George Lucas Shoots a Cinema Verité-Style Documentary on Francis Ford Coppola (1969)

In 1968, years before Amer­i­can Graf­fi­ti, Raiders of the Lost Ark and, shud­der, the Star Wars pre­quels, George Lucas was a strug­gling film­mak­er with a cou­ple of exper­i­men­tal films movies under his belt. His short Elec­tron­ic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB took first prize at the Nation­al Stu­dent Film Fes­ti­val, but he had yet to make the plunge into fea­ture films. So he did what many oth­er artists and cre­ative types did in the past – he glommed onto a more suc­cess­ful friend.

The friend in this case was Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la, who by 1968 had already direct­ed three fea­tures and was start­ing pro­duc­tion of his lat­est movie, The Rain Peo­ple. Lucas talked his friend into let­ting him shoot a behind-the-scenes doc­u­men­tary about the pro­duc­tion. The result­ing doc, Film­mak­er –A Diary By George Lucas, is a fas­ci­nat­ing doc­u­ment of the ear­ly days of New Hol­ly­wood and the strug­gles of get­ting an inde­pen­dent movie made. You can watch it above.

Shot in a ciné­ma vérité mat­ter, Lucas cap­tures Cop­po­la at his most charm­ing, cre­ative and pas­sion­ate – deal­ing with the stu­dios over the phone, con­sult­ing with a baby-faced James Caan on set and strug­gling to shoot a scene while bat­tling the stom­ach flu. He was even forced to shave his trade­mark beard so as not to upset any of the local anti-hip­py con­stab­u­lar­ies. The film shows Cop­po­la mak­ing up the film as he went along. At one point, he re-writes a scene to incor­po­rate an actu­al local parade. Film­mak­er makes an inter­est­ing con­trast with that oth­er Cop­po­la doc­u­men­tary, Hearts of Dark­ness, made on the set of Apoc­a­lypse Now. Here he’s filled with a youth­ful vig­or that in Hearts, deep in the jun­gles of the Philip­pines, has trans­formed into half-mad ego­ma­nia. Of course, the shoot for Rain Peo­ple was­n’t any­where near as epic or dis­as­trous as Apoc­a­lypse.

On set, Lucas shot and record­ed sound for the doc all by him­self and gen­er­al­ly made him­self as unob­tru­sive as pos­si­ble. “George was around in a very qui­et way,” recalled Rain Peo­ple pro­duc­er Ron Col­by. “You’d look around and sud­den­ly there’d be George in a cor­ner with his cam­era. He’d just kind of drift around.”

The movie proved to be valu­able for Lucas’s con­fi­dence as a film­mak­er. He lat­er described mak­ing the movie as “more ther­a­py than any­thing else. “At night, after pro­duc­tion had wrapped for the day, Lucas would go off to write the script to his first fea­ture THX-1138.

Film­mak­er final­ly pre­miered in 1977, the year that Lucas released Star Wars and com­plete­ly stepped out from the shad­ow of his friend and men­tor Cop­po­la.

An alter­na­tive ver­sion can be found on Youtube here. Oth­er great films can be found in our rich col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Via Devour/Kit­bashed

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

How Star Wars Bor­rowed From Aki­ra Kurosawa’s Great Samu­rai Films

Frei­heit, George Lucas’ Short Stu­dent Film About a Fatal Run from Com­mu­nism (1966)

Watch the Very First Trail­ers for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi (1976–83)

Joseph Camp­bell and Bill Moy­ers Break Down Star Wars as an Epic, Uni­ver­sal Myth

Hun­dreds of Fans Col­lec­tive­ly Remade Star Wars; Now They Remake The Empire Strikes Back

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.