Recently, Odin’s Movie Blog made in an interesting video, about a Reddit thread posted by Reddit user saltierthancrait talking about the experience of the members in the Lucasfilm Story Group:
You can read the original Reddit thread here, but I’ll also post the test on this blog:
Yesterday I wrote a comment looking for more information on the Story Group and the people involved. I went ahead and started researching and was absolutely dumbfounded to discover that collectively they have practically ZERO experience in writing or entertainment. It was suggested that I make a post with some of that info, so here it is.
Kiri Hart’s experience is… to say the least… lacking. Her writing credentials are: 1 episode of Crossing Jordan in 2003 and 1 episode of 1-800-Missing also in 2003. She worked as a story editor on 7 episodes of Crossing Jordan in 2003, and then nothing is listed on her IMDB until 2014 when she earned a credit on a Phineas and Ferb Star Wars special. I have absolutely no idea why this person was chosen to lead the new Lucasfilm Story Group that would be in charge of continuity and crafting the overarching stories between the trilogies and stand alone films. Not only did she never work on anything Star Wars, but she only ever wrote TWO EPISODES OF TELEVISION 9 YEARS BEFORE BEING HIRED BY KATHLEEN KENNEDY. WTF…..
Kathleen Kennedy founded the group in 2012 when she succeeded George Lucas as president of Lucasfilm, putting Kiri Hart, a former film and TV writer, in charge of the unit. Ms. Hart’s first move was to make the story group entirely female, starting with Rayne Roberts and Carrie Beck. Both women had experience in film development but had also worked in other arenas — Ms. Roberts in magazine publishing, and Ms. Beck with the Sundance Institute.
Rayne Roberts IMDB states that her experience (prior to Story Group) was as an assistant to someone on a movie called Life As We Know It and as an associate producer for a 2008 documentary called The Fair Trade. That’s it, nothing else before joining the Lucasfilm Story Group.
Carrie Beck’s experience isn’t any better. Her only experience listed on IMDB before joining the Story Group was as an executive producer for a made for TV movie in 2010 called Ghosts/Aliens. That’s all. Pretty weak “experience in film development” as the New York Times article put it.
Leland Chee has the most experience with Star Wars prior to joining the LSG (Lucasfilm Story Group). His experience with Star Wars was as a GAME TESTER IN 1998 as well as working in Lucasfilm Licensing in 2006. Not exactly a writer, but at least this person had some experience working on Star Wars projects, even if it was just testing video games in the 90s.
Pablo Hidalgo is the most well known name in the LSG but his credentials aren’t any better than his peers. His experience prior to joining the LSG was as an uncredited visual artist on 3 projects in 1999 and 2000. Then he played an uncredited extra in Revenge of the Sith in 2005 then that’s it before joining the LSG. Pretty weak credentials for someone who is supposed to be in charge of crafting large overarching stories and maintaining consistency as well as dealing with the public via social media. He had no experience in any of those things before joining the LSG.
Josh Rimes is one of the more experienced members of the LSG having worked as a producer on Bojack Horseman and The Booth at the End in 2010 and 2014 as well as working as a “logger” and “production secretary” for Curb Your Enthusiasm and a series called Smith in the 00s. At least this guy had some notable experience in the entertainment world before joining the LSG. He also wrote 1 television episode of a show called Stranger Adventures in 2006. This makes him the only other member of the Lucasfilm Story Group who has actually written anything besides Kiri Hart. The sum total of their writing credentials are 3 television episodes in the 00s………… wtf…….
Last but not least comes Cara Pardo who had no experience before joining the LSG and her only credits are as herself in The Star Wars After Show as well as an extra on The Star Wars show. She is listed as an executive assistant for the LSG so she probably is getting lunch for people like Kiri Hart, Rayne Roberts and Carrie Beck and she probably isn’t very involved in the story or creative direction of Star Wars.
I don’t know about the rest of you but I am speechless. I really don’t know what to say…. How the Hell did this happen? Why did Disney let a group of people with zero experience play such important roles in the franchise they paid 4 BILLION dollars for? The members of the LSG are probably getting 6 figure salaries too.
My biggest question however is what exactly was the metric used by Kathy Kennedy and Kiri Hart for hiring these people? It obviously wasn’t writing, entertainment, film or television experience… nor was it experience in the Star Wars universe. It looks like they only hired one person from within Lucasfilm’s existing pool of employees (Leland Chee from Lucas Licensing)…. so what exactly were the qualifications and experience they were looking for when choosing people to hire for the Lucasfilm Story Group? That’s what I want to know. I want to know why they hired this batch of people who are so obviously unqualified.
EDIT— /u/TheMastersSkywalker has also done some research into the Lucasfilm Story Group and his detailed post can be found here: /r/saltierthancrait/comments/8znhh3/so_who_is_the_story_group_and_what_are_their_main/
The text for the Reddit thread by TheMasterSkywalker reads as such:
I have seen this question asked multiple times on here. People don’t really know who they are and what they do but when the canon wipe came they were sold as being the key to the NEU. So what is the purpose of the story group,who are they, what do they do, and what have they done before?
The Lucasfilm story group was created in 2013 by Kathleen Kennedy and Lucasfilm VP Kiri Hart with the goal of abolishing the canon hierarchy and is responsible for determining what is canon and noncanon for the star wars universe. Or to use the Vanity Fair quote
Part of what makes Lucasfilm’s new system work is that Kennedy has set up a formidable support structure for her filmmakers. Upon her arrival, she put together a story department at Lucasfilm’s San Francisco headquarters, overseen by Kiri Hart, a development executive and former screenwriter she has long worked with. The story group, which numbers 11 people, maintains the narrative continuity and integrity of all the Star Wars properties that exist across various platforms: animation, video games, novels, comic books, and, most important, movies. “The whole team reads each draft of the screenplay as it evolves,” Hart explained to me, “and we try, as much as we can, to smooth out anything that isn’t connecting.”
But what they do and how they do it, and how much power they have over what happens seems to differ from interview to interview. In the now well known vanity fair interview RJ says their was no mapped story for TFA and that he was given a lot of leeway. In fact here is the full quote
What the story group does not do, Hart said, is impose plot-point mandates on the filmmakers. Johnson told me he was surprised at how much leeway he was given to cook up the action of Episode VIII from scratch. “The pre-set was Episode VII, and that was kind of it,” he said. If anything, Johnson wanted more give-and-take with the Lucasfilm team, so he moved up to San Francisco for about six weeks during his writing process, taking an office two doors down from Hart’s and meeting with the full group twice a week
(https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/05/star-wars-the-last-jedi-cover-portfolio) and when questioned on that and the fact that it conflicts with what KK said he doubles down on it https://i.redd.it/rou03k7aad0z.png .
However, the purpose of the Lucasfilm Story Group goes far deeper than simply streamlining canon. At its core, the group is much more about developing new stories, by coordinating efforts in all related media to create a more unified and satisfying meta-story, or as the title of the panel states, “One Big Story.” Still, after decades of stories that occasionally contradicted each other, (resulting in a five-tiered approach to canon, ranging from “established history” to “not real”) some fans were skeptical as to whether even a coordinated effort between Lucasfilm and Disney would eventually result in a similarly chaotic continuity. Also known as “Keeper of the Holocron” and Lucasfilm’s resident “Star Wars” expert, Chee merely said the group doesn‘t anticipate that problem. Hidalgo assured, “We won’t fall back into past practices.” https://www.cbr.com/swca-reinventing-the-star-wars-universe-with-the-lucasfilm-story-group/
I could speak about about the “teirs and contradictions” but that is not the point of this post. This post is simply about what the story group does. So it says that they are there to make the universe one big story and that everything fits.
In fact Kathleen Kennedy described them as a “star wars writers room” and says that “Ideas are being plotted out for projects though 2022” along with comments by Matt Martin saying that Lucasfilm is “committed to a shared continuity”. https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/04/entertainment/star-wars-may-the-4th/index.html
“We’ve thought this all through. The story group has put together a very carefully thought-through strategic plan for how we’re developing the stories and what those stories are and targeting filmmakers. We’ve looked at it up through, I would say, 2019, Episode IX.” http://collider.com/star-wars-episode-viii-story-kathleen-kennedy-george-lucas/ Also from Pablo we get this gem about how they work with authors
While the term “Story Group” may make it sound like they are dictating the story, that’s not usually the case. In most cases, authors or filmmakers who are hired to work on Star Wars properties, are given the oppurtunity to come up with their own stories and ideas. While doing that, they work closely with the Story Group to make sure the stories are authentically Star Wars (for example, Darth Vader doesn’t dance or something) and also fit into the larger plan. Hidalgo said they’ve heard pitches from people who have great ideas for characters who are then told, “Come back in six years.” That’s because the story they’re pitching would fit in better with a character at another point in the future. https://www.slashfilm.com/lucasfilm-story-group-star-wars-canon/
We also get stuff from other interviews talking about “Pablo Hidalgo and Leland Chee spoke about fact-checking the tiniest of canonical details for public consumption. Their biggest hits are the “visual dictionaries” of photos and illustrations from the movies,” which in hindsight because their are multiple problems with the how the TFA and Solo visual dictionaries connect. https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/star-wars-celebration-lucasfilm-story-group/
We have a interview where Pablo comments that ” It is a common misconception that the Story Group exists to ensure continuity between the various media in which Star Wars stories are being told: films, novels, comics and video games…” http://eleven-thirtyeight.com/2016/08/europe-2016-a-celebration-of-the-lucasfilm-story-group/
He has also stated in tweets (that he has since deleted) that the word canon actually means very little to them when coming up with stories. But thats ok because while he may have deleted his tweet we have a interview from another member of the story group on how they feel about canon. Basically that their is no truth in the Star Wars universe and that everything can be changed if they so wish https://www.polygon.com/2017/4/13/15290994/star-wars-celebration-continuity
We also have Chuck Wendig saying that ” “I had a lot of freedom to develop and shape the story; guidance from Lucasfilm was about sharpening that story and bringing my vision in line with the storyworld at large. It was pretty much the ideal relationship, and I never felt stifled or managed”
OR Claudia Grey saying “”I thought, when they came to me, they were going to tell me what to write, but that was very much not the case. I had a lot of freedom. The outline had to be approved, but it was my outline and they really let me tell the story I wanted to tell. It was wonderful.””
We also have John Jackson Miller a Legends vetran say that it was more “”not so much a matter of content flowing in our direction as the authors, but like ‘Hey, here’s a character you should name-drop.'” For example, when he was writing his short story “Bottleneck” (which appears in The Rise of the Empire), he was asked to insert a character who would later appear in Alexander Freed’s Battlefront: Twilight Company.”
“Oh, so much freedom. It is absolutely the book that we wanted to write. I would say, there’s not really oversight, but there’s guidance, and that’s really an editor’s job. And [our editor] did a really terrific job with it” Says Ben Acker and Ben Blacker http://www.syfy.com/syfywire/how-star-wars-authors-work-with-lucasfilm-and-earn-creative-control
So basically that the Story group lets them do what ever they want as long as their are no major contradictions and that they are just there to add in little wink and you will miss it shout outs to other stories.
So that is their stated purpose. They are there to curate the canon (but at the same time don’t care about what is canon), are there to put in little wink and you will miss it shout outs and guide the writers (but at the same time give them lots of freedom), create a outline of the galaxy for the next ten years (but let the directors do what ever they want).
I’m not sure if that made it clearer or muddier. Not to mention the fact that their are already a number of canon mishaps in the universe, contradictions between VD’s and what we see on screen, and a comic writing a young reader book out of existence.
She has been given producer credits on Star Wars Rebels as well as co producer credits on Star Wars The Last Jedi and Rogue One. And a executive producer credit on a movie called Strange magic. However being a producer doesn’t mean she was part of the creative team. It just means her job is to bring in writers, actors, finance, etc for the project. And as head of the Development division is in charge of all of those projects.
However she is one of the few members of the story group to have writing credits to their name. She is credited for writing one episode of Rebels (Family Reunion..and Farewell) where she is one of eight writers on the team for that episode. One episode of Crossing Jordan called (Perfect Storm) and one episode of a show called 1-800-Missing called (Thin Air). She has no other writing credits, has published no novels or comics, and has no previous work in Sci-fi or Fantasy
She was in some way involved in the SWTOR: Galactic Star fighter expansion. She is also given Producer credit on the “canon adjacent” Lego show called Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures where her duties seemed to be working with the creators to keep it in line with canon.
“We work with the Story Group, and we work with a woman named Carrie Beck, and she has this smile… and when we pitch things to her and she smiles and says, ‘You can’t do that,’ we know that we’ve stumbled into Rogue One, Episode IX — who knows what. But seeing The Force Awakens before we started, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s why we couldn’t do that one story!'” ―Bob Roth responding to an interview on IGN
She is also given Executive producer status on the Forces of Destiny. An EP is concerned with management accounting and/or with associated legal issues and may or may not work on set. And finally a producer on a TV movie called (Ghosts/Aliens) which is at least a Sci-fi project. She has no writing credits nor has published any books or comics.
Third is Rayne Robers http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Rayne_Roberts who is the creative executive for Lucasfilm. Another producer she is given credits as that position for every star wars visual media project. Her job as a creative executive means she is tasked with reading scripts and finding source material which can be turned into motion picture content. So either looking at previous stories, reaching out to directors and writers and that kind of thing. She was also given credits as the assistant to the creative executive on (The Haunting in Connecticut 2) and (Life as we know it)
Next is Diana Williams http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Diana_Williams who is the Producer of Franchise Synergy. She is of course given production credit on Rebels like everyone previously and is some how connected to Galactic Star Fighter. She also appeared in a TV series called (Science and Star Wars)
While he has no writing or production credits nor has produced any comics or books he is possibly the most qualified to be on a committee called the Story Group as he has been in charge of keeping the lore straight for a long time.
Next is Pablo Hidalgo http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Pablo_Hidalgo who has been involved in a number of star wars projects such as the internet content manager for Lucas Online, some fan groups, and West End Games RPG books and serves as the Creative Executive in story development.
And next to Chee is probably the most qualified to be on a “Story group” (Though personally I would switch him for Jason Fry). Pablo has written 37 Reference Guides, Webstrips, short stories, and magazine articles. He is the only member to have published a book and/or comic.
Next is Matt Martin http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Matt_Martin who is a creative executive for Lucasfilm and the manager of digital content and community relations. Basically get on twitter and talk to fans and answer their questions.
He has a degree in Visual Communications which bascially means he has a degree on how to interact with people though media and sell ideas. He has no producing or directing credits and has no published a book or comic.
So thats its. The 11 members of the story group. OF which only 1 person on there has published a book or comic and only two have any actual writing credits (with only one being in star wars). For a story group their are no story tellers on it. The two that come close are both people’s whos job is to take the lore other people created, slice it down into small digestible bites, and publish it.
TLDR: So what did we learn? They are there to curate the canon (but at the same time don’t care about what is canon), are there to put in little wink and you will miss it shout outs and guide the writers (but at the same time give them lots of freedom), create a outline of the galaxy for the next ten years (but let the directors do what ever they want). And The 11 members of the story group. OF which only 1 person on there has published a book or comic and only two have any actual writing credits (with only one being in star wars).
Also I discovered this video that I like that says some of the same things. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMm0c6Asdds No idea who the bloke is but he comes to the same conclusion many of us have of why not grab someone like John Jackson Miller, Zhan, Luceno, Claudia Grey, etc and put them on the group or at least have them rotate in from time to time so what we can have people who have written books and comics and for video games in what is suppoused to be a writers group.
Edit: Apparently I and u/aveydey had the same idea.
Here’s the video that the second Reddit thread references:
And here’s the relevant text from the Polygon article that the Reddit thread references:
The disadvantage to this, however, is that there is “no truth” in the Star Wars universe because of how easy it is to change information, according to Lucasfilm’s Leeland Chee. Chee is one of three core members that belong to Lucasfilm’s story group, a select number of writers in charge of maintaining Star Wars’ continuity in every movie, game, book or other piece of media that relates to the Star Wars universe.
Matt Martin, another member of the story group, said that it makes writing a little more difficult when things in the Star Wars universe change as often as they do. That’s not even taking into account how important intricate details are. Information that they thought they knew turns out to be different, leading to a heap of research for any new development.
And then we have a recent lecture on canon from our old friend Chuck Wendig:
Well, canon usually just means “which books belong in a particularly authentic catalog,” which admittedly has its own problems. But canon in genre work is tricky at best. https://t.co/YUVvvhGEtl
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) July 19, 2018
It’s hard to keep a complex plot straight in a single novel-sized story; something like Star Wars is dozens of stories across multiple media with hundreds of creator input points. Stuff is going to get fiddly by its nature. And for me, I like it getting a little fiddly.
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) July 19, 2018
The Problem With Canon is that it demands viewing story as a series of rigorously tested data points. It demands we view story pieces as Historically True — which is weird because a) it’s fiction and b) even real-ass history is full of wild, ragged contradictions and “retcons.”
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) July 19, 2018
Don’t get me wrong — you definitely want consistency and authenticity binding stuff together. But as in life and history, stuff is rarely going to line up invisibly, and for me some of the fun is how it doesn’t. And that leaves room for fan theories and fanfic.
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) July 19, 2018
So what does all of this mean?
It’s an interesting line of inquiry to look into the experience of those within the Lucasfilm Story Group. Though I would caution readers, that these brief blurbs may not present the whole picture. While human maintained databases contain some information, they likely do not contain everything.
But what’s more interesting to me is the purpose and nature of the Lucasfilm Story Group. There’s a lot of confusing and conflicting information here.
On the one hand Vanity Fair tells us that it “maintains the narrative continuity and integrity of all the Star Wars properties that exist across various platforms.” On the other hand Pablo Hidalgo tells us that “It is a common misconception that the Story Group exists to ensure continuity between the various media in which Star Wars stories are being told: films, novels, comics and video games…” So which is it?
The CRB states, “At its core, the group is much more about developing new stories, by coordinating efforts in all related media to create a more unified and satisfying meta-story, or as the title of the panel states, ‘One Big Story.'” But then SlashFilm tells us that, “While the term “Story Group” may make it sound like they are dictating the story, that’s not usually the case. In most cases, authors or filmmakers who are hired to work on Star Wars properties, are given the oppurtunity to come up with their own stories and ideas. While doing that, they work closely with the Story Group to make sure the stories are authentically Star Wars (for example, Darth Vader doesn’t dance or something) and also fit into the larger plan.” So which is it?
Kathleen Kennedy states, “We’ve thought this all through. The story group has put together a very carefully thought-through strategic plan for how we’re developing the stories and what those stories are and targeting filmmakers. We’ve looked at it up through, I would say, 2019, Episode IX.” But then Kiri Hart says, “What the story group does not do, Hart said, is impose plot-point mandates on the filmmakers. Johnson told me he was surprised at how much leeway he was given to cook up the action of Episode VIII from scratch.” So which is it?
On the one hand CRB reports, “Still, after decades of stories that occasionally contradicted each other, (resulting in a five-tiered approach to canon, ranging from ‘established history’ to ‘not real’) some fans were skeptical as to whether even a coordinated effort between Lucasfilm and Disney would eventually result in a similarly chaotic continuity. Also known as ‘Keeper of the Holocron’ and Lucasfilm’s resident ‘Star Wars’ expert, Chee merely said the group doesn‘t anticipate that problem. Hidalgo assured, ‘We won’t fall back into past practices.'” On the other hand, Polygon reports, “‘There’s no such thing as truth,” Chee said. “Things that we assumed as truth, like 4-LOM is a bounty hunter that’s not a robot all of sudden changes. Anything is malleable.’ Matt Martin, another member of the story group, said that it makes writing a little more difficult when things in the Star Wars universe change as often as they do.” So which is it?
I think there’s two ways of looking at this conflicting information.
First, that the Lucsafilm Story Group is simply an utter chaotic mess, with no grand unifying vision to guide them.
Second, that the members of the Lucasfilm Story Group are coming up with their own unique descriptions of what the Lucasfilm Story Group does, because they’re being disingenuous, and not telling the public what the Lucasfilm Story Group is really up to.
So what are they up to?
Well we can look to the statements of authors like Chuck Wendig, Claudia Grey, John Jackson Miller, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, and even screenwriter Rian Johnson, who all seem to say that they were given an immense amount of freedom to tell whatever stories their hearts desired. We’re also told that “truth” is malleable, that in one book 4-LOM might be a bounty hunter, but maybe not in the next. So they’ve essentially traded the supposedly problematic “five-tiered approach to canon” for a hundred tiered approach, where each author gets to create their own special little canon within that “malleable truth.” And then of course we have Chuck Wendig’s rant against canon.
So the authors write the stories, and apparently aren’t burdened by canon continuity considerations, hence the great freedom they enjoyed.
So if writing stories, and/or maintaining canon continuity isn’t the primary function of the Lucasfilm Story Group, what is?
I submit the following speculation.
I suspect that the Lucasfilm Story Group’s primary purpose is to ensure that the right politically correct oppressed and marginalized groups are represented, and that a sufficient number of woke points are expressed. Remember, these are political activists rather than genuine artists.
Some of them may not want this to get out to the public. But others may not mention it simply because they view the injection of their politics into media as a neutral issue, and we can look to the lyrics of Chuck Wendig to understand how SJWs think in this regard:
sing along with me
🎶saying you don’t want politics in your stories
is itself a political opinion
and it means you just want to see your politics in stories instead
and stories have always been political
because politics is about people and power
and so are stories🎶
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) July 9, 2018
🎶and if you say that thing about stories being apolitical
it’s probably code for ‘I don’t like certain people showing up in those stories’
people acknowledged and with agency
which probably also means you don’t like those people showing up in real life
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) July 9, 2018
This would explain, why we get stories about Poe’s jacket rather than a Jedi artifact from antiquity. It would explain why we get stories about Lando admiring his own genitalia, rather than operations on his Cloud City. It would explain why we get stories about Han Solo’s racial equality, rather then his next big heist. It would explain why we get an hour of Holdo barking at Poe, rather than Leia calmly giving orders with the men simply carrying them out. It would explain why the patriarchal hero had to be seen milking alien teats, rather than ascending to higher states of consciousness through the Force. It would explain why Rey skipped the first phase of the Hero’s Journey. It would explain why we get Finn the janitor and Rose the mechanic, rather than Finn the TIE Fighter pilot and Rose the StarFortress bombardier. It would explain why it all sucks so bad.
The Lucasfilm Story Group isn’t much interested in telling stories about wars in the stars or building a grand mythology. Their primary focus is pushing political propaganda couched in Star Wars cosplay. And that would explain why the EU had to be firebombed and overwritten.