Lucasfilm's Power Structure
When Lucas sold the company, Kathleen Kennedy became Lucasfilm's president and Star Wars brand manager. Kennedy is one of the most accomplished producers in Hollywood history, best known for her works alongside Steven Spielberg. Several of Kennedy's movies are critically-acclaimed box office hits, which made her the ideal choice. Lucas was so confident in Kennedy's qualifications, he handpicked her himself to run Lucasfilm. Kennedy reports to Disney Chairman Alan Horn, though as producer of all the new Star Wars movies, she makes the calls in that realm - including the tough ones (Lord & Miller).
However, Kennedy is not the only person in a position of power at the studio. Most notably, Dave Filoni was promoted in 2016 to manage Lucasfilm Animation and is the creative force behind the likes of Clone Wars, Rebels, Forces of Destiny, and eventually Resistance. Additionally, the aforementioned Kiri Hart serves as Vice President of Development and is lead of the story group. She's so involved with Star Wars projects, she was a producer on Rebels and co-produced Rogue One with Kennedy. While Lucasfilm does run things mostly autonomously, they will run some things by Disney (like killing Han Solo) before moving ahead.
How Lucasfilm Makes Movies
Lucasfilm wasted no time in confirming plans for a bevy of new films after the Disney acquisition. In addition to the long-awaited sequel trilogy set in the Skywalker saga, the studio announced they wanted to further expand their cinematic universe with spinoff anthology films that told different stories. Prior to the sale, George Lucas had actually spent a year developing a treatment for more movies, but Lucasfilm later discarded his ideas to go off in a different direction. To be fair, they did maintain some of Lucas' concepts, but there were some notable differences.
When working on a film, the studio's first order of business seems to be hiring a director and/or writer (sometimes they're one and the same). While Kennedy earned an infamous reputation for public splits with Phil Lord & Chris Miller and Colin Trevorrow in 2017, she is willing to (mostly) give the filmmakers creative control. Rian Johnson expressed several times in the build-up to The Last Jedi there was no mapped out arc for the sequel trilogy, and all he had to do was follow The Force Awakens how he saw fit. Lucasfilm has various departments that handle the pre-production responsibilities, creating costumes, props, and sets for the movies. Initially, Kennedy tried to give young upstarts a chance at playing in the Star Wars sandbox, but numerous failures has led her to lean more on established hands for the time being.
Since each movie introduces new characters to the lore, there's always extensive searches for talent to fill the needed roles. In classic Star Wars fashion, newcomers are frequently picked for headliners, but the studio isn't against bringing in well-known names. For instance, Solo's ensemble includes A-listers like Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, and Donald Glover. As evidenced by the 2,500 thespians who auditioned for young Han Solo, Lucasfilm doesn't take casting responsibilities lightly and always looks for the best choice for the part.
Obviously, the three episodes of the sequel trilogy are all part of the same narrative, but there's no requirement for the spinoffs to be overtly tied to the saga films. There are of course references and Easter eggs to be found, but Star Wars is different from Marvel in the sense that it doesn't all have to be connected. That makes the anthologies appealing for filmmakers, since they can come in and do something unique that isn't burdened by four decades of storytelling.
Lucasfilm has changed substantially over its years of existence, and while Kennedy experienced some growing pains during her tenure, she seems to have Star Wars in a place where it can thrive for years to come. The new movies continuously rake in box office cash and score positive reviews, meaning demand for more projects is high. Star Wars is one of the most dominant franchises in the industry for a reason, and it should remain that way.
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
- Indiana Jones 5 (2021) release date: Jul 09, 2021