George Lucas: Soviet filmmakers had more freedom than us, bound by commercialism (Video interview)


January 4, 2015

Posted by Kristina Rus

George Lucas: 

…I have never had an academy award, I am too popular for that. They don’t give academy awards to popular films…

…I am not sure with society at large it’s helping much, and that’s what I am going to do now. I always wanted to make movies that I want to do. I always disliked theatrical movies…

… Art on all levels is technology…

…I have produced more failures then successes …


… I know what’s gonna work and what’s not gonna work. One of the reasons that I retired is so that I can make movies that are not popular. Because in a world we live in, in a system that we have created for ourselves, and it’s a big industry, you can not lose money, so you are forced to make a particular kind of movie. And I used to say this all the time, back when Russia was USSR, people would say, aren’t you so glad that you are in America, and I said that I know a lot of Russian filmmakers and they have a lot more freedom than I have, they just have to be careful about not criticizing the government. You have to adhere to a very narrow line of commercialism…


… Star Wars changed the industry for the good and for the bad. When you invent things, when you bring new things into a society, it’s like the balance of the force, you can either use it for good, or you can use it for evil. What happens, when there is something new, people have a tendency to overdo it, they abuse it.  There are two things that got abused with Star Wars, and are still being abused. One, when Star Wars came out, everyone said, oh, it’s a silly movie, it’s just space battles, there is nothing behind it. And I said, there is stuff behind it, it’s not just space battles, there is more to it, it’s much much more complicated. But nobody would listen, they said, we like the spaceships.  So the spaceships got terribly abused. And of course everybody went out and made spaceship movies, and they were all horrible and lost a tons of money. And you say, there is more to it, you can’t just go out and do spaceships! The other part, which is the technology, oh we will just take this new technology, it’s great, especially when it came down later to digital technology, where you can really do anything, and they did it with sound and color. Whenever there is a new tool, people just go crazy, they forget that there is actually a story. You are telling a story using tools. You are not using tools to tell the story.  

The other thing that got abused (naturally in a capitalist society, especially in American point of view): the studios said, wow, we can make a lot of money, this is a license to kill and they did it. And of course the only way you can do it is not take chances, only do what’s proven. You have to remember, Star Wars came from nowhere, there was nothing like it. Now, if you do anything that’s not a sequel or not a TV series, they wan’t do it.  That’s the downside of Star Wars, and it really shows an enormous lack of imagination and fear of creativity on the part of an industry. 

Corporations (may be not Silicon valley, but the old institutions) are known for being risk averse, and movies are not risk averse. Every single movie is a risk, a big risk.  The movie business is exactly like professional gambling, except you hire the gambler, usually some crazy kid with blonde hair, and you give him a $100 million and say, go to the tables and come back with $500 million. That is a risk. The studios don’t think about it that way. They say, may be if we told him he couldn’t bet on red, cause we did market research … So they try to minimize their risk. And of course you are hiring the kid to take risks, to be creative, to do things that have never been done before, never been tested, you have no idea whether they are going to work or not, that’s completely the antithesis of what a big modern corporation is, they want to test things 360 ways…

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