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Like Kazanjian, Marquand is a great believer in pre-production planning. In addition to the detailed storyboards for all of the special effects shots, Marquand had his own storyboard for virtually every scene in the film. It may have just been something scribbled in his copy of the script, but it was an indication of the way in which he visualized scenes. In many instances he was able to visualize a scene early enough to incorporate his ideas into the design of the sets. Although he remains flexible when the time comes to shoot a scene, he feels that most actors are willing and able to accommodate themselves to a preconceived staging and the potential benefits of visualizing a scene months ahead of shooting are far greater than any loss incurred if the plan has to be scrapped on the set because it does not work for some reason.
One example he cites is that of a simple shot in which Chewbacca crosses a room and exits camera right with the camera moving with him so that it ends up framed on a shot of Lando Calrissian. "Lando is standing against a wall and he's lit partially by a big crack in that wall. The positioning of the steps [stairs] that Chewbacca comes up and the crack in the wall and the position of that wall relative to the rest of the room had to be planned eight months ahead of shooting. Therefore I had to know how that little piece of film was going to go. Otherwise I would have found myself on the day or a week ahead of shooting saying, 'Oh we don't have any stairs; we don't have this big crack in the wall. How are we going to light this with any available light?' In my opinion the way you actually make a nice movie is by knowing what you're going to do well in advance. After the script conference I knew that at this point these two characters were going to meet in that room and therefore I began to think about how that room could look."
Marquand did not dictate specifications to the art director but he was able to work with the art director with a fairly specific sense of how he wanted the set to function. His own sense of the scene developed as he discussed the design of the set with the art director.
The need for flexibility is borne out by another scene involving the set for Darth Vader's bridge on the star destroyer. "I thought going in that I could manage with a very, very reduced set because I wanted as much as possible to keep a tight control on the budget. I thought I could manage with a small section of that set; but as the day grew nearer and nearer to shoot the sequence, I began to realize more and more that actually we'd have to build some more and paint some more. Ironically Norman Reynolds, the production designer, had already thought to himself, "I don't think he's going to get away with this,' When it came down to my actually saying to Howard and Norman, 'Look, I think we're going to have to have a little bit more;' Norman said, 'Oh, I've got some extra pieces. I had them made anyway. We'll paint them overnight and you can shoot tomorrow."
Marquand credits his experience in television with teaching him a lot about pre-planning. "If you work on tape with four cameras, you have a shooting script with every single angle mapped out. You've rehearsed for three weeks with actors on a set with a little viewfinder against your eye so that you've actually got it all completely knocked out. You can't do that in movies, but I don't think it does nay harm to make up your mind ahead of time, particularly if you're able to change if you have to. I mean, you've got a situation there where you really are creating something. You are actually saying, 'I think this should look like this and I think that should happen. If you're any good, that's how it's going to look and it can look terrific because you've got a whole army of people all working toward that goal. Suppose you want an archway with a huge door and light that comes pouring in the moment the door opens. If you can say that three months ahead of the shoot, you're going to get it. You ain't gonna get it if you decide this afternoon that you'd like that tomorrow morning at 8:30, because it's just not going to be there. So what do you do then? You postpone everything or you put up with something that somebody else thought up. I'm astounded by the stories I hear of directors who actually walk on the set in the morning and work out roughly what they're going to shoot and start shooting in the middle of the afternoon. I'm just amazed, I'm not bragging; I just don't have the guts to pick up a fat fee without being prepared."
The shooting schedule called for 18 weeks of principal photography as compared with 24 weeks on The Empire Strikes Back. There were 78 days on the stages in London, followed by a one week break and then two weeks on location in Yuma, Arizona, two weeks in Crescent City, California, and a week and a half of blue screen work at ILM in San Rafael. A second unit was employed extensively to follow behind the first unit picking up shots, and there was one day of photography in Death Valley with a skeletal crew during post-production. Kazanjian insisted on beginning photography in January of 1982 in order to maximize the time available for post-production and special effects work even though some people thought he was rushing into production before everyone was fully prepared.
Marquand chose to begin with one of the toughest sequences in the film. "I've always liked to plunge immediately into a very tough week's shooting, because I've discovered that if you slide in the way a lot of directors like to do, you set up a very slow pace for the crew. If you've got an easy day's shooting on the first day, then it's hard to pull up the speed. And the bigger the crew, the harder it gets. So I was very anxious to find some really tough things to do first, which surprised everybody. They thought I was crazy, but since we were starting in January and the weather did not permit shooting in Crescent City and the set was not completed in Yuma, we went straight into an enormous shoot on what is probably one of the more complex and demanding sequences in the movie. I could see halfway through the week that either the crew and I would be destroyed or we would get through the week on schedule and feel so terrific that we'd be in good shape for the rest of the production. A professional crew is like a race horse. You can't take it easy coming out of the gate, because you'll get brushed aside and that'll be the end of it."
Marquand also believes that knowing in advance what you're going to shoot is crucial to the management of a cast and crew. "As the director you're the focus of everybody's attention. It's important that they feel that you know where the scene is going. The moment it's over and you're happy and you say 'Print', if the very next thing you say is, "Now we're over here on the 35 and I want to be on a low angle, if you immediately know where the next scene is going, everybody can feel this horse racing under him and they know it's carrying them to the finish line. It's a nice feeling, but it can easily be broken by an actor having a temperament or by a first assistant who thinks that everything should be done through a bullhorn."
Marquand thinks quiet is crucial on a set and he himself uses a low key approach. If he feels that there is too much chatter on a set or not enough concentration on the task at hand, he says that generally one explosion from him is enough to set things back on course. At the same time he thinks it is important for the atmosphere on the set to be infused with a sense of humor and fun. "I don't mean outrageous fun and swinging from the chandeliers, but fun where you can crack a joke or talk about a given character in endearing but amusing termsrather than feeling that you're in a temple of art. Because you're not in a temple of art. This is show business. You're hoodwinking an audience. You've got this cheap three-ply door which is supposed to look like a monstrous golden metal thing and you're using gauzes and smoke and God knows what to make them think that they're in some magic fairytale place. It's all hoodwinking the audience, so I think you can enjoy the fact that you're doing that and I think you can take pride in it if you're doing it well. I think it's good to have a sense of humor about it."
Presumably the sense of humor helps when things go wrong on the set as well like having to put up with a robot who does not feel like acting. Lucas warned Marquand that there would be huge complications during the shoot because of all the robots and creatures and sure enough there were plenty of times when R2-D2 just refused to budge. All they could do was to work around him. When asked if he intended to have robots in his next movie, Marquand said, "No, I'm not. I'm going to have two very soft, sensitive human beings who fall in love and go to bed and spend the rest of the movie in bed."
Like all productions, Return of The Jedi had its share of problems and unanticipated complications during the shooting. There were problems with the operation of the creatures as well as the robots. There were complications and delays caused by the fact that a set for the Ewok village was 20 feet above the stage floor. There were problems with the special effects device designed to enable Boba Fett to shoot a rope from his arm to ensnare Luke. There were even problems with the perforations in 100,000 feet of raw stock which did not meet ILM's specifications for special effects photography. None of the problems proved insurmountable, however. The special effects contraptions for Boba Fett were replaced with a simple monofilament and a camera running in reverse. The raw stock was exchanged for raw stock from American manufacturing plants rather than the French plant. Delays caused by the Ewok village set or the creatures in Jabba's entourage were compensated for by additional second unit work or adjustments in other parts of the schedule. The film wrapped on schedule and the awesome task of producing over 900 special effects shots began at ILM.