Star Wars changed my life.
I was seven when I saw the film in Maine while on vacation with my family. My parents had rented a cabin with friends and, like most people do on rainy vacation days, we decided a trip to the movies was better than staying cooped up inside, playing whatever board games were left scattered around the place left by the previous renters. We piled into my father’s vintage VW van and headed to the local Bangor movie theater where a new film had just opened and was generating some good reviews. The film was Star Wars.
It had such an impact on me that I can remember walking out of the theater and telling my brother that I wanted to “live in that Star Wars world.” I can remember becoming not just a fan of the toys, but captivated and fixated on everything from the film. If something was produced with the “Star Wars” name on it, I wanted it. From toys to posters, food products to bed sheets, I collected it all.
Later in life, I made a career in dealing vintage toys and pop culture. For me, it was more than just selling Star Wars toys. I was connecting people with their past. I was helping them reunite with youthful happiness that the responsibilities of adulthood had stripped away, leaving only fragmented memories. I listened to these people, I heard their stories about how Star Wars impacted their lives. For some, it changed their lives.
I heard their Star Wars stories.
About a year ago I met with Lucasfilm and started discussing an idea for a series. I wanted to tell the real-life stories of everyday people who had extraordinary experiences with Star Wars. I wanted the show to connect people, to inspire people, to tell the world that this film has impacted people for generations.
The creative team at Lucasfilm were already exploring this idea in various forms. We worked together to bring this idea to fruition as short-form digital content. We shaped it, we transformed it, we nurtured it. The series became more than just a show, it became a labor of love for everyone involved.
Our Star Wars Stories was shot during a whirlwind schedule of just 11 days. We traveled one day, shot the show, slept and traveled along to the next shoot. It was fast, it was fun, and with a crew of only five people, it was the type of bare-bones filmmaking you would expect to find on indie projects. Everyone contributed to the project, whether it was carrying gear to the location or giving notes on subject matter. It was one of the most incredible experiences I have had in my career.
I can vividly remember having dinner the second day of shooting. The entire crew was seated around the table and I turned to Matt Martin from the Lucasfilm Story Group, a producer on the series, and said, “This is good. This is going to be good.” He agreed. We were telling the true-life stories of fans and their love of Star Wars. Their stories were varied. Their stories were raw and emotional. Their stories were real.
Making the show for me is very personal. It’s a labor of love that I shared with others, who are also fans. On set there were no lines of distinction — no crew members, no talent, no guests. We were all equal. We were all Star Wars fans.
Together we bonded over stories of life and our love for a film that premiered more than 40 years ago… set in a galaxy far, far away. It brought us all together, and is something I will not soon forget in my life.
Are you going to New York Comic Con? Stop by the Our Star Wars Stories panel with panelists Jordan Hembrough, Matt Martin, and a few of the featured fans.
Jordan Hembrough, a self-professed comic-book geek and film buff, was bitten by the collecting bug at an early age. Like most children, Hembrough’s bedroom was adorned with Star Wars toys and action-hero figures. Unlike most children, he quickly learned that he could make more money selling these toys to his school peers than he could on any paper route or summer job. At the age of 16, Hembrough began buying and selling toys professionally, and hasn’t looked back since. Hembrough is best known for hosting Travel Channel’s Toy Hunter (2012-2014) and is the producer and host of Lucasfilm’s Our Star Wars Stories. Follow him on Twitter @jordanhembrough.