GENRE ONLINE.NET Interview Ė Star Wars: The Clone Wars Supervising Director
By Mark A. Rivera
David Filoni is an avid fan of Star
Wars like most people who grew up watching the classic trilogy when they
first premiered on the big screen in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Filoni
began his animation career as assistant director for Film Romanís Emmyģ-winning
King of the Hill, created by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels.
While at Film Roman, Filoni also served as assistant director for Mission
Hill and The Oblongs, both of which ran on The WB.
From there, he moved to Walt Disney Television Animation, where he
contributed in various capacities to series such as Teamo Supremo, Kim
Possible, Dave the Barbarian and Lilo & Stitch.
joined Lucasfilm Animation from another touchstone fantasy franchise Ė
Nickelodeonís animated Avatar: The Last Airbender.
As director of that wildly popular series, Filoni helped further
articulate its complex and dynamic world. Now Mr. Filoni is exploring the many
war-time tales and unsung stories that take place between Episodes II and III,
Filoni works with a worldwide team of artists, animators, writers and episodic
directors to create all-new adventures within the iconic Star Wars universe
after he realized a lifelong dream when he was named supervising director of
Lucasfilm Animationís Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
was invited to participate in a conference call interview with Mr. Filoni and
found him to be humble and quite enthusiastic. He is both a professional and a
fan like most of us and he has the honor to count George Lucas as one of his
mentors too. Now how cool is that? Below is a transcript of our discussion.
Rivera: Hi Mr. Filoni. How are you?
Filoni: Iím all right Mark how are you?
Fine thank you. I have a question with regard to the storyline and with regard
to the new series and the previous series. I noticed while looking through the
press materials as well as some of the episodes that there have been some slight
changes and Iíd like to know is this new series considered cannon for Star
or is it more expanded universe and does it counteract the previous series or
does the previous series still count or is it open to whatever you and George
You know one of the biggest debates in Star
is what counts? You know the idea of what is cannon and you know when I talked
to George, I know George always considers his movies cannon yet as a fan I bring
him a lot of information that is expanded universe and I get that information to
see how he wants me to use it or review it. There is never an implicit
connection between the micro-series Cartoon Network did previously and the
series weíre doing now, but Iíll try and add little touches and things that
I know the fans, who are well versed in that expanded universe will know and
understand that this event is taking place kind of along side this. Weíre
trying to make what we can from the expanded universe really jell and I
certainly never think of it as discrediting any of the other material. Itís
just that you know, ďitís from a different point of viewĒ and a different
look at the war and take on the war. Itís an ever-expanding universe in a lot
How many episodes per season are you producing and whatís the difference
between being the director of the feature film Star
Wars: The Clone Wars
and being the supervising director of the television series that follows it?
Well weíre going to have 22 episodes in the first season and the difference
between directing the feature and directing the TV seriesÖ a lot of the ways
we were producing the material was episodically and then when it grew into the
movie there was not a lot of difference, but at the end of the day I had to
wrangle the entire time period for the movie and the series and that specific
storyline of material was detailed in a much greater way while when I supervise
the entire series, Iím involved with every aspect of it from the story and all
the way out to the final edit and the color correct, but I have episodic
directors that are handling each episode that I guide and give them notes and
mentor on how George Lucas likes the story told and how Iíd like the story
told so the series is very collaborative and every now and then Iíll actually
direct one of the episodes entirely by myself, but I have other episode
directors, who are great, that work under me as I work on very different areas
so itís kind of a choice of being included in all of it and working on the
whole thing as supervising director where as the episodic directors are working
on one story within the big picture so you give a little. You take a little, you
knowÖ I loved being an episodic director for what I did in Avatar
because you can really focus on the one story, but then you know itís fun to
be involved in the big picture as well. So thatís the difference.
Will we get episodes that are purely from the point of view of the Confederacy
and also how do you handle the challenge where for example, in the previous
series, we didnít know what was going to happen in Revenge
Of The Sith
except for the basics and now everyone has seen Revenge
Of The Sith,
especially the fans and weíre dealing with storylines where we can see the
tragedy, like from the first two episodes of the series I screened, I know the
Clone Troopers are going to lose their humanity when order 66 is given. How do
you handle that in a dramatic way so people donít just tune out and say, ďI
know what happens. Itís depressing. These characters are all going to die and
this person will betray them.Ē Also, forgive me for saying this, but I realize
the battle droids are supposed to be comic relief to some extent, but there are
a little too many ďRoger, RogersĒ
Though I enjoy it, I admit.
Yeah, Iíll answer each point one at a time if I can. An episode from the
separatist point of view I think is a great idea and it is something we play
around with. We have gotten close to doing that, but we havenít done one
thatís particularly a day in the life of General Grievous or everything from a
battle droid point of view. Weíve discussed it and I think thatís one of the
nice things about doing the series is that we can take these different points of
view, which I think is important and it really ties in with something Obi-Wan
Kenobi always says that ďmany of the truths we cling to depend largely on our
own point of view.Ē Well what is the separatist point of view because I always
thought as a fan, itís interesting that Dooku claims the senate is corrupt and
thus being a separatist is a completely just cause, well heís telling the
truth from a certain point of view. And I think Iím very open to telling those
stories and am just figuring out the best way to do one like that.
far as knowing what the ending is, I think one of the things about the prequels
was we were all just waiting for Anakin to become Darth Vader. I wanted to see
him in that suit again and hear the voice. Thatís what I wanted more than
anything and it is a challenge because we know what happens to Anakin, we know
what happens to Obi-Wan, we even know that clones betray them. But I think that
by building up interesting characters within this storyline. Within this part of
the saga that we know what happens to the clones, but we donít know what
happens to Captain Rex? We know what happens to the Jedi, but specifically what
happened to Ahsoka? The fans are already asking those questions and if we plan
the story correctly, knowing that there is this tidal wave of dramatic
experience for both the clones and the Jedi and the Republic coming to an end.
Now which of these characters will survive that? Will any of them survive that
becomes the question and we donít know what happens to Ahsoka. We donít know
what happens to Captain Rex. Even Asajj Ventress, there has been a version of
what happened to her in the comic books. Sometimes there are different versions
of what happened to her so how does she meet her end? I think we are starting to
see the Star
through those characters as opposed to the big classic ones we know like Yoda,
Anakin, and Obi-Wan. There always there and hopefully it will be compelling and
will keep the audience wondering and we also give little pieces of the puzzle
along the way. Weíll tell you a little bit more about Palpatine and weíll
tell you a little bit more about Anakinís relationship with him. Things like
that that help make things easier to understand on a deeper or different level
so when you watch Revenge
Of The Sith
again and then you go, ďOh I see. I understand better why that occurred.Ē
battle droids are an interesting one. My take on the battle droids personally is
the standard battle droid was built at a time before the war and they were built
to protect freighter convoys and that lends into their goofiness. You know
theyíre not as serious as the world that is coming. The world of the Empire
and I think as we move forward in the war you start to see the droids change.
Not necessarily the ďRoger, RogerĒ droids, but the super battle droids are
already more menacing than the regular battle droids and the destroyer droids
are more menacing than the super battle droids and we have other new types of
droids, more diabolical droids. Itís kind of as the war goes on, the serious
nature of the universe is being created by all these evil forces. Itís a
progressive thing and where we are at now is kind of like the highflying times
of adventure in the Clone Wars where maybe it will end in a month or two.
I have my own point of view about the Ahsoka character. Iíll tell you what I
thought of and you donít have to tell me if Iím right or wrong.
We all know Anakin has a problem with loss so pretty much I figure the
setup there is Ahsoka is another person for him to lose. How is he going to be
able to let go of her as a student? Now I might be wrong, but from one fan to
another, even though weíre both professionals, I wanted to share that point of
view and I was wondering while I realize you canít reveal spoilers, in working
with the series, is there already a broad story arc for the entire series in
place because I think I read somewhere that George is interested in making the
series approximately one hundred episodes long or something along those lines.
So in your mind, do you have a broad idea of where you want to take each season
if it goes the full length and where you want it to end?
It is actually something Iím constantly working on now. Iíve given how this
all wraps up and how this connects to Revenge
Of The Sith
and I have been thinking about it and Iíve shot it all in my head about five
different ways and had different endings and different outcomes for things.
Iíve talked a little bit about this with George, but Iím really working out,
frankly how it works. For me I like to present things to him and get his
thoughts on it. He likes when I come at him with ideas. Yeah Iím always
working on what the bigger overall story is, especially now that we have a lot
of episodes under our belt and we know what weíre doing with this period and
what George wants us to do with this is the big question. What is a Star
television series like and how does that work? We know how some of these stories
come out. We know what happens to the Jedi. We know what happens to the clones
and know the Empire gets formed. How do you create a series and suspend interest
knowing those facts and thatís one of the things we keep working on. I hit
different people up with different questions and itís exciting. We plot things
out and even if it doesnít happen that way in the end, weíre always working
observations about Ahsoka are interesting because I like that your connecting it
with ideas about Anakin and I think of knowing what Anakin is like and how he is
teaching her and understanding that in the movie, we are showing Anakin as a
very good person and someone who cares and not just someone definitely drawn to
the dark side and these are all important things that effect her in the future,
but I canít give away anything more than that. As you can tell, Iíd love to
have a huge fan discussion with you.
Maybe after one season at a comic con I can have a big Star
get together and everyone can say ďDave, why did you guys do this because I
didnít want that to happen?Ē or ďHey I liked that.Ē Iíd love to do
that kind of thing. So I just appreciate the question.
Thank you. Is the live action series going to happen? I know itís not true
until the Lucasfilm Press Department tells us. So do you think you will
eventually make the transition to directing live action like the way Andrew
Adamson went from directing the first two Shrek
films to directing the first two Narnia
Thatís really far out for me right now, but I think that everything that
Iíve learned from George has really gotten me interested in live action. We
had several discussions about the difference between how he does things in a
live action film and how I learned to do things as an animation director and you
know I really look at a lot of what I do, the future of my career as being
credit to George because he has been my primary teacher now for the last three
Youíre very lucky.
Exactly so I think if I did anything like moving on to live action, he would be
incredibly proud I was able to make that leap and it was really in large course
due to a lot of what he has taught me. Filmmaking in the end is storytelling
using images Ė animation or live action.
He strikes me like the way you describe him. Kind of the way Francis Ford
Coppola taught him when he worked with him so you are one of the Padawans I guess. I actually was an intern for Lucasfilm a
long time ago, it was back in 1990 and there was nothing happening aside from Young
and obviously I couldnít talk about that back then with all those things the
make you sign before you get started. I have heard him described as the
benevolent dictator or whatnot. Would you say there is truth to that and you
donít have to answer that by the wayÖ
I donít want to put you in an awkward situation; you know what I mean because
hey man, you have the dream gig.
Right. George has been great to me and he has been a big part of everything
weíve done and thatís been my experience. Heís definitely a creative force
and itís been fun for me to work with him. I think I had to earn a lot of
trust and respect, but when coming in to work on his baby, a universe he
created, you have to earn his trust. You to prove yourself and all I can say is
that it has been nothing but a positive experience for me at Lucasfilm as a fan
coming here it has been very positive. Itís a great place to work and a very
I saw that in the film you directed Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, and well
Anthony Daniels is probably the best sport in the world, I mean he always
provides the voice on everything featuring C3PO and in the TV series you have
people who are very good at what they do and they do a great job at portraying a
character, but when you direct actors, whether it is Christopher Lee for the
feature film or the person who does Dookuís voice for the TV series, do you
get to give the actors a bit more freedom on how they say a line or even adlib?
Working with actors is a very collaborative process. Itís important to tell
the actors that while they are playing an iconic character, they really have to
be the character in their own right. I want them to bring a lot of themselves to
the role as well.
Wars: The Clone Wars
premieres on Cartoon Network with two episodes beginning at 8pm (ET/PT) on
Friday, October 3, 2008.
Copyright 2008 By Mark A. Rivera
All Rights Reserved.
Read My Review Of The Series Premiere Episodes Of Star Wars: The Clone Wars By Clicking Here!
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