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'Star Wars' creator launches youth film project

By George Webster for CNN
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George Lucas offers a new hope
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lucas launches film project aimed at empowering young people from diverse backgrounds
  • "Films Without Borders" teaches young people with film-making skills
  • Aspiring filmmakers from Rwanda, Israel, and the Palestinian territories participated
  • They interviewed Lucas about the film industry and how to get ahead

London, England (CNN) -- Film royalty shook hands with British royalty at the launch of "Films Without Borders" -- a new scheme that aims to use the language of cinema to break down cultural barriers among young people from diverse backgrounds.

Director George Lucas was among a host of industry insiders invited by Prince Edward, third son of Queen Elizabeth, to the glitzy event held at Buckingham Palace, London -- the Queen's official residence.

But it wasn't just film professionals and high society bigwigs that enjoyed a rare public appearance from the "Star Wars" creator.

Israeli former soldier Omri Bezalel, Palestinian refugee Ismal Al Quaisi, and Pierre Kayitana -- an exile from the Rwandan genocide -- were treated to a one-on-one masterclass with the pioneering film legend.

At a production studio in London's Piccadilly Circus, the three aspiring young filmmakers quizzed Lucas, dressed casually in jeans and a striped shirt, about the secrets of his craft.

Kayitana, 24, who had traveled all the way from Rwanda specifically for the event, was keen to talk about borders -- not those that divide nations and cultures, however, but the ones that separate aspiring filmmakers from the industry itself.

"After school, there is still this border. It is too hard for a young filmmaker to meet with a great, established industry person" he told Lucas.

But Kayitana should consider himself lucky, said Lucas, who is also the brains behind "Raiders of the Lost Arc." "That border has always been there. When I was a student there was no way to get into the film business.

You can probably make a living at it ... at some point
--Lucas on the filmmaking profession
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"You're in a great position because you're in a country where you're starting out in a whole new film industry."

Young Palestinian Quaisi cut straight to the tricks of the trade: "What is the best way to create special effects?" he asked.

"All the special effects we use now are on our computers" replied Lucas, who said that you no longer need a lot of sophisticated equipment to produce a good film.

"The thing you have to deal with is just learning the craft -- but this is not out of reach."

Israeli-born Bezalel told CNN that although he was fortunate enough to study film in New York, nothing beats speaking directly with one of the industry's true greats: "You learn more from talking with a person for an hour than you can in film school," he said.

The 26-year-old presented the director with his concern that, after years of inventive movie-making, there's a sense that everything has already been done.

"People have been telling stories for 10,000 years" said Lucas. "There are only 32 kinds of story. So, don't think you're going to tell a new story -- the only thing that changes is the way you tell the story."

So, "Star Wars," the 1977 sci-fi that made Lucas' name isn't an original masterpiece?

"'Star Wars' is a mish-mash of a lot of things which have already been done," said Lucas. "I know that it's not a new story, but nobody ever did it that way before. Nobody had ever taken it in that direction, using the tools and metaphors I used.

"So don't worry about being original -- only be original in the way you do it."

Speaking to CNN, the filmmaker laid out his vision for the future of cinema.

"Literally all of the borders are going to fall down," he said of the democratizing influence of technology.

"You can buy the cameras. You can buy the editing equipment. You can buy the special effects. Everything you need to make a movie, you can get for a very very low price. Twenty years ago, that would have cost you a million dollars," he said.

Lucas told CNN that, by harnessing the Internet, filmmakers of the future will be free from the controlling influence of major film distribution companies.

But how will young up-and-comers finance such projects? On this final point, the reclusive director was a little more ambiguous: "You can probably make a living at it ... at some point."

 
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