Cashing in on Hollywood's George fixation
Filmmakers score with 'Lucas in Love'
June 24, 1999
By Paul Clinton
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- They say if you want to get ahead in this world you have build a better mousetrap. In this case, that better trap is a nine-minute film called "George Lucas In Love."
The builders are two young filmmakers who recently graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema. Their short film is generating a lot of interest at studios and talent agencies and they've been "taking meetings" ever since the piece has been completed.
In an effort to attract attention in a town in which everyone seems to have a gimmick, director Joe Nussbaum and producer Joseph Levy, both 26, decided to create a short film that would make people sit up and take notice. They wanted to make a movie that wasn't only technically proficient, but also told a good story.
Nussbaum's friend Timothy Dowling, who appears in the film, had an idea for making a parody of "Shakespeare in Love." Nussbaum and writing partner Daniel Shere decided to substitute Lucas for the Bard.
Nussbaum says, "I liked the idea of doing something with 'Shakespeare In Love,' and suddenly there was George Lucas on every magazine cover in America, on every talk show. And I was like 'George Lucas In Love.' Perfect."
It didn't hurt that Lucas is a personal hero to both Nussbaum and Levy. "Lucas is definitely the god of USC," says Levy, "We shot our screening-room scene in the George Lucas Instructional Building -- which we're sitting in right now. Lucas is incredibly supportive of student filmmakers and developing their careers and providing facilities for them to be caught up to technology."
Stuck on 'Star Wars'
Nussbaum's connection with Lucas dates back to childhood. "When I was a kid," he smiles, "I had all the toys. I used to come home from school -- I think I was in the sixth or seventh grade -- and watch "Star Wars" on video everyday. I loved it, and that's why I think all the ideas came so easily. We knew all the elements and we figured out, hopefully, a funny way to put them all into the movie."
The basic idea for this parody is that Lucas, played by Martin Hynes, is once again a student at the University of Southern California's School of Cinema back in 1967, and he's suffering from writer's block as he tries to write a movie about a young space farmer with a bad crop of space wheat.
Everywhere he goes, people resemble Darth Vader, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Jabba the Hutt, not to mention R2-D2 and C-3PO. He's surrounded by inspiration, but sees nothing. Not even his adviser, who looks suspiciously like Yoda, is able to help him. In one scene, he tells George, "Search not. Inspiration will you not find. It will find you."
When George pleads with him to "talk forward," he's told, "Too much already I have said."
Then he meets his muse, a young girl who's heading a student rebellion. She has a very unusual hairdo -- it looks like two big breakfast rolls attached to her ears. After the two of them get together, everything falls into place. She urges him to "write what you know."
Then before you can say "May the Force be with you," his block goes away and Lucas is pounding on his typewriter.
As a way to get noticed, the film has worked. "We've had incredible responses" says Levy. "Everybody, everybody has absolutely loved it. We haven't actually heard anything from from Mr. Lucas, though."
That may be only a matter of time. Word is that Lucas has a copy and is amused.
One thing these two young filmmakers have found out early is that it's not only what you know, but who you know. Nussbaum, who financed his film with money his grandmother left him, recruited dozens of fellow USC film school graduates to help him with his movie. The casting director, musical composer, and executive producer are all alumni.
So far it's paying off. Nussbaum has just signed with a Hollywood agent -- and he and Levy say they're looking forward to their next project.
George Lucas: Free to follow his muse
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