“The sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie” - George Lucas
In 1965 George Lucas was attending school at USC, tired of theory and eager to start working he vowed that as soon as someone gave him some film he would make a movie. True to his word, he used an assignment in animation class that was simply meant to teach students how to use the camera(set up, focus, panning, etc) and turned it into his first film,"Look At Life". Lucas used images from Life magazine to create a video collage about the social and political climate of the time. The instructor had specifically told the students not to use sound, but George included both music and audio clips. Most impressive was how he used music to drive the film and define the editing pattern. The relationship of sound and image would define Lucas’s body of work. His first feature-length film THX 1138 has very little dialogue. Most of the plot and thematic elements are communicated non-verbally with images and sound. The whole film is underscored with lush soundbeds of computer noises, cold ambiance, and distorted voices. He followed up THX 1138 with American Graffiti which was conceived and pitched as “a musical without singing and dancing”. Lucas envisioned a film scored diegetically with all the songs that defined his youth playing over car radios, by high school bands, and diner jukeboxes. The music was so important to him that he sent the script to studios with a mixtape containing all the songs he wanted to include in the film. With Star Wars he began a career-spanning relationship with SFX master Ben Burtt who was given space and time to create the many iconic sounds of Star Wars. By the time Lucas returned to directing with The Phantom Menace, he was so convinced that the dynamic between sound and picture was the most important aspect of filmmaking that he focused on those elements probably to the detriment of everything else. I love The Prequels, but I’m fully aware that they don’t work for everybody. Regardless of how you feel about them narratively, the sound design, editing, and score is fantastic. From the pod race in Phantom Menace to the Order 66 montage in Revenge of the Sith, The Prequels are packed with sequences where sound and/or music is telling the story.
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