At two o’clock it was time to call Steve. I was a little nervous. First, I was tired from all the wiring, which ate at my confidence. Second, I’d never interviewed anyone before for this podcast. Third, this was a Lucasfilm employee, and a very public and well-known one at that.
I dial on Skype. The phone rings a couple of times, and “Hello, you’ve reached Steve Sansweet. I’m not available to take your call, so please leave your name……” (or something to that effect, I’m going from memory). I leave a voice mail with our name and my cell phone number. I then hang up and I’m flabbergasted. I look at Marjorie and I am truly speechless. This was my worst nightmare; not having the interview ready for this show. I had intentionally kept this very quiet for weeks in case something went wrong. We are a fairly new show and the last thing we need is to be seen with our pants around our ankles or, worse, being made out as if we lied for publicity. I would have loved to shout from the rooftops that we were interviewing Sansweet since mid-December, but I wanted to be absolutely sure. Less than one week before the interview, after it had been confirmed, I told our newsletter subscribers. My rationale there was I really did want listener input, and those people who like the show enough to subscribe to our newsletter would hopefully be the most forgiving if things went wrong. But here I was, 2:05 now, and had no clue what to do.
I sat there in stunned silence, checking and rechecking the connections. At about 2:08 Marjorie and I came to the same conclusion: we give him 15-20 minutes, then we call again. We don’t want to be rude or overly insistent, but perhaps a second call wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
At 2:10 we start to hear the over modulated sounds of The Bloodhound Gang’s song “The Bad Touch”, my ring tone. I had no doubt who it was (although I’d have been awfully disappointed if I was wrong), Sansweet. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief as he apologized for losing track of time. I told him “no problem” and asked if I could call him back from our other line.
We then call him back from Skype. As it dials Marjorie hops up: “I have to use the bathroom!” and runs out. Of all the timing! I continue to dial. Marjorie returns, and Sansweet answers. For the first few seconds he can’t hear us, but a quick software adjustment (Skype auto-configures my system to the wrong input whenever a call is made) and we could hear each other quickly. I got permission to begin recording.
The first minute or so of conversation was rather dull, and thus left on the editing room floor. I had tried to get right into the interview, but Steve was friendlier than that, so a couple minutes were spent discussing how sunny it was both in Springfield and San Diego, and I awkwardly brought up the lamest Springfield, IL news in history: the opening of the Abe Lincoln Presidential Museum. If that’s your cup of tea then so be it, but it is certainly not mine. Thousands of people poured in to see it so I knew it was good bland conversation.
Then came the interview. No questions were edited out and, unfortunately, we were given no scoop “off the record.” Everything we know is in one half or the other of the interview, although I can draw some pretty good conclusions I think (one conclusion being I don’t think there will be a Celebration 4 in 2007 as he said the C4 announcement would come “in three or four months”, meaning April or May, which seems a little late to announce something as big as Celebration 4 for the next Spring). We had arranged for my wife to ask most of the questions as she sometimes tend to be more of a listener than a talker, and I’m more of a “follow-up” question kind of guy.
During the interview I actually turned to my wife and mouthed the words “this is really good.” Sansweet was an absolute joy to interview. He was always friendly and seemed to love the opportunity to talk about his collection. Many times during the interview my wife and I were holding in laughter at some great stories, and sometimes the laughter spilled out such as when he described the space ooze which had formed at the bottom of a ten year old box of cereal.
We had a timer running to keep us on track, and a spreadsheet where my wife marked off the questions. We half-listened to the interview at times, as sometimes he would say something which would lead us in the direction of a question out of our previous sequence. We would point to questions and then to each other to determine who would ask. Sometimes I think the rustling of papers can be heard through our microphones, but it wasn’t too bad in the end. A couple of times Steve would half-answer questions, and we would then skip other questions as a result. Two examples:
- In the collecting half we asked a listener’s question of what his most expensive collectable was, and he said he doesn’t like to talk about it. He told a great story of how he remortgaged his house for some items, which was a good story without going into dollars and cents. As a result we skipped our follow up question of how much his collection is worth.
- In the other half we asked quite a few questions about Celebration 3, specifically the George Lucas line. We got a good response, but one question we had was “After Celebration 3, would Lucasfilm ever consider working with Gencon again?” That question felt like it was going too far after all he had said, and he is savvy enough to never publicly speak poorly about any business organization. That question was left unsaid.
Speaking of Celebration 3, regular listeners of Star Wars Action News know of the crusade I fought at C3 for fan’s rights to stand in line, and how I even spoke to Mr. Sansweet at the convention, seemingly to no avail. The C3 questions I had were asked and to my surprise he said that it was a horrible situation, that there was a breakdown in communication, and that steps were being taken to ensure it never happened again. This was wonderful news, and it makes me able to shrug off all the bad feelings I’ve held about C3 for the past 10 months. It WAS a horrible, horrible situation but all I wanted was for someone to acknowledge that. Steve did, and he’s a good man for doing so.
We did try to ask leading questions about things we all know will happen but it’s all a question of when, such as Celebration 4, a six movie box set, and so on. I was surprised at how much information Sansweet was able to give. I expected a lot of “it’s progressing” regarding the 3-D movie remasters, the live-action television show, and so on. We got some of it, but some other surprisingly concrete information.
Of course, when he wanted to sidestep a question Steve did it masterfully. For those unaware, he was a journalist for many, many years. As such he mastered the art of the interview as he deftly maneuvered questions he may not have wanted to answer into related stories that he had no problem telling. Well played, Sansweet.
The interview ran almost exactly one hour. We had scheduled 70 minutes but had also gotten a late start, and we had asked all of our “important” questions from all four sections of our interview: Collecting, Lucasfilm, Celebration 3, and Miscellaneous. To end it off we asked one listener question which I thought was quite off-the-wall: “if you were trapped on a desert island which one item from your collection would be most useful?” I would have expected the tent, the air-matress, or some other such thing. He chose the cereal so he’d have something to eat. A fine answer, but given how amusing the rest of the interview was I had hoped for something more obscure.