but that’s not what I remember I liked as a kid. But there’s that impulse to say like, yeah, but now I would do this. And wouldn’t that be cool?
But you just always have to remember, STAR WARS is a story ultimately, right, the original trailer says, A boy and a girl in a galaxy. Which is the big opening of the door, and a wonderful thing. And a magic thing. And the adventure. So I just try to maintain that.
Q : I just want to know what it was like to work with George. It must have been cool.
Oh, it’s fantastic. It’s the greatest education I could have asked for, in what I do. It was like going to film school on a daily basis with George Lucas. And he is incredibly knowledgeable, he’s incredibly patient. I had to earn that relationship, I had to earn the things I got to do. The challenge in CLONE WARS was to learn how to do this his way. Show him that we could do it as a group.
And then he would let go of it more and more, which he absolutely did as we went on with the series. But it was very challenging, he absolutely knows what he’s doing. If I left the tiniest shot a couple frames long, he would watch it, and I’d be like, oh no, I see. ‘Cause you know, you must have the experience, you’ll never notice as many mistakes as you have made until you are sitting next to the person you need to show it to. So we’d edit an episode all over and over and over again. And he’d come and sit down with my editor and I’d be like, ohhhhhhh, why didn’t we fix that?
You know, but it was a great experience. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And everything that he taught me I recall, I wrote down. And I keep teaching that to people today, no matter who it is, that I come across in the story of STAR WARS saga. You know, obviously, I’ve added my own ingredients to what I do. But I always try to approach it from that perspective that I have. And that’s why I’m not trying to make my version of STAR WARS. Though as the years go on, I suppose that’s inevitable. But I’m trying to remain true to the point of view that he had, that he wanted for these characters he thinks.
‘Cause it’s not mine, but like I’ve said before, I’m just a part of it. But I have a job to maintain the integrity of this thing, to keep it special. As special as it was for me growing up. So that’s the way I see the goal. And hopefully, we have achieved that. I’m so far very pleased with REBELS and how it’s evolved. And I think that by the end, it’ll be something that fits nicely in the STAR WARS galaxy.
Q. Piggybacking on that question. What is one of the big things that George taught you, that – just one.
There are so many things. I mean, we had all kinds of sayings in editorial. Mainly it was editorial, how to look at the story, how to cut the story, how to move things. I torment everybody with it. And the script in that sense is just a beginning point. It’s not ever per word. And so the scripts that will always go the easiest for me is the ones that I write ahead of time. ‘Cause I know how I’m gonna shoot it the whole time. But there’s how you write something, and there is how it needs to be shot.
And those things can conflict and then you see the lines need to change and you don’t have all these sets and all these characters all the time. So yeah, he just taught me to be incredibly flexible with the opportunities that are on hand. And when you see something, to go for it. And it’s better to attempt to do something great than to just stay safe. He will push. And we would look at some stuff we were doing, and he would say, “You know, we’re right on the edge at this time, this is either really gonna work, or people are gonna hate it. But we’re gonna go for making this great.”
He used to say, “Dare to be great.” Which is something I always say to my team, and it seems simple, right? Of course, everybody thinks that when they start out. But it’s amazing how many times you pull yourself up or you hold back or you get afraid. And in STAR WARS as with everything, fear is the root of everything that is failure and jealousy and greed and evil. And so, have to watch, I teach, I mean, it’s all, that’s my real education, is in The Force. That was the biggest education.
To learn more about Star Wars Rebels check out their page on Disney XD.