It is rumored that George Lucas felt that Star Wars was such a disaster that he didn’t attend the opening. His friend, Steven Spielberg, disagreed and expected it would be a big hit. Steven was the sole colleague that liked the film.
George didn’t believe him; in fact, he had locked himself in an editing room for the majority of the day the film was released. It was only when he stepped out for lunch, did he see the lines waiting outside of the Mann’s Chinese theater.
Success is often not convenient or linear, and George’s experience was no different. One of the 20th century's greatest business minds, Harold Geneen, says it this way: “You read a book from the beginning to end, you run a business the opposite way. You start with the end and you do everything you must to reach it.”
Fresh off his success with American Graffiti and a prior failure in THX 1138, Lucas took a bold move and passed on a $500k directing fee in return for keeping the licensing and merchandising rights to Star Wars.
It cost 20th Century Fox and set Alan Ladd Jr., George’s champion, at odds with the board. It certainly was not a convenient or straight path because there was the vision, but there was a complete lack of any of the support special effects companies and infrastructure to support his globe-spanning saga.
George’s vision necessitated the creation of multiple companies to support it. Industrial Light and Magic, Skywalker Sound, and THX spiraled out of his creative need.
Moreover, the effects artists had never done anything resembling a project of this scale. There weren’t films they could study, nor were there any protocols. They had to start at the end and figure out how to execute his vision.
It was so bad that at one point, Lucas was admitted to the ER because he thought he was having a heart attack. ILM was off schedule, and the shoot was hopelessly behind and over budget. He feared his intergalactic story would be a complete loss.
And then history happened, and George Lucas forever changed the way we experience film.
Sometimes fulfilling your vision feels like a lonely journey. George had Steven. Who do you have?
Maybe YES is your tribe. What are you doing September 24th?