Script to Screen Strikes Back with ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

Cynthia Zhu/TBL Photography

Joanne Rhee
Staff Writer

The University of California, Santa Barbara’s “Script to Screen” series wrapped up its fifth season with a showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, followed by a talk with Oscar-nominated editor Maryann Brandon. As Matthew Ryan, director of the Pollock Theater, put it, “What more awesome way to end it, than ending it with Star Wars: The Force Awakens?”

The sold-out show drew a diverse crowd. Students, community members and children of all ages came together for the same reason: to enter the world of a galaxy far, far away.

One of the best ways to do a movie justice is by watching it in 4K digital projection at Pollock Theater. The Force Awakens is the latest installment of the Star Wars movie franchise, which follows main characters Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) in their quest to defeat the evil First Order and find the missing Luke Skywalker.

The film has received over 100 award nominations, including five Oscar nominations for Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects and Original Score.

Following the screening of the movie was an intimate talk with editor Maryann Brandon, who has worked on multiple films and television shows. Some of her other work include Star Trek: Into Darkness, Mission Impossible III, Alias and How to Train Your Dragon.

For those wondering about the answer to one of the biggest questions about the film, who Rey’s parents are, Brandon cleared the air by admitting she doesn’t know. In fact, nobody does and it’s still in the works.

Many fans of the film know the intense effort put in by director J.J. Abrams to prevent any details from being leaked. When asked about the secrecy behind reading the script, Brandon pulled out her copy of the script.

“Well, I brought the original script and as you can see, it’s red. Red. It has my name plastered all over it, on every page. So if it got out, they would know who it was; and you can’t xerox it. And you get locked in a room and you have to read it,” said Brandon. “I don’t know if you’ve ever read anything 140 pages long on red paper, but it wreaks havoc on your brain.”

This seventh movie of the Star Wars saga has been praised for its use in practical effects rather than relying heavily on computer-generated imagery (CGI). Brandon disclosed that a lot of the chase scenes were driven by the actors, their words and their actions. They put in CGI after scenes were shot to fit into the rhythm of the film.

However, CGI was also cleverly used to manipulate details in some scenes. In the first conversation between Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and Snoke (Andy Serkis), Kylo Ren’s mask was digitally added in post-production. This was due to the decision of revealing Kylo Ren’s face later in the plot.

Brandon also revealed insecurities the crew of the film had while working with a movie with a large fan base. “It was more than just slight [worry]. It was pervasive in everyday. There were days where we were just like ‘what if this doesn’t work? What if they hate it?’ …There was a lot of pressure,” Brandon said. “There was a great effort to be true to the film and it was really important to us.”