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If you like George Lucas's story, you might also like:
James Cameron,
Francis Ford Coppola,
Ron Howard,
Peter Jackson,
James Earl Jones,
James Rosenquist,
Julie Taymor,
Kent Weeks and
Robert Zemeckis

George Lucas can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center


George Lucas also appears in the videos:
Education in the 21st Century
Passion, Creativity and the Arts: Writing for Motion Pictures
The Arts, Sciences & Creativity
The Power of Words
Media and Social Responsibility

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring George Lucas in the Achievement Curriculum section:
The Power of Words
Talent and Vision

Related Links:
Star Wars
Edutopia
The Giving Pledge

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George Lucas
 
George Lucas
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George Lucas Interview

Creator of "Star Wars"

June 19, 1999
Washington, D.C.

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  George Lucas

You had a bad auto accident as a teenager. Do you think that changed the course of your life?

George Lucas: I'm not sure. I think about that sometimes.


I was a terrible student in high school and the thing that the auto accident did -- and it happened just as I graduated, so I was at this sort of crossroads -- but it made me apply myself more, because I realized more than anything else what a thin thread we hang on in life, and I really wanted to make something out of my life. And I was in an accident that, in theory, no one could survive. So it was like, "Well I'm here, and every day now is an extra day. I've been given an extra day so I've got to make the most of it." And then the next day I began with two extra days. And I've sort of -- you can't help in that situation but get into a mind set like that, which is you've been given this gift and every single day is a gift, and I wanted to make the most of it. Before, when I was in high school, I just sort of wandered around. I wanted to be a car mechanic and I wanted to race cars and the idea of trying to make something out of my life wasn't really a priority. But the accident allowed me to apply myself at school. I got great grades. Eventually I got very excited about anthropology and about social sciences and psychology, and I was able to push my photography even further and eventually discovered film and film schools.


George Lucas Interview Photo
Weren't you always interested in filmmaking?

George Lucas: Well, I grew up in a small town in Central California; it was a farming community. We had a couple of movie theaters, and you'd go to the movies once in a while. I didn't get a television until I was 10 or 11 years old. I had lots of interests. I liked woodworking, I liked to build things. I liked cars. I liked art. I really wanted to be an illustrator, and I liked photography.

I didn't really discover any interest in film until I was a junior in college.

What changed for you then? Is there something you learned about achievement later that you didn't understand when you were younger?

George Lucas: Part of the issue of achievement is to be able to set realistic goals. That was one of the hardest things for me to do. You don't always know exactly where you're going, and you shouldn't. For me just setting the goals of getting decent grades in school and taking subjects I had some interest in was a big goal. I focused on that.


I decided to go to film school because I loved the idea of making films. I loved photography and everybody said it was a crazy thing to do because in those days nobody made it into the film business. I mean, unless you were related to somebody there was no way in. So everybody was thinking I was silly. "You're never going to get a job." But I wasn't moved by that. I set the goal of getting through film school, and just then focused on getting to that level because I didn't -- you know, I didn't know where I was going to go after that. I wanted to make documentary films, and eventually I got into the goal of -- once I got to school -- of making a film. One of the most telling things about film school is you've got a lot of students in those days especially, it's not quite so much today, but - wandering around saying, "Oh, I wish I could make a movie. I wish I could make a move." You know, "I can't get in this class. I can't get any this or that." The first class I had was an animation class. It wasn't a production class. I had a history class and an animation class. And, in the animation class they gave us one minute of film to put onto the animation camera to operate it, to see how you could move left, move right, make it go up and down. It was a test. You had certain requirements that you had to do. You had to make it go up and had to make it go down, and then the teacher would look at it and say, "Oh yes, you maneuvered this machine to do these things." I took that one minute of film and made it into a movie, and it was a movie that won like, you know twenty or twenty-five awards in every film festival in the world and kind of changed the whole animation department. Meanwhile all the other guys were going around saying, "Oh, I wish I could make a movie. I wish I was in a production class." So then I got into another class and it wasn't really a production class but I managed to get some film and I made a movie. And, I made lots of movies while in school while everybody else was running around saying, "Oh, I wish I could make a movie. I wish they'd give me some film."

[ Key to Success ] Passion


(George Lucas produced and directed his first film while a student at USC film school in 1965. "Look At Life," shot on 16-mm film, won awards for its innovative photo montage.)


George Lucas Interview Photo
You could actually go to school and learn how to make movies. Suddenly everything came together in one place. All my likes, everything I actually seemed to have talent for was right there. I said, "Hey, this is it. I can do this really well. I really love to do it." And from then on I, you know, just took off, but before that I was kind of wandering as I think a lot of students do.

When I look back on it now, if I'd gone to art school, or stayed in anthropology, I'm almost positive I would have ended up eventually in film. Mostly I just followed my inner feelings and passions, and said "I like this, and I like this," and I just kept going to where it got warmer and warmer, until it finally got hot, and then that's where I was.

What is it about film that makes it so exciting?

George Lucas: I think that's just a personal thing for me. It's extremely hard work, and it's not very glamorous. It ultimately is simply a way of expressing ideas. I am more of a visual person than a verbal person. For me, I think, the excitement is the fact that I found a way of telling the story as I want to tell it, in a medium that I could master. Although I write screenplays, I don't think I'm a very good writer. I'm very interested in studying cultures and social issues, but as an academic I don't think I would have been too successful.

Were there any experiences that inspired you as a kid?

George Lucas: There wasn't much as a kid that inspired me in what I did as an adult.


I was always extremely curious about why people did the things they do. I was always very interested in what motivates people and in telling stories and building things. I've always been very into building things. Whether it was chess sets or houses or cars or whatever. I liked to put things together. When I was young, from at least my teenage years they were completely devoted to cars. That was the most important thing in my life from about the ages of 14 to 20.

[ Key to Success ] Passion


George Lucas Interview Photo
When I first got to college, I was very interested in the social sciences, anthropology, sociology, psychology, those kinds of things. And I was still interested in art and photography. I didn't know that I could actually put them all together in one occupation and love it.

I wanted to transfer to an art school, and ended up going to the University of Southern California. They had a cinematography school, and I said "Well, that's sort of like photography, maybe that will be interesting." And once I started in that department, I found what it was that I loved and was good at. And I realized I could do it very well, and that I enjoyed doing it. It really ignited a passion in me, and it took off from there. After that, I didn't do anything but films.

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