Welcome to Rebel Briefing’s first Fan Focus post. Our mission is to celebrate the people who put the Force into Star Wars: the fans. Whatever your passion is, we’d love to tell your story. This week we get the ball rolling by chatting to the writer, editor and film location expert, Sander de Lange.
Sander de Lange knows his way around the Star Wars galaxy. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Core Worlds, Mid Rim or Unknown Regions; he knows his stuff. Back on Earth, Sander’s big passion is film locations. His Jedi-like knowledge of shooting spots for Star Wars and other movies is most impressive. So strong are his powers he’s written several articles for starwars.com and the official German Star Wars magazine. Let’s find out more.
Rebel Briefing: Hi, Sander. Let’s start by asking what your favourite Star Wars film is and why?
Sander: You’re starting with a challenging question, I see! The Saga is amazing, and picking one film is impossible. I tend to favour a movie per era. For the Prequels, it’s The Phantom Menace as it was the first film I saw. It’s a fantastic movie in every way. From the Original Trilogy, it’s The Empire Strikes Back. Rogue One is the best one of the Disney era. It’s the one they got right.
Rebel Briefing: What’s your first Star Wars memory?
Sander: Seeing The Phantom Menace and the time leading up to its release. I was in high school, and I remember being on a student exchange trip to Denmark. I recall Kellogg’s cereal boxes having figures inside. In the Netherlands, where I live, Star Wars merchandise was everywhere. I also managed to download a script of the movie to read in maths classes to pass the time!
Sander: Most of my meetings have come from going to conventions and collecting autographs. The list is extensive and nearly complete, except for the usual suspects, including Harrison Ford and George Lucas. If you look at my work, I’ve met Gerald Home, who played Tessek the Quarren and a Mon Calamari Officer in Return of the Jedi. I also became good friends with some members of the Lucasfilm Story Group. I interviewed Billy Dee Williams, which appeared in TeeKay-421 and Fantha Tracks. Along with Mark Newbold from Fantha Tracks, I spoke to Alan Austen, who played a Bespin Security Guard, Hoth Rebel and Stormtrooper in The Empire Strikes Back.
Rebel Briefing: Who’s your favourite?
Sander: Gerald Home has some incredible stories to tell. I spent a weekend working as his assistant at the annual Star Wars Weekend at Legoland in Denmark. That was great fun. My interview with Billy Dee Williams was brilliant. He’s not often the most talkative, but he was that day. My favourite person is Ahmed Best, who played Jar Jar Binks. I loath how he is treated by toxic people claiming to be fans, so his return in the Jedi Temple Challenge, plus his appearance at Celebration Chicago, was an opportunity I could not miss. I was bullied at school, so we bonded over these difficult periods in our lives.
Rebel Briefing: You have an impressive collection of Star Wars memorabilia. Can you tell us something about this, including your favourite items?
Sander: My favourite item is always the next one! I am pretty happy to have a nearly completed set of everything that’s literature-related. I’m making significant steps towards finishing my Hasbro action figures and Funkos collection. I love my LEGO sets and my niche character collections. I am looking forward to getting the original call sheets from The Phantom Menace, coming my way soon.
Rebel Briefing: What inspired you to collect Star Wars memorabilia?
Sander: It wasn’t anything in specific. My family collects things, so it came naturally when I first saw figures in the shops and discovered the novels.
Rebel Briefing: What Star Wars film locations have you visited, and what was your favourite?
Sander: I have been to Hoth (Finse in Norway), the Theed Royal Palace in Caserta (Italy), Scariff’s Citadel Tower (London), Endor (California) and Tatooine (Death Valley, Yuma and Tunisia). I had a tour of the Lucasfilm and Industrial Light and Magic headquarters in San Francisco, which was terrific. It’s not a place fans can usually visit, which is why it’s so high among my favourites. On an equal level was my visit to Tunisia. It’s worth taking a road trip to the Star Wars locations there because you’ll see some breathtaking places. The city of Kairouan, which stood in for Cairo in the first Indiana Jones movie, was great fun.
Rebel Briefing: Your knowledge of film locations is fantastic. Why do you find them so fascinating?
Sander: Since high school, I wanted to work in the tourism industry after seeing a behind-the-scenes series about EasyJet. My mum also told me my hometown Deventer was used as a filming location for A Bridge Too Far.
Rebel Briefing: Your love of writing, travelling, and Star Wars has inspired your passion project, Cinematic Backpacking. Tell us more about this?
Sander: Cinematic Backpacking is an upcoming project of mine. It’s kind of like a travel agency for fans who want to combine their regular holiday with visiting movie locations. There are many fantastic destinations globally, and there are many brilliant shooting spots to see. Holidaymakers who go to New York or London usually visit the Statue of Liberty or Big Ben, but when you add the Ghostbusters HQ or the Ministry of Magic to the schedule, your holiday becomes much more special.
Rebel Briefing: Your articles for the Galactic Backpacking section on starwars.com are interesting. What’s it like to write for the official website?
Sander: It’s an amazing and surreal experience – there are no other words to describe it.
Rebel Briefing: You also write the ‘From Concept to Screen’ section for the official site. Tell us more.
Sander: When writing about film locations, you eventually run out of places or movies to talk about. Having become the go-to writer for behind the scenes articles for TeeKay-421 magazine, it was a natural step to write about these things for the official website.
Rebel Briefing: You live in the Netherlands. Is there a big Star Wars fan community there?
Sander: Reasonably sized, I would say. There’s a big group of cosplayers and members of TeeKay-421, which is technically a Belgium Fanclub, but we have many Dutch members.
Rebel Briefing: Tell us more about your work with the Star Wars Sourcebooks page on Facebook, plus TeeKay-421 and the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub.
Sander: Sourcebooks is a fan page with information – textual and visual – about the Star Wars universe, its residents, ships, vehicles, weapons, planets, creatures, species and technology. It’s concentrated toward the movies and TV spin-offs, but of course we don’t forget the ‘Legends’ material. My main focus is translating the Aurebesh text we see in the movies and the TV series. For Star Wars Insider magazine, I also had the privilege of naming and giving backgrounds to characters in the publication’s ‘Rogue Gallery’ section.
TeeKay-421 was my first writing gig nearly ten years ago – it’s something I will always keep doing. I have done many jobs for the magazine, except draw a front cover! My role includes translating articles, conducting interviews, editing and proofreading stories and writing Fanclub event reports. I have my own pages to fill with comic reviews and behind-the-scenes articles. I have become a core member of the group, helping Tim Veekhoven run the club. This can include organising and running events to booth duty at Star Wars conventions.
Rebel Briefing: You’re a busy guy with many projects on the go. Can you tell us about your plans for the future?
Sander: I am busy organising a sub-group of the Cinematic Backpacking brand called Kingverse’s Constant Travellers. The aim is for it to become a group on Facebook, giving Stephen King fans information about shooting locations to plan their holiday around. This year I’m writing more articles for the German official Star Wars magazine, plus Journal of the Whills magazine. I’ll also be covering filming locations for the movies and spin-offs series including The Mandalorian. I have an article for the Star Wars Insider in the works, which reveals all the Jordan filming locations for Rogue One and Episode IX. I will write this with my friend James Floyd, who also writes for the official site.