A Future of the Force exclusive interview with the original Director of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm
With so much going on with new Star Wars content coming out right now it is hard to imagine what it was like to be part of the franchise in its infancy. Fortunately, many of those that were there at the beginning and are willing to share their experiences. One of these is Craig Miller.
Craig Miller was the original Director of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm, working on Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. As part of that, he was deeply engaged with the efforts to bring the film to audiences in various ways. He created and ran the Official Star Wars Fan Club, worked with licensees on various products based on the characters from the films and even created a telephone publicity stunt that accidentally shut down the state of Illinois’ phone system. He was also the producer on projects ranging from episodes of Sesame Street to commercials for Underoos (“underwear that’s fun to wear”), operated R2-D2, and spent weeks hanging out on the set of The Empire Strikes Back.
He just released Star Wars Memories: My Time in the (Death Star) Trenches. This book gives an insider’s look from a fan of comics and science fiction who became part of Lucasfilm and Star Wars from almost the beginning with stories that have not been told before.
Craig Miller | Exclusive Interview
Welcome, Craig and thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions about Star Wars Memories.
PH: What inspired you to finally decide to write this book and tell these stories of working at Lucasfilm?
CM: I’ve been telling stories about Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back really since I started working for Lucasfilm back in the 1970s (that was kind of my job, after all) and have been telling them ever since – to friends, at conventions, on Facebook, etc. ever since. And for all these years, people have been saying “You should write a book”. I always thanked people but didn’t think I really had enough stories to fill a book. I don’t really know why but, one day, a couple years ago, I decided to try. I started writing my stories down. I figured if I had 50,000 words of stories, that would be enough for a book. Less than that would just be a pamphlet. It turned out when I was done, I had over 100,000 words.
PH: How did you arrive at the title of the book?
CM: When I started writing, I knew I was going to have to come up with a good title. Something descriptive and inviting. A friend on Facebook said something about “telling your memories of Star Wars” and that stuck in my mind. I noodled it around for a while and came up with “Star Wars Memories“.
PH: What kind of research did you have to do for the book and how much time did it take to gather what you needed?
Not so much research as trying to bring details to mind. I started out by making a list of topics. Things that happened that I could tell stories about. I ended up with a single-spaced list that ran a page and a half. Some of the stories in the book are ones I’ve told many times so they were easy. It just took putting them into a more worked-out form. Others, I had to spend some time trying to remember them in more detail. I got together with a couple friends from that period and told each of them what I was doing and they helped me come up with details and, in a couple instances, reminded me of things I’d completely forgotten. It’s been 40 years, after all.
PH: I love all the images that you have in the book. Where these all from your personal collection or did you have to gather these from Lucasfilm or Others?
CM: Some of the photos were in my collection, some were provided by fans and friends from their collections, and some I just found on the internet (the trick is knowing what to look for). I’ve never been able to find any photos of the display room I put together to promote The Empire Strikes Back for the 1979 World Science Fiction Convention in Brighton, England.
PH: Did you learn anything new by working on this book you did not know before?
CM: There’s a long section about the weeks I spent at Elstree Studios while we were shooting The Empire Strikes Back – which also included our display and preview presentation at the World Science Fiction Convention. I talk about a lot of people and a lot of things and, while I talk about my memories of them, I also talk a little about who they were and the things they did and other movies they worked on, to give readers a sense of who was involved. So there was a bunch of time spent researching each person, to make sure I get the details of their careers right. (And I learned a lot I didn’t know about their careers. We didn’t have the internet and things like IMDB so people working on the picture were just who they were in the moment. So unless it came up, their past glories were mostly unknown. Had I known, for example, that our First AD, David Tomblin, co-created the TV series The Prisoner, I’d have had a lot of questions for him.)
PH: What makes you cry?
CM: Lots of stuff. I’m kind of an easy cryer. Strong emotion. I well up at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life.
PH: What makes you laugh?
CM: Not as much. I’m a tough audience. I don’t laugh at people being stupid. I don’t laugh at insults. I want humor to be clever.
PH: Where can fans find you?
CM: I’m pretty easy to find. My Twitter account got hijacked so I’m not currently on it. I need to create a new account. But I’m on Facebook. (You can tell if you’ve found the correct Craig Miller. At the top of my page is the photo I used as the cover of my book: me in front of the Millennium Falcon in the Ice Cave.) And there’s a Star Wars Memories Facebook page as well. I’ll be going to a bunch of conventions around the country in the coming year. My wife is currently in the hospital and I’ll be close to home for the immediate future but once she’s more recovered, I’ll start travelling around.
Star Wars Memories: My Time In The (Death Star) Trenches is independently published and is available to buy NOW! Order your copy here:
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Patty Hammond is a Senior Correspondent for Future of the Force. She is a passionate Star Wars fan and is a devoted fangirl and blogger. Follow her on Twitter @PattyBones2 where she uses the force frequently!