Movie preview: The Force Awakens

In the Fall of 2015, Christian publication, Faith & Friends commissioned me to write a preview for the seventh film in the Star Wars saga. The full-length submission is below, the published article is found here. Thanks for reading.

There has been an awakening, have you felt it? That low rumbling you’re hearing is the sound of millions of fan boys and girls shuffling their feet as theatre lineups take shape. Right about now a multitude of forty-somethings are dusting off their action figures and packing their Star Wars lunch boxes to prepare for a long wait in line.

I don’t mean to tease, I was brought up on Star Wars and have the paraphernalia to prove it: bed sheets, board games, toys and books. Imperials and bounty hunters are tattooed on my arm. I count myself among the throng of fans who have been worked into a frenzy since Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012. At first sceptical, most of us have since been swayed by Episode VII director JJ Abram’s insistence that he is keeping to traditional filmmaking. The magazine spreads, behind the scenes photos and subsequent movie trailers deliver X-wing fighters and creatures that show little sign of CGI enhancement. So far so good, and not a Gungan to be seen.

We can only speculate what Abrams and company have in store for this franchise. But for the traditionalists, the diehards who long to experience the magic of Episodes IV through V all over again, The Force Awakens is our new hope.

At its core, Star Wars is a redemption story that reminds us that we have the ability to return to the light, no matter how far we’ve strayed from the path of righteousness.

Little is known of the latest film’s plot. What we’ve gleaned from the trailers and rumour sites is that heroes Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron of the Resistance are aided by stalwarts Han Solo, Princess Leia in the fight against new baddies Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma and a legion of stormtroopers that comprise the First Order. Somewhere in the nether regions of the galaxy lurks the recluse Luke Skywalker, poised once again to bring balance to the Force.

The balance between good and evil, dark and light, is central to the Star Wars saga. Follow the tale of Anakin Skywalker and you’ll see he’s not much different from the rest of us (Albeit he has mad Jedi skills and wields a lightsaber). Even though God knows what’s in store for us (our destiny), we have been given the freedom to choose our own paths.

At its core, Star Wars is a redemption story that reminds us that we have the ability to return to the light, no matter how far we’ve strayed from the path of righteousness. Perhaps that’s why Star Wars has had a lasting impact on my life. I have characters from the evil Empire tattooed on my arm to remind me that the angels and devils on my shoulder are very real. This is my reminder that I am not infallible and the choice to sin is mine alone.

I’m excited for the future of the Star Wars franchise and I’m glad that I have been able to share my love of the saga with my children, even if that meant I had to endure the prequel trilogy. I’m hopeful that I can use my love of Star Wars as a way to speak my faith into their lives, and into the lives of others.

Photo by Krause, Johansen - © LucasFilm.Ltd

The Rundown

Episode I: The Phantom Menace
George Luca introduces us to cute and cuddly Anakin Skywalker, the mysterious Midi-chlorians, and Jar Jar Binks. If this were the first film of the saga to be released, it would most certainly have been the last as well.

Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Less Jar Jar, more teen angst. Young Anakin Skywalker struggles with his place in the Jedi order, and we finally get a glimpse of the clone wars we’d all heard about. Little did we know we’d be inundated with 6 seasons of animated episodes, and a ton Lego sets we never needed.

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Anakin reaches a tipping point. Conflicted between good and evil, and an inability to accept things he cannot change, he is swayed by the smooth-talking Darth Sidious, and dons the black cloak. A fiery duel with former BFF Obi Wan Kenobi ensues and the rest is history.

Episode IV: A New Hope
A band of unlikely heroes save a princess, join a rebellion and blow up a super space station. Everyone goes home happy except Darth Vader, who is left spinning into the abyss in his custom Tie Fighter. If you haven’t yet seen a Star Wars film, start here.

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
A cult favourite and arguably the best film of the franchise. Luke Skywalker is hung out to freeze by on the planet Hoth, bails on his buddies and goes to Dagobah to be trained as a Jedi by Kermit the Frog. Darth and the gang get back at the Rebellion by crashing a party on the cloudy city of Bespin, freezing Han Solo in carbon and dropping the biggest bombshell in cinematic history on young Luke Skywalker.

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
“It’s a Trap!” Action ensues as Jedi Luke Skywalker executes a plan to save Han Solo from the clutches of slimy gangster Jabba the Hutt. The Skywalkers face off in the final battle between good and evil and the Rebels take to the skies and the forests of Endor—where with the help of some furry little friends—they quash the Empire once and for all. Or so we thought.

I, Free Radical

I’m rereading 99u’s collection of essays Maximize Your Potential: Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career
In the opening piece, Adobe’s Vice President of Community and Co-Founder & Head of Behance, Scott Belsky identifies a new breed of creative professional he calls “Free Radicals.” Check out Scott’s Manifesto for Free Radicals and see if you’re among their ranks.

Writing at-a-glance

I may never be a professional writer, but I can become a better writer. It is in this pursuit that I have begun reading How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times by Roy Peter Clark.

In his text, Mr Clark stresses the importance of presenting copy in small at-a-glance doses. Think short book endorsements (or “advance praise”) you might see on the back cover of a paperback novel.

“The at-a-glance experience is so valuable that writers and editors must take care not to undermine its effect. In other words, don’t break up a small text into smaller texts. Make sure it is published—in total—on a single page or screen. Online, add links as you must, but don’t clutter the text with so many opportunities to escape that the straight one-two-three meaning is lost.”

As a blogger, what I find interesting in this statement is the challenge to keep hyperlinks to a minimum. This goes against most SEO strategists advice to load your posts with outbound links.

I would like to hear from other bloggers on this topic. How do you manage links while maintaining ease of readability.

Perhaps an alternate strategy might be to list links as footnotes, like this:

Amazon affiliate link: How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times

When “Trust me, I’m a professional” just doesn’t cut it.

I’ve been thinking about relationships lately. Both personal and professional. I still believe that relationships are the key to business success, and continue to make relationship-building a focus in my day-to-day interactions with others. But for a while there, it seemed every business was playing the “relationship” card, and I was afraid I’d sound just like everybody else. So, it’s been a bit of a quandary trying to figure out just how to express that core value without sounding disingenuous.

What I’ve discovered is that the glue in any relationship (personal or professional) is trust. Personal relationships will include not only trust, but among other things love, support, and security. Some of these things may spill over into my professional relationships, but as much as I love working for most of my clients, I can’t say that I love them (sorry guys). These relationships include common goals or interests, a contract or agreement, hopefully good rapport and camaraderie, but also trust. Always trust. Continue reading When “Trust me, I’m a professional” just doesn’t cut it.

Good exposure is bad business

Image © The New Yorker

An illustrator friend sent me this image last week in an email. He’d clipped it form an old issue of The New Yorker. Being a freelancer himself, he thought I’d get a kick out of it.

As funny as the comic strip is, the prevalence of this attitude among would-be clients is far too high. And that’s not funny at all.

If you’re approached by a potential client to do work on spec or under the allure of gaining recognition from this work, run for the hills. Exposure will not pay the bills. OK, that’s not entirely true: Exposure may land you future business, but it most likely will be from the same type of client who ripped you off in the first place.  Continue reading Good exposure is bad business

Murphy’s Law and the importance of setting priorities.

26.30 / 04.19.30 - no shoulder by miguel dagz via flickr. Used under Creative Commons.

If there’s one thing we can rely on, it’s Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will. We see this occurring in our personal lives, and almost twice as often in our workplaces. This past week has been a perfect example. Despite my best efforts to stay on track, there seemed to be an abundance of hurdles and obstacles keeping me form completing my task list.

Continue reading Murphy’s Law and the importance of setting priorities.