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#35 George Lucas: A Life
August 26th, 2018 | E35

What I learned from reading George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones. 


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Lucas unapologetically invested in what he believed in the most: himself.

“What we’re striving for is total freedom, where we can finance our pictures, make them our way, release them where we want them released, and be completely free to express ourselves,” explained Lucas. “That’s very hard to do in the world of business. In this country, the only thing that speaks is money and you have to have the money in order to have the power to be free.”

George looked at it like a businessman, saying, ‘Wait a minute. The studios borrowed money, took a 35 percent distribution fee off the top. This is crazy. Why don’t we borrow the money ourselves?' Some of the bravest and/or most reckless acts were not aesthetic, but financial.

My thing about art is that I don’t like the word art because it means pretension and bullshit, and I equate those two directly. I don’t think of myself as an artist, and I don’t think I ever will. I’m a craftsman. I don’t make a work of art; I make a movie. 

You couldn’t pay me enough money to go through what you have to go through to make a movie. It’s excruciating. It’s horrible. You get physically sick. I get a very bad cough and a cold whenever I direct. I don’t know whether it’s psychosomatic or not. You feel terrible. There is an immense amount of pressure, and emotional pain. But I do it anyway, and I really love to do it. It’s like climbing mountains.

I was seriously, seriously depressed at that point because nothing had gone right. Everything was screwed up. I was desperately unhappy. That was a very dark period for me. We were in dire financial straits. I was in debt to my parents, in debt to Francis Coppola, in debt to my agent; I was so far in debt I thought I’d never get out.

He was fascinated not only by Scrooge McDuck’s exploits but also by his conniving capitalist ways. “Work smarter, not harder,” was Scrooge’s motto, and his stories were full of inventive schemes that, more often than not, made him even richer and more successful. In Scrooge’s world, hard work paid off, yes — but so did cleverness and a desire to do something in a way no one had ever thought of before. The lessons Lucas learned from Uncle Scrooge would shape the kind of artist and businessman he would become in the future: conservative and driven, believing strongly in his own vision and pursuing it aggressively.

I sit at my desk for eight hours a day no matter what happens, even if I don’t write anything. It’s a terrible way to live. But I do it; I sit down and I do it. I can’t get out of my chair until five o clock or five-thirty. It’s like being in school. It’s the only way I can force myself to write. Most days, no words would be written at all. At 5:30 he would tromp downstairs to watch the evening news, glaring with anger over a TV dinner as he stewed about the blank pages he’d left upstairs.

Sitting next to him was a thirty-one-year-old independent filmmaker from northern California named John Korty. When he digressed into the details of his filmmaking Lucas really took an interest. For the past three years, Korty had been running his own filmmaking facility out of his barn at Stinson Beach, a small ocean resort town just north of San Francisco. He had privately raised the $100,000 for Crazy Quilt by hitting up friends, colleagues, and even his actors for money, shot the movie locally, then edited it on his own equipment. At the film’s premiere, it received a lengthy standing ovation, and Hollywood executives fell over themselves scrambling to distribute it and recruit Korty. But Korty was having none of it. “From what I saw of Hollywood, they can keep it right now,” Korty said. “I would rather work for myself. In Hollywood you have a producer breathing down your neck. Here in northern California I am happier working with less money. The risk of failure is far less . We can complete a film in maybe a year, getting the results we want.” This was exactly what they had in mind for themselves. “Korty inspired us both,” said Coppola. “He was a real innovator.”

How many people think the solution to gaining quality control, improving fiscal responsibility, and stimulating technological innovation is to start their own special effects company?” Ron Howard said admiringly. “But that’s what he did.”


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