More excerpts from the Kurtz interview (see yesterday's post):
No one’s been able to read the audience, ever, so you have to kind of rely on your own instincts. In the case of Star Wars, George and I had dinner one night, and we were looking through the paper while we were editing American Graffiti. We were looking through the newspaper, looking at the film listings to see if there was anything out there worth going to see. And, there wasn’t. Discussion came around to Flash Gordon, and wouldn’t it be great to have a Flash Gordon kind of science fiction movie – that would be great. We’d love to see that. That’s sort of the gestation of Star Wars – and that was based on something that we wanted to see, that we would pay to go see! And no one was making it.
Programmers call it "scratching your own itch". Creative types do it all the time: they ask themselves what they would want to see or read that isn't out there, and then they go make it. There's some irony in that by the time they're done, they're often too exhausted to savor the fruits of their own work. (Do you know of any writer who re-reads his own novels for pleasure? I can't think of a single one. I know I count myself out of that group.)
... a lot of films that have come out since the ’70s have been quite shallow. Good looking films, but not much to say. Maybe that’s part of the problem, the filmmakers haven’t lived enough. Their entire experience is based on old movies, rather than life. As such, they’re referential all the time – referential to old movies rather than to life experience. So I suppose the only answer to that is material that isn’t that way, material that’s written by novelists or screenwriters that have a substantial amount of real life experience and have interesting things to say about various topics.
... the key is that the original Star Wars, and to a great extent Empire, resonated with the audience because there seemed to be something there that appealed to them. Saying something to them that they may not have even noticed – it was subconscious and they wanted to see it, they wanted to be immersed in that experience ...
Kurtz talks elsewhere in the same piece about the pre-film-school Hollywood, where apprenticeship and bringing one's own native experiences to the table were the ways you proved your value. I always felt that one of the by-products of such an arrangement was to be exposed to precisely the kind of real-life experience that is needed to create something of lasting value.
Yoichi Sai had something similar to say in an interview with Midnight Eye:
Technique isn't very difficult to learn. I want each person to grow under the strength of their own imagination. What I want to teach them is that there are many steps to this methodology of finding your own way. Frankly speaking, technical instruction can all be taught in no more than three months. You don't need to go to film school for four years. Three months is plenty.
He leaves it to us to ponder how many prospective film students actually have much imagination to drawn on.