THE STAR WARS NUT WHO BECAME FAN AMBASSADOR FOR LUCASFILM
(Business 2.0) – It's a job that causes any hard-core Star Wars fan to let out a Wookiee's howl in envy: 59-year-old Steve Sansweet works for Lucasfilm in San Rafael, Calif., as director of content management and head of fan relations. "Sure, I play with toys and talk to the fans," Sansweet says. "But there's a lot more to it."
Yes, pity the man who must also go to fan conventions and deliver word of new planets before another Star Wars movie hits theaters. In 1990, Sansweet was the Wall Street Journal's Los Angeles bureau chief when he heard that Lucasfilm wanted to create a price guide for Star Wars collectibles. Sansweet had been a Star Wars fanatic from the original film's 1977 debut and had collected everything from transformer-style X-Wing starfighters to Empire Strikes Back lemon chews.
"I cold-called Lucasfilm and said if anyone does that book it should be me," he says. Sansweet kept his day job while writing what became a much more expansive book about the creation of the Star Wars universe. That led to more books, as well as appearances on QVC during dozens of two-hour Star Wars-stuff sellathons. In 1996, Lucasfilm offered Sansweet a job in the newly created role of fan relations, but the catch was that the position would last only a year. Sansweet pondered the huge leap of faith.
"I thought, leave the cocoon of the Journal for a temporary job and a pay cut?" he says. "But I figured, don't be afraid to try to turn to another career that could make you happier."
Sansweet's now as jolly as an Ewok. He has appeared hundreds of times as Lucasfilm's fan ambassador. He lives in the hills north of San Francisco and has converted a 5,000-square-foot barn on his property into a Star Wars museum. People regularly beg to work for him; many offer to do it for free. But that's a deal Sansweet won't make. "Do they know the cost of housing in Marin County?" he asks. "Working for bread and water isn't going to do it." — A.T.