Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our sixty-eighth guest was the Internet Content Manager for Lucas Online, which includes starwars.com and indianajones.com, a writer for Star Wars Insider, co-author of Star Wars Chronicles: The Prequels and Editor of Sculpting a Galaxy: The Models of Star Wars – Pablo Hidalgo.
Lightsabre – Pablo, welcome to Lightsabre.
PH – Thanks for having me.
Lightsabre – Tell us something of your career. How and where did you begin and what led you to where you are today?
PH – My professional Star Wars career started in 1995, when I began freelancing for West End Games, first as a cartoonist, then as a writer and illustrator. My time with WEG got the attention of Steve Sansweet, who was looking for Star Wars fact-checkers to look over his then-in-progress Star Wars Encyclopedia. I volunteered to look over his manuscript, and then nearly choked his fax machine with 80 pages of nit-picky corrections. Clearly, this was before email was mainstream. Steve must have remembered my diligence and I must have said the right things when I interviewed for a position with Lucas Online in 2000.
But before all that, I had a variety of skill-expanding jobs, including traditional 2-D animator, art instructor for kids, copywriter, storyboard artist, concept illustrator, corporate communications guy, and, for at least two hours, a telemarketer when things were pretty low. Almost all of that has been helpful in some way in my current job.
Lightsabre – During your time at Lucasfilm you have become involved with some of the most exciting projects associated with Star Wars – the website, the blogs and the books. Which aspect gives you the most satisfaction?
PH – It’s hard to pick one. From a fan’s point of view, it’s getting to work with the characters, places, props – ingredients – of the space fantasy you fell in love with as a starry-eyed little kid. From a professional point of view, it’s creating a product that comes with a huge, devoted and excited fan-base, ready to devour what you’ve worked on. It’s a far cry from writing for some weekly newspaper that gets thrown out in coffee shops after five minutes. It’s rewarding to know your stuff is being looked at.
Lightsabre – You are well known for your knowledge of the saga. Where did your love for Star Wars begin?
PH – It’s the old story: boy meets action figure. I was born in 1974, making me part of the Star Wars generation. You weren’t allowed on playgrounds in the ‘70s and ‘80s if you didn’t speak Star Wars. It wasn’t until I was a teenager, though, that I noticed that Star Wars stuck with me when a lot of other trappings from my bell-bottomed days didn’t. I inadvertently became one of those trivia-absorbing fanboys when I picked up the old West End Games roleplaying books and realized the possibility of an entire expanding universe of Star Wars adventures waiting to be discovered.
Lightsabre – What has it been like to be a part of the Star Wars phenomenon?
PH – Equal parts thrilling and exhausting. It really has opened up so many opportunities for me that I would not have had otherwise, and has sent me around the world to witness some pretty things and meet some pretty amazing people. But, once in a while, the endless strings of 12-hour days and seven-day weeks take their toll, and you really have to find ways to escape. What’s tough about being a fan with a job on the inside is that the object of your fandom is your work, so it’s nearly impossible to unplug. If I ever did make it to the beach, I’d be the guy with the laptop and a Star Wars novel.
Lightsabre – You co-authored Star Wars Chronicles – The Prequels with Stephen Sansweet. Explain to us some of the process behind bringing that amazing book to print.
PH – That one was fun, but I’d really have to credit Steve with a lot of the early work. He brought me on when it became apparent that getting that book out in the thick of 2005’s cluster of deadlines would be impossible to pull off single-handedly. Since I was involved in a lot of the lore-sorting, gathering, and establishing that was going on with Episode III characters, places and things, and had seen first-hand the genesis of a lot of those things, he figured it’d be easy for me to write it.
And it was, after all the pictures tell the story. The captions are just dressing.
Lightsabre – What do your duties with the official Star Wars site include? As the site updates daily, there must be plenty to oversee?
PH – There definitely is plenty, and that description is now changing by the day. For 10 years, starwars.com has been handled like a newspaper driven by marketing. That made perfect sense, because it existed to primarily tell the world about the prequel trilogy as it was being produced and released. A few years into its run, it began to focus on community since the guys who helmed the content were coming from a fan background.
The next evolution which is currently underway is to make starwars.com more of an entertainment destination in and of itself – rather than a place to read about what other people are doing with Star Wars. So, we’re looking at having more things to do, more types of community interaction, and original Star Wars experiences you won’t be able to get anywhere else. News will still be there, but it won’t be the primary focus of the site the way it is now. The challenge is whenever you implement any change on a site that’s 10,000 pages deep, it requires a lot of work and careful prioritization.
Duties vary from high-level planning and recommendations of what to do with the site, planning the site’s editorial calendar for the year, and overseeing the work of our writers. I don’t do much writing on the site these days like I used to do three years ago, but every now and then interesting opportunities present themselves like writing and illustrating original webstrips.
Lightsabre – What were your feelings on Revenge of the Sith? Having been present for much of it on set through the webcam, you must have a whole batch of thoughts on how the final film impacted on Star Wars history.
PH – Most of the thoughts were recorded in the set diaries, so in addition to being able to witness all this, I was grateful to have an outlet to record all of it. As a movie, I really dug it, and was still able to experience it as a movie on first viewing despite having seen it all come together. On second viewing, though, what came through were memories of the making of each particular scene.
Lightsabre – With a fourth Indiana Jones film entering production in June 2007 what can fans expect from the official Indiana Jones site?
PH – That has yet to be determined – after all, there are many new people who have a say in that decision, like Steven Spielberg and the folks at Paramount. I’m definitely looking forward to see what direction it will take and what it will mean for indianajones.com.
Lightsabre – If you could make any alterations to the Star Wars story, what would it be?
PH – Nothing for the films. There’s some expanded universe material that I’d love to see retold or reinterpreted in different formats.
Lightsabre – While attending conventions and shows do you enjoy the interaction with Star Wars fans?
PH – Of course, and in many ways, in person is the best … the drive-by anonymity of the Internet can sometimes be a bit unsettling. Meeting folks face-to-face reminds you how varied the Star Wars fan audience is.
Lightsabre – Will we be seeing you at Celebration Europe? And if so, what’s your poison, because the first round is on us.
PH – Yet to be determined. Someone will go from starwars.com, undoubtedly, but I don’t know if it’ll be me. But your offer makes the invitation hard to resist.
Lightsabre – Is there a dream project that you think about attempting?
PH – Yes. And, the good news, despite it being a rather scary project, it’s still on the table and actively being pursued.
Lightsabre – What lies ahead for you in the future?
PH – Plotting out the next phases of starwars.com. I hope to get some more book projects in ’08, and not necessarily just Star Wars ones if I’m lucky.
Lightsabre – A quick question about our site, Lightsabre. Any comments?
PH – Elegant and civilized, as the name suggests.
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest on Lightsabre. Just one final question. George Lucas calls you into his office, but instead of offering you a seat he asks you to remain standing. It’s only then that you catch the foul stench of a rancor, which is prowling the pit beneath your feet. Lucas eyes you up and down before asking you a question.
“Paploo, I have a problem. I’ve got this book about plaid shirts I want you to co-write, but because I’m so busy I need an author to ghost write my half for me. I’ve got it down to a list of three, and I want you to choose who it should be.”
His thumb hovers over the pad that opens the trap doors and the sweat beads across your forehead as he continues.
“I’m thinking either:
1 – J K Rowling
2 – P J O’ Rourke
3 – Stephen King
“Who should I pick?”
PH – King, if you need it for next week. In two weeks, I could probably do it.
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 6th May 2007.