No other 20th century filmmaker has had a greater impact on the film industry than George Lucas. His zeal for innovation forged a new relationship between entertainment and technology that revolutionized the art of motion pictures. His uncanny business acumen turned film licensing and merchandising into a multibillion-dollar industry. And his "Star Wars" trilogy ushered in the era of the Hollywood mega-blockbuster. Slide 2:
In 1967, Lucas re-enrolled as a USC graduate student in film production. Working as a teaching instructor for a class of U.S. Navy students who were being taught documentary cinematography, Lucas directed the short film Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, which won first prize at the 1967–68 National Student Film Festival, and was later adapted into his first full-length feature film, THX 1138. Lucas was awarded a student scholarship by Warner Brothers to observe and work on the making of a film of his choosing. The film he chose was Finian's Rainbow (1968) which was being directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who was revered among film school students of the time as a cinema graduate who had "made it" in Hollywood. In 1969, George Lucas was one of the camera operators on the classic Rolling Stones concert film Gimme Shelter. Slide 3:
Lucas was born in Modesto, California, on May 14, 1944. As an adolescent who, as he says, "barely squeaked through high school," Lucas aspired to be an auto racer. He changed his mind about a racing career, however, when a near-fatal accident crushed his lungs and sent him to the hospital for three months just days before his high school graduation. The experience changed Lucas. "I realized that I'd been living my life so close to the edge for so long," he says. "That's when I decided to go straight, to become a better student, to try to do something with myself." Lucas enrolled at Modesto Junior College, where he developed a fascination with cinematography. Deciding on a career in film, he applied to the prestigious University of Southern California (USC) film school. USC was a milestone for Lucas. "Suddenly my life was film-every waking hour," he says in a 1997 Playboy interview. He concentrated on making abstract science fiction films and mock documentaries, which caught the attention of director Francis Ford Coppola, who invited Lucas to sit in on the shooting of "Finian's Rainbow." Coppola also persuaded Warner Bros. to make a film of one of Lucas' student movies. The full-length feature, "THX-1138," a bleak Orwellian tale, was released in 1971 to modest reviews and a lukewarm reception at the box office. But studio executives were impressed with Lucas' obvious talent. Slide 4:
"THX-1138" had earned Lucas a reputation as a skilled but mechanical filmmaker devoid of humor and feeling. Founder Lucasfilm and released his second film, "American Graffiti," which was based on his own coming of age in Modesto, would change that. Filmed on a shoestring budget of just $780,000, the film became a smash hit soon after its release in June 1973 and eventually grossed $120 million. The film got rave reviews and made Lucas a Hollywood sensation. It also proved to be a defining moment for Lucas, as both a filmmaker and a businessman. Studio honchos pulled rank and made changes to Lucas' final version. The changes were minor, but the scars were lasting. "I'm very aware as a creative person that those who control the means of production control the creative vision," he says. "It's not a matter of saying 'You're going to let me have the final cut,' because no matter what you do in a contract, they will go around it. Whereas if you own the cameras and you own the film, there's nothing they can do to stop you." And that's exactly what Lucas set out to do. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), which he created in 1975 when he couldn't find an outside company to do special effects for "Star Wars." ILM's first breakthrough was a motion-control camera, which could revolve...