“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” These ten words began my journey. From the time I first saw them materialize onto my old television as a young child I, like Luke Skywalker staring at the twin suns on the horizon, knew I would be whisked away to adventures beyond my imagination. How was I to know the impact of what came after?
If I’m being honest, I can’t even remember how old I was when I first saw the Star Wars movies, but what I will never forget is the way they shaped me into the person I am today. Am I a nerd? Absolutely. Nerdiness always had a rather negative connotation when I was a child, but what other people thought never stopped me from loving what I wanted. These movies, so special to so many people, inspired me to dream bigger than myself and create stories as epic as a war in the stars. Furthermore, I found myself set on a path of passion that I continue down to this day. As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a filmmaker (this is where I would metaphorically slam the trunk), and Star Wars was the franchise that led me in this direction.
Growing up a nerd in the 2000’s could be tough. This was back before popular media like the Big Bang Theory made the nerd/ geek culture mainstream, so kids like me were minorities as far as our interests went. Not that Star Wars was ever uncool per se, but I also happened to be interested in many other, less popular, things such as comic book heroes (a passion that continues to this day, but a topic for a different essay). My point is that nerd culture was unpopular and I was in the middle of it. Luckily for me my friends happened to be fans of all the same things, so I was never outcast by them, but I remember many times where I attempted to share my interests with adults and was shunned because they weren’t interested.
The reader shouldn’t feel badly for me. I was a mature kid; I got over it. Other children were sometimes less than kind about my fandoms as well and, though I was never bullied, I might have had more friends had I chosen to “fit in” more. Frankly, I couldn’t care less. I wouldn’t want to be friends with a bunch of uncultured children anyways! For the record, I am not bitter. In fact I preferred to be a relative loner because it gave me time to indulge in my new interest: creating stories.
Star Wars, when broken down to its basic structure, is essentially Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey split plainly over three movies. The relative simplicity of the tale on display is why I fell in love with storytelling in the first place. Every good story has to start with “Once Upon a Time” right? In this case, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” is the beginning, but the principle is the same. Such simple, yet captivating, words capture the imagination and send the viewer into another world where a simple farmboy, whose only ambition was to pick up power converters, would one day find himself leading a rebellion to vanquish evil itself.
The beauty in the character of Luke Skywalker is that he represents anybody watching. Luke is as new to the universe as I was watching these movies for the first time, and he was my eyes and ears to this fantastic world. When he was a whining farmboy, I wanted to get off Tatooine too; when he was a padawan learner I felt his frustration at the old and infuriating Master Yoda; and when he was a Jedi, I felt like I too could stare into the face of evil and declare my allegiance to the light, even when surrounded by darkness.
Essentially, Star Wars showed me the beauty in good storytelling. With my mind enlightened to the beauty in stories, I knew that my destiny was to become a story maker! Not only was I to become a story-maker: I was to become a story-teller. The original trilogy provided me inspiration to create stories, but it wasn’t until I watched the Prequels that I knew what medium I wanted to tell them in.
Reviled as they are among many sections of the fanbase, the Prequel trilogy is as much a part of my childhood as the originals and they deserve their mention in my little essay of personal influences. While The Phantom Menace might not be the most exciting movie to ever hit theatres, it features some of my favourite moments in my favourite franchise: namely the Duel of the Fates sequence at the climax. As a child, my younger brother would request to watch this scene every single day. I’m not exaggerating that: Every single day. Being slightly older than he was, my more sophisticated brain was able to look beyond the spectacle and examine the working components of the scene (as much as a seven year old kid can anyways). I found myself enamoured with everything on display: expertly choreographed swordfighting, dazzling special effects, brilliant orchestral score and cues, and yet still more. I realized somewhere in my relatively small mind that a compelling story doesn’t necessarily have to be heard or read; it can be shown too. With this thought firmly in place I was determined from that moment forward to become a filmmaker. What is a filmmaker but a visual storyteller after all? Twelve years later and this is still my career of choice. This, beyond “fanboy-ism”, is one of the reasons I defend the Prequels to this day: they inspired me. I couldn’t have asked for any more from a film franchise about space Nazis, monks, and magic.
A nerd from the time I was a child, I’ve always loved the Star Wars franchise with a passion. Of course the spectacle, action, and fun of the movies are what drew me to them in the first place, but it’s the stories and groundbreaking film techniques the films pioneered that keep me coming back. For most of my life the influence these movies had on me went unnoticed, but within the last two or three years I have grown to see what they have turned me into: I am a Jedi like my father before me. The child inside me can still wish for that I suppose, but that childlike wonder I experience when watching these films still gives me inspiration for my writing today. Upon ending this examination of the biggest influence in my life, I think I’m going to go outside tonight and stare at the sunset for a while as I picture what kind of stories I can tell. May the force be with you!