Power of Story – Vision of Independence with George Lucas and Robert Redford

Every year, the Sundance Film Festival produces two Power Series.  Earlier in the week, we witnessed the Serious Ladies with Krisitn Wiig, Jenji Kohan and Mindy Kaling.  Today,  kicking off Art of Film Weekend, a program celebrating the craft of filmmaking is a panel with Robert Redford and George Lucas—two iconic filmmakers who epitomize the spirit of independence in American cinema—in conversation with critic Leonard Maltin.

These are some paraphrased notes from he conversation…

Maltin:  When did you fall in love with movies and how?

RR:  I fell in love with the cinema and the bizarre for independence.  When I was 4 or 5 years old, we would walk to the movies on Saturday because we had nothing else to do.  There was nothing more exciting for me as a child than to hear “Once Upon A Time.”

GL:  I grew up in Central California and I would go to the movies just to chase girls.  I listened to a lot of radio and Disney story records.  I didn’t really fall in love with movies until I was in my 20’s.  I was always obsessed with cars.

RR:  In my head, I decided I wanted to be an artist.  In LA, when I was in the 3rd grad I found that I wasn’t interested in what the class was about or what the teacher was saying, so I would draw.  One day she caught me and asked me to show the class what I was drawing and afterwards told me that she would get an easel and give me 15 minutes to draw for the class.  If she had gone the other way…I don’t know what would’ve happened.    I was a BIG sportswear lover, but drawing was my passion.  My Granddad use to say “You can’t eat art”.

GL:  My Dad would say that too!!!

Maltin:  How did you get into acting

RR:  I was in Europe and came to New York because I had been in Los Angeles my whole life.  The city I loved (LA) was pulled underneath me and I was ready to leave.  I was in this acting class in New York and after a very challenging class, I had decided I wasn’t coming back.  My teacher begged me to come back and again if he had gone a different way…

Here’s what Lucas and Redford had to say on the first time meeting Francis Ford Coppola

GL:  Francis (Ford Coppola) was the first film student to make it into the industry with Seven Arts, which for him led to directing, writing and producing (Paris Is Burning, Patton, Finian’s Rainbow).  Seven Arts bought Warner Brothers where I had just received a scholarship.  While the studio was in transition, I was put on  a back lot of a movie where I first met Francis.

RR:  In 1960, I was doing theatre in New York and was asked by the Sanders Brothers (who were under contract with United Artists) to do a black and white war film in Los Angeles.  We shot it in Topanga Canyon and Francis was driving a car and drove it right into a ditch.  I helped him get the car out and that was the first time I met Francis

Redford started in the studio system, but in 1980 when the industry shifted and became more youth driven and cable television was exploding, there wasn’t a means for filmmakers to tell “their” stories as independents.  So, Redford applied for a NEA grant to start Sundance.  Now, Sundance is the most sought after festival to have your film screened for distribution, exposure and another way for filmmakers to express their artistry with workshops, panels, etc…

GL:  Zoetrope started at my house in San Francisco….I’ve never been happy with Hollywood and have never made a movie there…The industry at that time was about street films (psychological dramas, police dramas, etc…).  With Star Wars, I avoided the studio, then THX took the film and tried to recut it(the same thing happened with American Graffiti).  They (the studio) let me have the sequel rights because they though Star Wars wasn’t going to make any money.  The licensing didn’t exist…there was no such thing.  I thought I could make a bunch of t-shirts and posters to sell the movie…I’ve been very lucky in my career.  I will say…Fox was very good to me giving me extra money to do re-takes.  The studios treat directors and writers like they are the plumbers that come in and do the work.  So, I invested everything I had into The Empire Strikes Back.  It worked, so I just keep taking what I made off of one film to invest in the next.

RR:  If you’re going to work outside the studio system you have to be very creative in order to make it work

 

GL:  The idea that some answers are outside the box.  You can tell a fun story without following the rules.  That’s what I did what Star Wars.  I’m gonna do what is entertaining.  No matter what you’re doing…just have a good time.  Never follow the rules…

 

When asked where they felt the industry was going in..

GL:  Most movies today are circus movies where the action has little to do with telling the story…All art is technology.

RR:  The New Frontier here at Sundance shows us what role technology plays in film…

In closing, when asked for advice to up and coming filmmakers, Redford simply stated…Pay Attention and Listen

 

The Sundance Film Festival runs through February 1 in Park City, Utah.

 

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