empire

Lucas’ Empire: Power of Story - Sundance Film Festival 15

“Why should we use all this equipment and all this stuff when we can make it better?” In this excerpt from a recent Sundance panel on “The Power of Story,” George Lucas once again attempts to explain how his loathing for the Hollywood apparatus led to the creation of a special effects empire that enabled a whole new super-strain of Hollywood blockbusters. In his narrative, Lucas had to create a special effects house because none existed, and he had to get into the toy licensing business to prolong the life of his movies inn the market place, and he had to create digital filmmaking because “I ripped up millions of sprocket holes” and thought there had to be a better process. The big paradox of Lucas’ career is how a Bruce Conner devotee helped birth pretty much the exact opposite. Here, as ever, he sounds reasonable in explaining his thinking and utterly disconnected from its inevitable result.

George Lucas On How He Built His $4 Billion ‘Star Wars’ Empire   ‘If you own the movie, which I came to do, you make a lot of money. But you have to own it, and that means you have to put the money in, so you have to take the risk.  I was talking to Ladd Jr. on the first Star Wars. I had 50 percent of the net profits because my company was going out and making the movie, and I said, “I know what I’m doing for my 50 percent. I put my heart and soul in this, my whole career is at stake, I have to actually go out and make the movie… What are you doing for your 50 percent?” He said, “Well, I provide the money.” I said, “You don’t provide the money! You go to a bank with a letter of credit and they supply the money, so you’re not doing anything! And you get 50 percent of the movie!”  So, I came back for The Empire Strikes Back and, instead of them giving me the boilerplate contract, I gave them the boilerplate contract. I went to my lawyer and I said, “You’re going to do a distribution contract from scratch.” He said, “Do you know how hard that is? That’s really a lot of work! It’s 180 pages!” And I said, “Look: How many chances are you ever gonna get to write a distribution agreement for a studio? Nobody’s ever done it, and nobody’s ever gonna do it again.” I went to Laddy and I said, “Here’s the deal. I’m going to finance the film this time.” And he said, “Well, wait a minute… you’re getting 100 percent of the profits!” And I said, “Yeah. I’m financing it! Remember that 50 percent you had? Well, I’m doing that now. You don’t get that 50 percent, and I get my own 50 percent, so I get 100 percent.”’

George Lucas On How He Built His $4 Billion ‘Star Wars’ Empire

‘If you own the movie, which I came to do, you make a lot of money. But you have to own it, and that means you have to put the money in, so you have to take the risk.

I was talking to Ladd Jr. on the first Star Wars. I had 50 percent of the net profits because my company was going out and making the movie, and I said, “I know what I’m doing for my 50 percent. I put my heart and soul in this, my whole career is at stake, I have to actually go out and make the movie… What are you doing for your 50 percent?” He said, “Well, I provide the money.” I said, “You don’t provide the money! You go to a bank with a letter of credit and they supply the money, so you’re not doing anything! And you get 50 percent of the movie!”

So, I came back for The Empire Strikes Back and, instead of them giving me the boilerplate contract, I gave them the boilerplate contract. I went to my lawyer and I said, “You’re going to do a distribution contract from scratch.” He said, “Do you know how hard that is? That’s really a lot of work! It’s 180 pages!” And I said, “Look: How many chances are you ever gonna get to write a distribution agreement for a studio? Nobody’s ever done it, and nobody’s ever gonna do it again.” I went to Laddy and I said, “Here’s the deal. I’m going to finance the film this time.” And he said, “Well, wait a minute… you’re getting 100 percent of the profits!” And I said, “Yeah. I’m financing it! Remember that 50 percent you had? Well, I’m doing that now. You don’t get that 50 percent, and I get my own 50 percent, so I get 100 percent.”’