“Dear George Lucas
Thank you for submitting the first 10 pages of your screenplay ‘Star Wars’ to ‘The First 10 Pages Film Festival’. We read the extract with pleasure and as promised here are some notes.
As you know we assess the first ten pages on 5 criteria:
It is clear from the initial exchanges between your main character C-3P0 and his sidekick R2-D2 that you’ve decided to bring a light-hearted comedic tone to the sci-fi genre – essentially a buddy comedy in space. But whilst the banter between the two characters is enjoyable not much else is very funny. Perhaps you should consider other avenues of humour i.e. Princess Leia seems very serious – is there any way of lightening her up?
C-3P0 is the archetypal reluctant hero dragged into an adventure by his diminutive companion R2-D2. His flaw is that he is self-serving and it is clear that through the story he is going to learn how to sacrifice himself for the greater good. What isn’t clear is how the obvious implied romance between C-3P0 and Princess Leia is going to develop. Is Princess Leia really an android or is there a handsome young man beneath C-3P0’s metal head? Perhaps you could make this clearer by showing some loose wires in Princess Leia’s neck or a lock of hair poking out of C-3P0’s helmet.
You adeptly establish your busy galaxy with various races and planets and the battle between the evil Galactic Empire and the Rebellion. What I think might be confusing for the audience is that you write in your opening caption that it is a galaxy far, far away a long, long time ago. It might help the audience empathise more with the action if the story takes place in a galaxy not so far away at some point in the near future.
The delineation between good (C-3P0) and evil (Darth Vader) is very clear and you have expertly set up your climax in which they will meet in a final battle – machine against machine – with C-3P0 emerging victorious and winning Leia’s hand. What we need to know, in addition to his emotional flaw, is C-3P0’s physical weakness – does he need to acquire a solar pack or some other energy boost before he can face his mortal enemy?
The dramatic situation – will Leia manage to deliver the Death Star plans to the Rebels – you set up well but it isn’t clear what C-3P0’s opinion is on the matter: was he aware that Leia was carrying the plans or not? If he really is the reluctant hero perhaps we should see him question the safety of Leia’s scheme and then he can be vindicated when Darth Vader attacks.
Whilst your 10 pages were an enjoyable read, I’m afraid you haven’t made it onto the final shortlist. We wish you luck with your screenplay.”
Of course, I’m being facetious.
But in Lucas’ final version of ‘Star Wars’ we don’t meet Luke Skywalker until sixteen minutes in and we don’t learn about the Force until 30 mins into the film. It wasn’t always like this: in an early draft Luke on Tatooine is intercut with Vader’s assault on the Rebel ship. And an even earlier draft of the script wasn’t about Luke at all but told the story of Annikin Starkiller – but even he was on page one.
So why did Lucas decide to delay the introduction of his main character for sixteen minutes? He realised, as Akira Kurosawa did before him, that revealing the world and introducing the story through the eyes of the most disenfranchised characters in the story is an effective way of drawing the audience in – because most of us aren’t the messiah, most of us are C-3P0 or R2-D2.
And that is why, when we watch Star Wars, we don’t lambaste Lucas for not introducing us to his main character in the first 10 pages, not setting up Luke’s conscious desire and not letting Luke be the one to help Princess Leia. The story kicks off immediately – the Rebels have stolen the plans to the Death Star and Darth Vader is hot on their heels -, the sense of cinema is breath-taking and the characters are all engaging especially R2-D2 and C-3P0.
So you can look at Star Wars in one of two ways: that it is a rare exception to the rules governing the first 10 pages or that the first 10 pages should be judged on a single criterion: has the storyteller managed to engage his or her audience?