Creative Control

Dave Filoni is now Lucasfilm's Chief Creative Officer

Creative Control
Image: Lucasfilm

Here's an interesting bit of inside baseball news from the Star Wars universe: Clone Wars/Rebels/Resistance/Ahsoka creator Dave Filoni got a promotion: he's now the Chief Creative Officer at Lucasfilm for the franchise. Word of this comes from Anthony Breznican over at Vanity Fair, who notes that Filoni will be helping to shepherd the next generation of Star Wars projects. Where he was once consulted on projects for continuity purposes, he'll now be involved in shaping them from the onset.

This feels like something that's been a long time coming: Filoni has been a major part in shaping the Star Wars universe ever since George Lucas brought him on to help shepherd The Clone Wars animated series on Cartoon Network. I've heard him described over the years as someone who perfectly understood what George Lucas's vision for what Star Wars is, and over the years, he's parlayed that into some really interesting places in shows like Rebels and Ashoka.

When Jon Favreau began developing The Mandalorian for Disney+, Filoni became a major collaborator. Breznican profiled Filoni back in 2019 for Vanity Fair, noting that he was a walking encyclopedia of Star Wars knowledge, but that he was also a willing collaborator who'd listen and provide his input to the stories that they were working on. Since then, he's gone on to jump from directing animation to direction live action (he directed the first episode and fifth episodes of The Mandalorian's first season, the fifth episode of Season 2, the sixth episode of The Book of Boba Fett, and the first and fifth episodes of Ahsoka. He's also on deck to direct one of the upcoming announced Star Wars films), and by all accounts, he's been the major force that helps tie together much of the lore the entire franchise.

He's not the only person involved in that department: the "Lucasfilm Story Group" is a team that the company has put together to ensure that the franchise's continuity is consistent across the wide range of products that the company produces, from books to video games to TV shows to movies. Continuity plays a central role in the franchise, and has for a long time: it's something that set Star Wars apart from other franchises, the idea that this was one big story that fans could dip into over and over again.

According to Breznican, Filoni's not out to overrule directors or other creators: "I’m not telling people what to do," Filoni told him, "I do feel I’m trying to help them tell the best story that they want to tell. I need to be a help across the galaxy here, like a part of a Jedi Council almost." He represents a valuable resource for the company, because there is so much lore – storytelling debt? – that can be overwhelming to newcomers. He also provides something of continuity for Star Wars, given that George Lucas's involvement stopped when he sold the company to Disney more than a decade ago.

That's something that's needed, and something that I think Lucasfilm has been slow to recognize. From 2015 through 2019, the company worked to bring Star Wars back in a big way, launching a sequel trilogy (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker) and a pair of standalones (Rogue One and Solo) with an array of filmmakers and just as many problems along the way. Despite a strong start in the form of The Force Awakens and Rogue One, there were plenty of fans who were put off by the storytelling choices in the later films, as well as a fairly regular revolving door of unfulfilled projects. Storytelling continuity is more than just ensuring that the facts of the world remain consistent; it's also how Lucasfilm can ensure that a variety of filmmakers and writers aren't going to weave wildly back and forth. In many ways, it feels as though Filoni is now going to be filling a similar role to what Kevin Feige has been doing for Marvel.

We've gotten a taste of that in the form of The Mandalorian and some of its followup shows. The show's earlier seasons garnered plenty of praise for going back the perceived roots and strengths of the franchise, from the gritty underworld to morally-ambiguous characters, and I have little doubt that Filoni's played a big role there.

There's risks to putting so much on one person, however. Marvel has recently come under fire from fans and critics for seeming to lose its luster and power at the box office, due in no small part to Feige's increased responsibilities at Marvel and the ramp-up in streaming content in the last couple of years. Lucasfilm could very easily fall into the same trap with Filoni. And of course, there's the question of whether or not Star Wars should be constrained to Filoni's (and by proxy, Lucas's) vision of what the franchise should be. He's done some weird things over the years, dabbling with the strange mythical elements of The Force and leaning more into the space fantasy elements that the franchise is known for. Personally, I've always thought the franchise is stronger when there's more of a lighter touch on those elements, preferring when they go for a bit more realism, like what we've seen with Andor.

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So, it'll be interesting to see what comes out of this: hopefully, we'll see a bit more consistent effort put into the various projects that Lucasfilm decides to field. Rather than throwing things at the wall as different directors come in to pitch, I'm hoping that we'll see them integrate them a bit more completely into the existing world, rather than see them get booted for "creative differences" that seems to pop up so often with this series.