Learning from George
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 9 (September 2005)

Learning from George

he highly anticipated keynote Q&A session with George Lucas drew a standing room-only crowd, as literally thousands of SIGGRAPH storm troopers filled the hall to capacity for an all-too-brief glimpse into his world.

What would we learn from this “godfather of cinematic breakthroughs?” How does he plan to top Star Wars, now that the entire story has been told? Is it possible to translate his forward-thinking vision into our own way of working?

Lucas admits he is not a techie-he relies on his talented team to embrace his visions and help turn them into reality. He does, however, like to push the technology envelope-Avid, THX, and Pixar are all prime examples of his past successes. And, it’s probably safe to bet that he’s not done yet. “I’m a storyteller. Anybody [who] works in the arts runs into the technology ceiling. You have to know how to use technology,” explains Lucas. “Cinema requires that you make it believable [to convince others] that it exists.” Advances in technology definitely help make this happen.

Previsualization, which Lucas considers “a fancy word for storyboarding,” is a very important process in which he unveils his creative ideals. “The problem for me is that storyboards don’t translate the real movement,” Lucas says. He overcomes this challenge by working on a simplified previsualization system which, admittedly, is “easy enough” for him to use. Lucas also believes in integrating sound at the beginning of a project, but realizes it can become very expensive as changes are made. However, he holds firm to the belief that the sound in a movie is 50 percent of the moviegoing experience and the primary reason he invests heavily in the auditory elements upfront.

Now that Lucas has told the saga of Anakin Skywalker, what’s next? The director says he has hundreds of projects he wants to work on and is currently interested in the art of anime. He’s so interested, that he plans to strike out in Asia and India to utilize the enormous pool of talented artists in those countries who work in this creative format. Television also intrigues Lucas because it’s an “easier medium to work in, and more fun.”

What about games and film? Are they converging? “I wouldn’t say at this point they have,” explains Lucas. “I want it to get to the point where you talk to the game and it talks back.” In fact, he looks forward to the day when artificial intelligence and voice recognition come together in “intellectually challenging shooter-type games.”

Although experimenting with television and anime are his latest diversion, film remains a passion for Lucas as he strives for a “purer way” of filmmaking that focuses on the visual aspect of the art. That’s not to say he is ignoring the digital dream; Lucas wants to push it to the next level-all-digital sets with seamlessly integrated characters that tell the story.

“Every film presents new challenges,” says Lucas. “Without those challenges thrown at you, you don’t grow.”

Kelly Dove