Darth Vader Showed Me the Path to My Dreams

Mike Sutherland
Movies Star Wars
Movies Star Wars

We all piled into the family truckster. Ben’s parents in the front, and me, my best friend, Ben, and his sister in the back. As we all sat in the car heading towards the mystical drive-in, our excited chatter about the movie spread about the car like a heavy fog. Even Ben’s parents got into the conversation. It was all a fantastic blur. Finally, we were on our way to see Star Wars.

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The sun was setting, slowly melting into the horizon. Purple and orange and red streaked the sky. Ben and I ran back to the family truckster and set up our spots to get the best view of the screen. My brain was in overload, my eyes taking everything in but little of it actually sunk in. Ben’s dad grabbed the drive-in speaker belching its AM-quality static and hung it from the car window. The sun faded, and finally, nighttime had arrived.

That’s when the movie started. The scroll, the space ships chasing each other, lasers shooting back and forth. The robots, the bad guys in white armor and… him. The man in the black mask. Darth Vader. As soon as he appeared, I wanted to know more. I had to know more.

There are moments in time, where you are so engrossed in a film that everything around you just disappears. You become the camera, watching everything unfold before you as if you were really there. This happened to me as Star Wars played before my eyes. I found myself pulled into the movie and every word, every sound, every thing about it was perfect.

That whole night was magical. When the movie was over and we went home, all I could do was relive that movie over and over in my head. From that opening crawl to the X-Wing starfighters assaulting the Death Star, everything about that movie spoke to me. That’s when I decided what I wanted to do when I grew up.

From Vader to Chasing My Dreams

Years later, while working at a big computer company doing tech support, I got the call. I had applied to Lucasfilm’s special effects division, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) but hadn’t thought much of it. Next thing I know, I’m sitting in the ILM lobby waiting for my interview.

Star Wars, Ralph McQuarrie, Matte Painting, Return Of The Jedi, Industrial Light and Magic
Ralph McQuarrie's matte painting of the forest moon of Endor

The inside of ILM is amazing. The original Darth Vader costume guards the entrance to the hallway that leads to the company’s inner recesses. Two gigantic paintings flank the hallway, including Ralph McQuarrie‘s matte painting of the forest moon of Endor, with the large radar dish and the Imperial landing platform. I knew I was home.

I went through the interview process, meeting with the entire team, getting to know them all. By now, I knew I had the interview in the bag. That was until that one moment when the Director of Technology and the manager of the department got into an argument over me. My future at the company hung in the balance, all over installing memory into a computer. I assured them that I would be more than glad to show them, but, it was already too late. The argument killed all hope I had of getting a job there. I wasn’t upset. I met special effects artist Dennis Muren and got a tour of ILM that few ever get the chance to experience.

A New Hope

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After the experience with ILM, I decided to walk away from tech to pursue another passion. Along with a friend of mine, I put a plan together and created my own movie review and podcast network (A Couple of Average Joe’s). Later, we pooled our resources and bought an old magazine that went out of business, and Cinescape Magazine was reborn.

It’s been a long and windy road, but I’m back doing what I finally want, all thanks to Star Wars and Darth Vader.

Mike Sutherland
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