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George Lucas

Creator of "Star Wars"

George Lucas: Learning to make films is very easy. Learning what to make films about is very hard. What you've really got to do is focus on learning as much about life, and about various aspects of it first. Then learn just the techniques of making a movie because that stuff you can pick up pretty quickly. But having a really good understanding of history, literature, psychology, sciences -- are very, very important to actually being able to make movies.
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George Lucas

Creator of "Star Wars"

George Lucas: I came from a very avant-garde documentary kind of film making world. I like cinema verité, documentaries. I liked non-story, non-character tone poems that were being done in San Francisco at that time. And that's the film making that I was interested in. Francis Coppola, who was my mentor, sort of -- he's a writer and works with actors -- stage director -- and he said, "You've gotta learn how to do this." And so I took him up on the challenge and wrote my own screenplays, learned to write and work with actors.
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George Lucas

Creator of "Star Wars"

I don't ever see movies by myself. I always see them with other people because I want to know what works. I want to know where they laugh. I want to know where they don't laugh. I want to know what they think about it afterwards because in the end that's what the art that I'm working with is. You know? Trying to communicate in a way that is effective and people react to. So I can't ignore the people I'm telling the story to.
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Paul MacCready

Engineer of the Century

Having a brain that works a little differently than what best fits the school system, you learn to cope and emphasize the things -- You sort of do it the way that best suits you. I did most of my learning during the homework rather than the class period. A lot of dyslexics are very creative people. They have some real problems to overcome, and they figure out good ways of overcoming them. In fact, the jails are probably full of dyslexics who are very bright in figuring out how to do crime, which is what they are left with when they can't fit into the school system.
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Norman Mailer

Two Pulitzer Prizes

When I say my only reading was romantic, it was before I went to Harvard. One of the great changes was that now my reading turned completely. I discovered that people could speak of poetry without an apologetic grin. They could be dead serious about listening to classical music. You know, I came from Brooklyn and you were lower than a sissy if you took music seriously, if you took poetry and so forth. That wasn't there. The game was on the streets. I don't mean by that that I was a tough kid out on the streets and such, but we all were slightly tough. You know, we learned to play touch football jeering at cars when they occasionally went by because they interrupted our game. That was as tough as we got, but nonetheless there was an attitude of machismo even though we didn't fulfill it. And so, going to Harvard where culture was important was the key shock. It was four or five steps at that point. So, then I began to read seriously of necessity. Everybody else was reading seriously, so I did, too.
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Norman Mailer

Two Pulitzer Prizes

Norman Mailer: I learned a great deal from writing classes. I don't sneer at them. In fact, I often give people -- when I get a letter from someone and perhaps they have enclosed a few pages of a story, and they obviously have a raw talent but they're completely untutored -- I often tell them to go to the nearest writing class they can find. And what I tell them in the letter -- and later I put that, I think, into The Spooky Art -- was that it doesn't matter if the teacher is not extraordinary. After all, if you're going to take a writing class in some community college, the odds are that the person who is teaching the course may be dedicated, but they are not necessarily the best writing teacher in the state, but nonetheless what is good is you get a wonderful sense of audience. You come to learn that your story is not what you thought it was, that if ten people are reading it you're likely to find that there will be two or three at each end - you really have a bell-shaped curve. There will be one, two or three people at either end who love it or hate it much more than you thought they would. And it also chops down that terribly unstable vanity that young writers have, you know, where they think, "I'm a great writer," and at the same time they can't take a single criticism, and writing courses are good for that; they weather you. It's a little bit like a kid who wants to play varsity football but never tries out for the team. So you go to that writing class and you get toughened up a little.
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Norman Mailer

Two Pulitzer Prizes

Nelson Algren once said something very interesting. I attended a writing class he was giving; he asked me to sit in with him. He was very kind to a rather mediocre writer, who imitated Hemingway so badly but so completely that after the class I said, "Why did you give all that time to that fellow? He really is no good." And he said, "Yeah, I know he's no good but, you know, sometimes these guys who are mediocre get better." He said, "The thing is, I like it if they have an influence when they're young and they write in the style of somebody else, because that speeds them up for learning how to write by themselves. Once they learn how, if they're any good at all they step away from the person they're imitating and begin to find their own style, but first they've got to be able to imitate somebody." And, I've never forgotten that. It was an interesting comment about writing.
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