This article appeared in Issue 22 of Frontier, the Australian science fiction media magazine
Not too long ago, in a film school not very far away, USC film students Joe Nussbaum and Joseph Levy were very eager to make their mark in Hollywood. But with the limited means available to them, a feature length production was out of the question, leaving a short film as the only viable option. But what would the short film be about? Inspired "Shakespeare in Love", they decided to create a parody of the Oscar-winning film by transplanting the story to modern-day Hollywood. With the help of co-scripter Timothy Dowling, their first draft was called "Joe Eszterhas in Love", which satirized how the notorious screenwriter of "Basic Instinct" came up with the script for "Showgirls". However, something was lacking in this initial idea and it was kicked around some more. In the end, the wannabe-filmmakers came up with four magic words: "George Lucas in Love".
It suddenly all became clear how portraying USC alma mater George Lucas, creator of the biggest sci-fi franchise in history, as a bumbling film school student in need of inspiration to write "Star Wars", would work. Cobbling whatever resources they could lay their hands on, "George Lucas in Love" was completed after a few weeks of shooting, and eventually went on to become one of the most downloaded films in the short history of the Internet. It even wound up on the desk of George Lucas, who sent a congratulatory letter of appreciation to the filmmakers. Sensing that they had something truly special on their hands (especially with the impending release of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace"), Internet-based film distributor MediaTrip.com decided to give the short film a full DVD treatment, making it accessible to an even wider audience.
The film begins in 1967, as George Lucas (Martin Hynes, bringing a Woody Allen-esque interpretation to the role) is just shy of graduating from USC film school. Unfortunately, he is suffering from writer's block, and has only three days to complete his 'agricultural space drama', about a farmer dealing with a terrible crop of space wheat. Fortunately, he crosses paths with Marion (Lisa Jakub of "Independence Day"), a young woman with a familiar hairstyle. Marion becomes George's muse, inspiring the struggling screenwriter to tell stories that are 'lying in plain sight'. As a result, young George is able to bang out the scripts for the first "Star Wars" trilogy in time to graduate.
With the narrative structure of "Shakespeare in Love" and plenty of nods to both "Star Wars" and George Lucas lore, "George Lucas in Love" is a must-see for any "Star Wars" fan, and even rivals the other great "Star Wars" parody, "Troops". Even a passing familiarity with the "Star Wars" trilogy will ensure a few good chuckles. Throughout the film, George finds himself surrounded by elements that would later populate his films: a pot-smoking roommate who feels the 'energy emitted by living things' when high; a screenwriting instructor who speaks in backwards sentences, a friend named Han with the fastest car on campus, and the shaggy-haired mechanic who works on it; a rival student with asthma who has written the 'most powerful film property in the industry'; and of course Marion, who not wears her hair with two buns, but is leading the 'student rebellion' against the school's administration. And if you don't catch every little in-joke, the DVD sports an 'enhanced playback' option which features 'Pop-up Video'-like captions that explain each reference.
The only shortcoming of the film is its length, nine minutes, which is even shorter than the supplemental behind-the-scenes featurette included on the disc. However, knowing that it would be a stretch for even "Star Wars" aficionados to shell out $12 US for such a paltry DVD, MediaTrip.com has included three additional short films, all of which are a lot of fun. "Film Club" is a take-off on the trailer for "Fight Club", only the Edward Norton character is a struggling film school graduate who meets up with a mysterious stranger named Tyler Vinterberg-- they then establish 'Film Club', which has strict rules based on the 'Dogme 95' movement (the philosophy behind "Dancer in the Dark"). "Evil Hill" looks at the early years of Mr. Evil (before Dr. Evil went to evil medical school), where he is the owner of a children's bookstore in a small Bavarian town. Then, à la "Notting Hill", a famous actress blows into his store, and romance ensues. Finally, "Swing Blade" has Carl Childers of "Sling Blade" going out on the town with the boys from "Swingers".
Film parodies may come and go, but "George Lucas in Love" is a classic. Seamlessly executed with excellent production values, and possessing a witty and smart script, this short film is a worthy addition to any DVD collection. And taking into consideration the other three films included on the disc, each of which is terrific in its own right, then you have one of those rare DVDs that are almost priceless.