One of Lucasfilm’s earliest employees, Miki Herman had aspired to work in filmmaking and served in many different roles over her ten years with the company. To celebrate Women’s History Month, she joins us to discuss her many Lucasfilm adventures from the intrepid production of Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) to location scouts for the forest moon of Endor in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983) to the company’s first television projects.
May we ask about when you first arrived at Lucasfilm? You were involved with supporting Star Wars: A New Hope producer Gary Kurtz, correct?
I got my start at Lucasfilm actually by volunteering at the American Film Institute [AFI], and I worked as a production manager on a short film with Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman called Minestrone. I met this woman at the AFI, who was the head secretary, and she left and went to work at the Universal office where Lucasfilm was set up at the time. So I used to call her there and see if she knew of any jobs around. One day, I called and a man named Jim Nelson answered the phone and said, “Well, she’s not here.” So I said, “Well, how about a job for me?” So he hired me to come in to fill in at the Lucasfilm office during Christmas vacation. That’s when I met Gary Kurtz and filled out his Christmas cards. After I left, I called Jim for freebies and favors for the American Film Institute films that I was producing. Jim Nelson was really my mentor, and he was working as a production manager on Star Wars. That was how I started at Lucasfilm. It was really by volunteering at the American Film Institute. So anybody who has a chance to volunteer at a great place like that, it’s just a real sure bet that it’ll fuel your passion with success.
To touch on your background a little more before you came to Lucasfilm, can you talk about what first inspired you to try to get into the field?
My dad had a movie camera and he was always taking home movies. And then when I was in college, I took that movie camera and I started making movies and I really fell in love with filmmaking. I moved to Los Angeles after I graduated from San Francisco State to become a filmmaker. When I would go for interviews at different studios, I found out that you didn’t interview to be a filmmaker. So, the AFI was the place where I got my first taste of making movies other than my home movies and my student films.
And you were a film major at San Francisco State?
I was an art major, and then I got into film, so I was both. I did it in the art department, but I loved filmmaking. It became my passion.
Did you have any favorite films that specifically inspired you or was it primarily just that process of using your father’s camera and things like that?
I always had a camera in my hand, and being in the art department, I learned how to see. The wonderful thing about a training in art is that you learn how to see. So I always had a camera in my hand, either a movie camera or a still camera.