The Lucas Effect George Lucas and the New Hollywood By Patti J. McCarthy


George Lucas has been instrumental in ushering in what is known as the blockbuster while single-handedly created the film franchise, shifted Hollywood from an auteur to an entrepreneurial model and pioneered digital filmmaking. A filmmaker, visionary and entrepreneur, George Lucas has not only changed the way we experience film and filmmaking, but also revolutionized film industry practices and standards. George Lucas, on an economic, aesthetic, and cultural level, has contributed more than any other individual to the shaping of the New Hollywood and is, by far, one of the most important figures in film history. His contribution to the film industry and our culture is what can be defined as the “Lucas Effect.”

Until now Lucas’ work has been studied categorically. That is, popular books have been written that focus specifically on his life, or his marketing skills, or his films, or his fans or his various business accomplishments and practices, but none so far have been able to weave these threads together into a cohesive, rigorous study that illustrates the far reaching impact and importance of his creative and entrepreneurial work in film, on film history, the film industry, in film aesthetics, and our culture.

George Lucas deserves the recognition and acknowledgement currently granted others for his part in the making of the New Hollywood and our understanding of film, filmmaking, and the film industry. More than any one person, or any particular thing, or event, Lucas is responsible for a series of “firsts” in the film industry: Lucas was the first to write, produce, and direct the modern day high-concept blockbuster (Star Wars); Lucas was the first to create the film franchise (Star Wars trilogy, Indiana Jones series) which changed the way films are made in Hollywood; Lucas is the first to make the shift from auteur to entrepreneur (and move from Hollywood) and use profits from his films to start successful new ancillary businesses which changed the way we see and experience films (Skywalker Sound, ILM, THX, etc.) and corresponds to the power shift from auteur to conglomerate in the industry; Lucas was the first filmmaker in history to fully own the modes of production and successfully create, produce, finance and retain full ownership of his films; Lucas was the first to own the merchandising rights to his films and changed the way films are marketed and experienced by viewers—leaving an indelible mark on our collective unconscious and popular culture.

Any one of these many “firsts” are significant by themselves, but taken all together, George Lucas’ impact on the film industry, our culture, and the world, is unparalleled and indisputable.

Oddly, Lucas’ work has historically been marginalized by academics and has not been the subject of serious study. This obvious neglect may be due to a variety of reasons. First, popular artists—from musicians to filmmakers—are often dismissed by critics out-of-hand just because they are popular. Secondly, current auteur studies focus on a particular film or an individual filmmaker. While Lucas’ work can be examined accordingly, his films have a greater impact on the viewer and in the industry and cannot be categorized in such a limited way. Films, due to the Lucas Effect, have evolved into something more complex. Films have become an experience tied up with our identities in the form of theme parks, fan cultures, action figures, and more. Current auteur models that do not take this more complex understanding of a film into consideration cannot adequately measure the true impact or importance of Lucas’ work. As such, the Lucas Effect challenges current auteur film evaluation practices and forces auteur critics to further consider the historic, economic, and cultural environment in which a film is made.

This book is not just an important book for film academics, students of film criticism and theory, popular culture scholars, and film devotees, but also for industry power brokers, Lucas fans and any one who is interested in the work, life, and legacy of one of film’s most important visionaries, George Lucas.