How to Succeed the George Lucas Way

What are some of the ways that George Lucas has found success in life and in Hollywood?

Welcome to our ongoing Learning from the Masters and Industry Insiders series where we seek out and feature excellent videos, interviews, and discussions of the art, craft, and business of screenwriting and pull the best words of wisdom, writing tips, and screenwriting advice.

Here we feature Evan Carmichael‘s video George Lucas’s Top 10 Rules of Success to find words of wisdom and inspiration for screenwriters and filmmakers.

1. Follow Your Passion

“Everything I did I was following something I really cared about. Something I loved. Something I was passionate about. And I kept following that passion… had I done what my father had wished me to do, which was to go into the office equipment business with him, which I knew wasn’t what I wanted to do, my life would have unpleasant.”

Lucas elaborated by saying that he had many passions, all of which could have taken him on different routes. But all of them would have led to the same destination — happiness.

“I think it’s very important not to do what your peers think you should do, not do what your parents think you should do, or your teachers. But do what’s inside you.”

2. Don’t Make Excuses

He explains about his days in film school where he was often surrounded by students that complained and made excuses rather than finding ways to create. His first class wasn’t a production class. It was an animation class. Students were given one minute to see if they could work the animation camera.

It was a test to see if they could operate it. Lucas decided to make a short film out of that one minute of animation. The film went on to win multiple awards, all while other film students were making excuses as to why they couldn’t find ways to make films.

3. Discover Your Talent

“Everybody has talent, and it’s just a matter of moving around until you’ve discovered what it is. A talent is a combination of something you love a great deal, something you can lose yourself in, something you can start at nine o’clock and then look up from your work and discover it’s ten o’clock at night… also something you have a natural ability to do well. And usually, those two things go together.”

It takes some soul searching to do that. For some, it happens quickly. For others, as Lucas states, you have to take the time to explore yourself and discover what talents you have.

4. Be True to Yourself

“I’ve got to really make my movies the way I see them and the way I want them to be. And then people can take them for whatever they are and like them or not like them, that’s their privilege.”

You have to be true to yourself. Many screenwriters follow what industry insiders and gurus are telling them. You need to be true to yourself to find your own way.

5. Get Feedback

Lucas explains how difficult it can be for filmmakers to get feedback. He looks back thousands of years to Greek theater as an example of how easy it was to get instant feedback through live theater. You instantly learn what works from the audience reaction and you use that information to better the work.

It’s difficult for filmmakers to do that because they don’t get the feedback until after their movie comes out. It’s too late.

So he tries to make up for that by watching a lot of movies and gauging the audience’s reactions.

Screenwriters can get feedback early on in the process before anything is produced and released. So it’s important to do all that you can to get the proper feedback you need.

6. Never Give Up Hope

“I haven’t met anybody at the Academy or anywhere else that hasn’t been able to describe years and years of very difficult struggle… there’s no way around that. The secret is to not give up hope.”

All that screenwriters and filmmakers hear about is success. You rarely hear about the constant struggles everyone that has been successful has gone through.

Everyone that has succeeded in Hollywood has struggled. So it’s going to be no different for you or your peers. Let that truth give you comfort so you never lose hope.

7. Don’t Be Mean

Lucas details his experience in film school, where he met and later collaborated with some of the greatest filmmakers of our time.

They were competitive, but never in a mean way. They didn’t try to destroy one another. Instead, they used each other to push themselves harder and further.

8. Pursue Joy, Not Pleasure

“Pleasure is short-lived. It lasts an hour. It lasts a minute. It lasts a month. And it peaks and goes down. But peaks very high… on the other hand is joy. And joy doesn’t go as high as pleasure, in terms of your emotional reaction, but it stays with you… if you get hung up on pleasure, you’re doomed. If you pursue joy, you will find everlasting happiness.”

He elaborates this point very well within the video, stating that pleasure is something that you can never relive. You can never go back to the feeling of buying your first car. You’ll never replicate that feeling. You may get to a point where you can afford to buy three cars and a private jet, but it will never replicate that first moment of pure pleasure.

If you try to live on pleasure, you’re doomed. Finding joy is vital to a person’s happiness and true success.

9. Be Compassionate

“Children teach the most important thing of all, which is compassion. And compassion is really the secret to happiness.”

When you feel compassion and put other people first, that’s the secret to happiness. And this certainly applies to screenwriting as well. When you realize that other people are or will be involved with the project you’re writing, you’ll be more open to the collaboration. When you receive notes, you should understand that they are coming from another human being that may have their own wants and needs from the project. And since film is a collaborative medium, the worst thing you can do is reject notes for the sake of them not being from you, the writer.

Be compassionate about someone else’s viewpoint, whether or not they are right or you are right in the end. Because maybe you’re both wrong or perhaps you’re both right. That’s where collaboration works.

10. Help Others

“If I got a job, I would help somebody else get a job. If somebody got more successful than me, it was partly my success. My success wasn’t based on how I could push everyone else down around me. My success was based on how much I could push everybody up. And eventually, their success was the same way and pushed me up and I pushed them up.” 

Francis Ford Coppola took a young George Lucas under his wing. Lucas eventually developed Apocalypse Now later on in their collaboration, a film which Copolla eventually directed. Lucas and Spielberg helped each other throughout their careers. Lucas later took Ron Howard under his wing as a filmmaker. Howard would go on to direct George Lucas’s concept for Willow.

When you’re working your way up the totem pole, don’t think of it as a solo mission. Bring your peers along with you for the ride and try your best to build each other up every step of the way.

Watch the full video below to hear the words from the icon’s mouth and learn more from his elaboration on these points.

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