Whatever you think about George Lucas and his movies – good, bad or indifferent – he’s definitely in an enviable position.
Meaning, at this stage, he can put up money for his movies himself, which almost no filmmaker can afford, other than Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola, who now funds his movies with his wine business.
Of course, the golden rule in Hollywood is don’t spend your own money, because a lot of cash can fly out the window quickly, and in the past, filmmakers like Coppola and John Cassavettes have gone broke funding their own films.
But the more someone else is spending, the less you have to say about it, and Coppola and Lucas have been willing to risk their money for the freedom to make their movies their way.
Now as The Hollywood Reporter and The Wall Street Journal report, Lucas put up $58 million of his own money for Red Tails, and shelled out $35 millionto help with distribution.
Although Lucas didn’t direct the film, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen has been a passion project of his for over twenty years, and it will be released next year on January 20, with his long time home Fox distributing the film.
Unless you’re independently wealthy, say in the neighborhood of billions of dollars, it’s not a good idea to spend your own money on a movie because the financial risks are too great. There will always be conflicts between filmmakers and the money men because artists are often not good businessmen, and the bean counters don’t understand the passion of creating art. Again, the rule is the more someone else pays for your movie, the less you have to say about it.
Lucas always railed against the system from day one, and was especially furious the studios got so much money from his movies. He’s now been able to avoid that with the money he’s made from his Star Wars empire, but it also has its drawbacks in that he’s in a position where he doesn’t have to deal with anyone else’s opinions, which, if he did, could have saved him a lot of embarrassment if he was willing to listen. (For example, if only someone could have gotten through to him about Jar Jar Binks…)
Still, good, bad or indifferent, the fact that he’s put up his own money on his films, Lucas will be able to look back and realize that however they turn out, they’re still his movies with no interference.