'Star Wars' Ep. 5 Director Irvin Kershner: 'If I Believe It While I'm Doing It, the Audience Tends to Believe It'

While Hollywood is attempting to dive back into a franchise whose best movies were arguably over 30 years ago, the approach taken by The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner can apply not just to future Star Wars films, but to anyone making anything that requires a suspension of disbelief. A French journalist named Michael Parbot had virtually limitless access to the production, and it's only now that we have a more complete version of the documentary he produced in 1980. There are some fantastic and candid moments from some of the cast as well as the crew, and even if you are not a Star Wars fan, there are plenty of tidbits about storytelling and filmmaking that apply just as equally today.

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?&v=5aS-HIgvANE

This particular film remains my favorite of the series, but it would have been tough to put a finger on why until I understood more about filmmaking. Kershner has some terrific quotes from the documentary, especially the one that is the title of this post. If you're going to be making something that takes place in a fantastical universe, the actors and the crew have to believe it is real, and if they are convincing enough, usually the audience will follow along.

Kershner is very candid about the movie not being a science fiction film, that it is really a fairytale, and is therefore treated as such. As he says, they removed as much of the scientific jargon as possible. Of course there are spaceships and battle scenes, but they aren't the focus of the movie. The interactions and the relationships between the characters is very strong in Empire, and I think that's one of the reasons it stands out so clearly. It's easy to use spectacle as a way to distract an audience from an almost non-existent story, but if your plot and characters are well-crafted and believable, it's much easier to make an audience forget they are watching fantasy.

What do you think?

Link: Star Wars Archives -- YouTube Channel

[via Geek Tyrant]

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"It’s easy to use spectacle as a way to distract an audience from an almost non-existent story, but if your plot and characters are well-crafted and believable, it’s much easier to make an audience forget they are watching fantasy."

John Carter from Mars could have been a much better film if they gave more attention to the characters. David Bordwell wrote once about the dynamics into a film that it should be like in music... in music all came from the tension of two complementary asymmetric opposites -the fifith and the fourth - that create all possible tones. All great stories have this, two complementary opposites that creates infinite tones of relationships from it... The empire strikes back has this... it's not just "good" vs. "evil", even the "evil" has a sympathetic part, the opposites complement each other creating life, movement, change in all characters. I do love this film too!! far best in the series for sure! :)

March 1, 2013 at 4:44PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

You voted '+1'.
guto novo

Hopefully new star wars will have more practical effects and locations and less cartoony muppet vibe.

March 1, 2013 at 4:52PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM



If you haven't seen the Red Letter Media reviews of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, you owe it to yourself. They explain in excruciatingly hilarious detail why the prequels are utterly soulless and devoid of the charm that made the original films so great - and a lot of that has to do with the reliance on CGI.

March 1, 2013 at 6:28PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Thanks ill search for it.

March 2, 2013 at 12:02AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Omg... I saw the Star Wars originally trilogy so many times as a kid...(The Making of Star Wars was actually what first sparked my interest in film, actually...)...but the new movies suck so bad I've barely seen them...but I've watched the Red Letter Media reviews more times than the actual movies. They are incredibly insightful.

March 10, 2013 at 6:39PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Daniel Mimura

More practical effects? Yeah, right... More lens flares, that's for sure.

March 1, 2013 at 8:36PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I'm probably giving my age away when I say I thought it was obvious that in a story if you have no characterisation, you have nothing. To a younger generation weaned on cgi fims, games and a multitude of convenient devices, perhaps it isn't obvious.
To illustrate this further, it was in the aftermath of Star Wars that studio executives finally gave the go ahead for the cinema version of the original Star Trek, after having delayed for ten years and rejected scripts by Harlan Ellison and Philip Kaufman. The studio put all of the budget and emphasis on special effects and the script/characterisation appeared to be an afterthought. The result was a film which severely disappointed critics and fans alike; the effects are very boring and look dated now anyway.
Contrast this with the BBC sci-fi series Blake's 7, shot on cheap PAL video with a virtually zero budget (to include cardboard sets), the only saving grace being story / character / acting, and you have a show still much loved and remembered in the UK to this day.
Sorry for the rant. Short answer, yes I agree.

March 1, 2013 at 5:00PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Guys who bag on the original Star Trek movie probably don't like 2001 or Blade Runner either? Douglas Trumbulls work holds up as well as expected and you could write a thesis on the split diopter shots in the movie. "severely disappointed critics and (Star Trek) fans alike" reads like high recommendation to me.

Not every film needs strong characterization or story. The problem is that the majority of studio movies where these are lacking neither cerebral nor abstract in any artistic sense.

March 2, 2013 at 3:26PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


You raise some interesting and valid points, and the "high recommendation" comment is very amusing. I make my case perhaps as a rule of thumb, rather than wishing to appear rigid about it. Best.

March 2, 2013 at 4:27PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I love BR and 2001, and I think it's kind of silly to mention ST: The Motion Picture in the same breath.

ST was one of, if not THE first movie I saw in 70mm stereo in the theater and it blew my mind...but that was just technically. I thought it was a muddled mess. Sort of like Dune...great art direction...anamorphic gorgeousness...that was about it.

BR and 2001 are still worth revisiting multiple times and hold up today.

March 10, 2013 at 6:47PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Daniel Mimura