Abandoned projects

During last week’s spring break, my 12 year old made it a point to watch all of the Star Wars DVDs, including Episodes I (The Phantom Menace), II (Attack of the Clones), and the original trilogy. To make sure he is up to speed for the upcoming release of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, he also bought and watched (several times!) the animated Clone Wars Vol. 1. Needless to say, when he happened to be watching when I was home I sat down and watched with him.

Though I have to admit I’m not an admirer of George Lucas as a screenwriter or director (my favorite of the Star Wars films has always been Empire Strikes Back , directed by Irvin Kershner and co-written by Lawrence Kasdan), I’ve always been fascinated with his approach to making movies, exemplified by the following quote:

A movie is never finished, only abandoned.

The quote above came to mind as I was answering Ian’s questions about the original trilogy and what is was like to see them in the theaters. Of course, the conversation wound its way to the special editions of the movies in theaters, then the re-release on VHS.

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As I’m sitting here composing this post, I’ve got iTunes in the background playing my library in shuffle mode. What just came on? Yep, the Star Wars Main Title. From the Return of the Jed Soundtrack – Special Edition version no less. Sorry for the interruption, but I just had to write this down.
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As we watched the DVDs, I would tell Ian where something was different, where things were added from the original to the Special Editions. Even I was caught by surprise though at the end of Return of the Jedi. I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, suffice it to say that the special edition was tweaked just a bit for the DVD version, so there are now 3 different versions of Return of the Jedi. (And yes, I’ve got all three versions 😉

I think we all at some point have “abandoned” projects, not because we thought we were finished but because it was time to stop. Some deadlines are hard, and you don’t have any choice but to deliver what you have. For example (again from Lucas):

Though Episode II was shot entirely digitally, it still had to be transferred to film for display in theaters. This meant that the “final” edit had to be complete about 2 weeks before release date for printing and distribution. It was printed and distributed, but Lucas wasn’t really finished with the film and continued to edit a final final cut right up until release, when the digital version was distributed to the few theaters in the country that have digital projection. The vast majority of people that saw the movie in theaters did not see the “final” version of the film (which, by the way, is the version that is on the DVD.)

I’m not sure what my point is, if there is one, in this rambling post. On the one hand, there is the desire to have your art (and if the results of our work is not art, what is the point) truly reflect your vision for it, to make it as complete as possible. On the other hand is the practical reality that dictates to us that at some point we have to stop, whether we want to or not.

Just something to think about…