‘Star Wars’ set designer gives talk at Oceanside film festival

OCEANSIDE — The 40th anniversary of the original “Star Wars” movie was celebrated in part during the Oceanside International Film Festival which included an Aug. 12 workshop at the Sunshine Brooks Theater with “Star Wars” set designer Alan Roderick-Jones.

Roderick-Jones, who was also presented with a lifetime achievement award at the end of the workshop, designed the cantina, the homestead garage, Docking Bay 94, the Death Star corridors, the throne room and the war room for the 1977 ‘Star Wars’ movie. He began his career in 1961 in the art department of the Shepperton Studios production “The Victors,” and “Star Wars” was one of his two films which received an Oscar for art direction with the other Academy Award being given for the 1971 film “Nicholas and Alexandria.”

“Everything you see on screen comes on the production side,” Roderick-Jones said.

“You work hand in hand with the director,” he said. “You just have to stay open and just listen.”

The importance of collaboration doesn’t preclude the necessity for the set designer to be knowledgeable. “You really need a lot of references,” Roderick-Jones said. “When I’m working, I’m surrounded by my books.”

Roderick-Jones still prefers using a pencil even in the digital design era, although he also utilizes a computer for electronic transmission and data storage.  “I make sure I’ve got about eight hard drives with everything on,” he said.

The technological progress other artists use includes three-dimensional image design.  “It’s phenomenal what they do,” Roderick-Jones said.

“Star Wars” was just another movie to Roderick-Jones in 1977. “I wasn’t prepared for this,” he said. “I had no idea.”

George Lucas was the director of “Star Wars.”

“He never really confided in me,” Roderick-Jones said of Lucas. “Each of us had certain plans to do.”

Roderick-Jones was in London to watch the uncompleted version of the film for the first time — music courtesy of John Williams was being added during that session.  “It took on this whole different dimension,” he said.

In his role Roderick-Jones worked with construction, prop, and painting personnel. “I enjoyed the camaraderie between all the wonderful men,” he said. “That was more important to me.”

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