It's been 35 years since the original Star Wars film first hit theaters in 1977. It was rejected by Universal and George Lucas made it go right by finding investment for the film and got it made. People hadn't seen anything like it before and it became an overnight phenomenon. They lined up for blocks to see it over and over again. Lucas scored a huge hit and at the time no one, including him, could have predicted that it would go on to be a cultural milestone, now valued at over $30 billion dollars. What was the secret behind the wildly successful franchise? What made it so different from other films, shows, books and creations that it took on such a monstrous size? Three things.
1. ORIGINALITY - Science fiction stories had been around for decades and science fiction movies had been made before but it was new things like the opening title sequence, newly developed special effects, light sabers, Wookies, the Force and a ton of others all combining in a wholly unique, aesthetically stimulating experience that drove people crazy. It was something new! They hadn't seen ANYTHING close to this before.
2. MERCHANDISING - Although the Star Wars films have grossed a couple billion dollars world wide, the bigger numbers come from merchandise like Star Wars toys, t-shirts, board games, lunch boxes, backpacks, coloring books, legos, video games, legos inspired video games, phone apps, posters, comic books, novels and a TON of other stuff. From the very beginning George Lucas, a marketing genius, saw the potential of every kid wanting to be Luke Skywalker and later realized he would grow to be an adult wanting to be Luke Skywalker.
3. FANNING THE FAN BASE - When people become fans of something they're usually left to their own devices to express their admiration for it. There might be an occasional fan club one could join where you'd receive a one time package of a photo and a sticker, but Star Wars fans had more, MUCH more. George Lucas realized there was enormous potential in the Star Wars story continuing in the hands of fans across the world. Most entertainment companies go after people when they use their characters' images in fan made creations, but not Lucas. He encouraged it. The result? Countless numbers of fan made movies, songs, websites, you name it and it's probably been made by a Star Wars fan. It is the guy that spends a couple years making his home-made version of Episode IV and shows it to all his friends online that keeps the franchise filled with an ever-growing amount of new content. And these guys buy movie tickets and all the merchandise, brilliant!
It all starts from an original idea, but then you need to make other products and create a vehicle for people to help you promote your creations. It's not enough to just make great art. You have to promote and sell it. You have to get others to help you, otherwise you'll be limited to how many people you can reach. Ideally, you want to create a world like George Lucas did, one others will want to explore and play in enough to help it grow and expand. One of the biggest challenges being an artist is being able to create outside of the confines of yourself, to get out there and create with others. I think George Lucas pulled it off and now, so can you. May the force be with you.
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I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.