It’s impossible to talk about Star Wars in a vacuum. Chats about Lucas’ original trilogy of films have the potential to shift into debates about the reviled prequel trilogy, or perhaps vice versa; on top of that, the franchise has been a mainstay on television from the later half of the aughts all the way to today, thanks to animated series like The Clone Wars and the upcoming Star Wars Rebels. And even though Star Wars: Episode VII is only just beginning production, talk of multiple spin-offs has already begun in earnest.

George Lucas’ imagined universe is a huge, many-armed thing, in other words, so discussions concerning it tend toward the non-linear. You can’t bring up Star Wars without diving into numerous, sometimes completely distinct spheres of Star Wars narrative. But today’s big announcement may finally inject some focus into conversations about the long-tenured space opera saga: director J.J. Abrams and co. have officially begun principal photography on Star Wars: Episode VII.

The news comes courtesy of Bad Robot’s Twitter account, which fired off a Tweet late last night boasting the hash tag of “day one” and an image of a clapperboard, decked out with the Star Wars: Episode VII logo; there’s not much else to say beyond that, but response to the message has been immediate and enthusiastic. Sometimes, when it comes to a project so shrouded in secrecy as this one, all that fans and press alike need is a simple, no-frills, transparent confirmation that headway is being made on production.

Here’s the full Tweet in question:

If all of this sounds like it runs counter to what’s been previously put on the record, worry not: there’s no flimflam, malarkey, or misdirection at play here. Originally, Disney planned to begin shooting on Star Wars: Episode VII earlier this year, January 21st, in fact, but that timeline fell through and gave way to rumors that photography would actually start up in the Spring. Then, about a month back, Disney chairman Alan Horn stated that shooting had actually already started, after the United Arab Emirates were chosen as the film’s backdrop.

But, as reported just a few days ago, it turns out that the shooting in question was performed by the second unit, rather than the main unit – and so here we are today. Second units, for those unawares, are assigned to capture shots or images that don’t involve the principal cast of a film; action scenes, for example, or background shots meant to establish setting. What we’re talking about now is the stuff that requires the presence of Star Wars: Episode VII‘s full troupe of actors and actresses – not just the returning vets of the first trilogy, but the new blood Abrams has brought on board for the next generation of Star Wars cinema.

On the surface, all of this is slight; we don’t know much more about the film in terms of plot than we did a day ago, and that probably won’t change for a while. But all the same, the solid reminder that Star Wars: Episode VII is really happening is pretty exciting. Can we expect story details in the weeks to come? (Or at least an official title?) Probably not, given Abrams’ history of being ultra-secretive, but one can still dream, right?

Star Wars: Episode VII opens in theaters on December 18th, 2015.

Source: Bad Robot