Could This Secret 'Mandalorian' Screening Change the Way We View Entertainment?

The one thing we cannot forget right now is how to adjust in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As serious as things have been, we all could use some entertainment. We have been left wondering when the theaters will reopen and when we can see some of our favorite TV shows and films again.

Disney+ collaborated with Jon Faverau and Dave Filoni for a panel and screening that is compliant with social distancing methods, and it is the first of its kind. This event could change how we view entertainment in the future. Two of the five Culture Slate founders, Lauren Scott and Amber Hope, joined Director Michael Schatz in attending this unique experience at the Rose Bowl, and it is the most fun that we have had all year.

From the beginning of the long, winding road to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, each member of the event staff was kind, and very informative. The line for the panel was made up of cars and went surprisingly smoothly. Each car was given a swag bag with a plush version of The Child (AKA "Baby Yoda"), hand sanitiser, and a program of events. We had our picture taken in our car for the red carpet premiere photo, and were then directed toward where to park. 

Thankfully, the car arrangement was so well-planned that everyone was able to get a great view of the giant LED screen. There was a DJ on sight, and as we parked, we were given popcorn, two bottles of water, a pack of red vines, and gummy frogs. We were then asked to place our order of vegan or non-vegan. We then enjoyed a bucket of chicky nuggies, a brownie, and coleslaw. 

Everything was socially distanced. Staff wore masks, and the bathrooms, which were cleaned consistently, were monitored by staff so that it did not reach more than half capacity. I felt incredibly comfortable and was able to enjoy the show.

Director Michael Schatz was able to give us a full review about the panel and an in-depth discussion about the technology used to make The Mandalorian:

"Culture Slate was honored to be invited to Disney's FYC series in Pasadena this week. The series showcasing their Emmy-nominated shows is a COVID-19 safe version of the usual For Your Consideration press events, going so far to even amend the FYC from 'For Your Consideration' to 'From Your Car.' The week-long event is taking place in the Rose Bowl, which has been transformed into a drive-in theater. Thursday's offering was the Star Wars series The Mandalorian, and there was a pre-show interview with executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni (who attended via Zoom). 

The series seemed to be destined years ago as Jon and Dave first met back in 2008 at Skywalker Ranch. Jon was working on the sound mix for Iron Man and Dave was working on The Clone Wars. Each became the first test audience for each other's work. Jon also mentioned that he always considered himself a Star Wars aficionado until he met Dave who completely blew him away not only with his knowledge of the universe but his reverence for it as well. 

What was particularly interesting about the interview was some insight that Dave gave regarding the production of the show. What would be surprising to the average viewer of the show was that nearly the entire production of the first season of this series took place inside a soundstage. With the vast amount of differing environments and wide vistas of ice, desert, and forests, this would be cost prohibitive in any traditional sense of using built sets. The innovative technology system came from a dream team of designers at ILM and took the bravado of these producers who were the right people at the right time. The idea was a near 360 dome of LED screens called The Volume, built by an ILM team who call themselves StageCraft.

Favreau mentioned that he had been experimenting with the tech, and Dave, who comes from animation, mentioned that he was so comfortable using it because it felt like a natural progression coming from how animation works. The first day Dave was on a backlot directing one of the scenes, he gave an anecdote about how he had to deal with the idea of the sun setting and how it was a wake-up call. The Volume works in a more advanced way than your usual backdrop or rear projection screen. It uses real time rendering of digital 3D backgrounds, or prior footage captured from locations to create a real time set instead of compositing green screen in post. Also, the lighting reacts in real time as the cameras, both digital and practical, move throughout the set.

The duo also talked about their influences for the show. Unsurprisingly, they mentioned that their biggest draws came from Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone. The hero being a lone gunman whose introduction in the show is a silhouette in a doorway of a tavern is all you needed to see to know what inspired the storytellers. Favreau mentioned that they wanted to tell Star Wars stories on a smaller scale, more personal, and focus on the hero's journey popularized by Joseph Campbell. This also worked with their goal of being a show released week by week in the era of binging and streaming shows. He wanted to give the audience a reason to come back each week for the next episode, with cliffhangers and revelations at the right time. There is no better example of this than the introduction of The Child at the end of Chapter 1. Jon said that no one did this better than Game of Thrones, and that is what they are trying to emulate, with the events in the shows that can become things you talk about with your friends each week.

The duo also talked about how, in the modern era of making shows like this, conventions and social media create dialogue between the fans and the filmmakers. You go to SDCC or on a Facebook fan page, and you can see a trailer, a set photo, or a cast reveal, and the filmmakers know how the fans feel about a decision sometimes even prior to filming!

Jon also remarked that he has noticed that the one thing that all Star Wars fans can agree on is that the music is unequivocal. No matter how you feel about the prequels or The Last Jedi or who your favorite character is, everyone loves the music in Star Wars. The pair feel very fortunate that they were able to get Ludwig Goransson during his meteoric rise to prominence; the young talent earned an Oscar for Black Panther right after composing the music for The Mandalorian.” 

After the panel, we tuned into the radio signal from our cars and enjoyed the first two episodes of The Mandalorian on the big screen. Hearing my friends laugh, and joining in unison with others by flashing car lights, and letting my friends honk my horn in the car as applause surprisingly gave us the break we all needed from the state of the world. For a moment, we were able to enjoy entertainment as it was meant to be, even while socially distancing. 

Amber Hope and Michael Schatz