Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Watch the amazing George Lucas student film THE EMPEROR (1967) and read about how it was made

TV STORE ONLINE recently got the opportunity to speak with Paul Golding.   Golding, a former student at The University Of Southern California or U.S.C. with George Lucas in the mid/late 1960's talks about working with Lucas on a series of films while the two were attending U.S.C together.

Golding, a writer and director has worked on such movies as MEDIUM COOL (1969), BEAT STREET (1984), and PULSE (1988).

TV STORE ONLINE:   I'm such a huge fan of these short films that you made with George Lucas while you were both at U.S.C....In particular,  THE EMPEROR (1967).

GOLDING:  When George and I made THE EMPEROR...He was one semester ahead of me at U.S.C so he got to be the director and I worked as the editor and the sound man on the film.   We made it for class and it was only supposed to be a ten minute film done in black and white and in sync sound.    We were both listening to the Emperor Hudson radio show at the time, and we both tried to call each other at the exact same time that we were listening to his show because we both knew that we had to make a film about this guy.      We started to work on it, but it was only supposed to be only ten minutes long, but both George and I were rather ambitious and saw this as a thirty minute documentary with commercials.    This lead to a lot of problems for us with one of the teachers at school.    Finally, the school gave in and allowed us to shoot more film on the agreement that the final film would only be ten to twelve minutes in length max.  

When you watch THE EMPEROR you'll see that the titles appear in the middle of the film, and   when we screened the film for the first time in the big room at U.S.C and those titles came on the screen you could hear this wave of sadness and disappointment in the crowd because everyone knew what we were going through with this film.   They all knew about the battles that we had been fighting with the school to shoot this and they had thought that we had caved in on the school's demands.   So when the titles finished on screen and the film kept playing, you could hear everyone in the big room get excited as the film kept going because every minute of it past those titles was our deliberate attack on the facility. 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Did the two of you have any trouble getting Bob "Emperor" Hudson on board to be in the film?

GOLDING:  Yeah, we did have quite a bit of trouble with that.  He had no idea what was going to happen with us being in his studio and he didn't want anyone in there screwing up his radio show.   The first day we went into his studio, we went in there with three cameras and we had said before that we just needed to get everything that we could get and then we'd make up the rest with the soundtrack.  When he saw that we didn't screw anything up he started to get a little friendly with us, and then he became more friendly, and eventually he offered to do that little interview with us in the radio station breakroom that you see in the film. There's even a gag in the film were he turns directly to the camera and says, "George Camera..."  He meant to say George Lucas...

TV STORE ONLINE:  You even gave him a writing credit on the film...

GOLDING:  Right, well, he came up with everything he said in the interview.  He was an amazing personality.   There was no one else on the radio at the time that talked like him, and I think George and I were lucky to have had the opportunity to document him.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  One of my favorite moments in the film is that shot of the car pulling up to the radio station and out gets some military guys, and you can clearly see it's George Lucas in a General's military dress...I love that dissolve there from those military guys into Emperor Hudson walking into the broadcast booth at the station....

GOLDING:   Right, that's both George and I walking in dressed like that.

TV STORE ONLINE:  It seems so inventive yet these almost fifty years later....

GOLDING:   Thanks.  I see the film now as a real piece of what I call "filmmaking".  It was filmmaking at its purest.  We all worked together wonderfully and we were all very open to each others ideas.  It was George and I and two others.  Our Photographer was Rick Robertson.   With THE EMPEROR we wanted to visualize a radio show, and so we knew that we would need shots with Emperor Hudson but we also realized how important actual music would be in the film.   So we all got together and assembled a play list of the songs that we wanted to be in the film.

TV STORE ONLINE:  I love those two girls that are staring right into the camera in the opening of the film....One of them says, "To pulverize Pasadena, to numb North Hollywood..."

GOLDING:  Yeah, we shot those girls to playback on a soundstage at U.S.C.   They were just miming that section because those lines had been something that Emperor Hudson used to use on his radio show.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Those aerial shots over Los Angeles are pretty incredible too...

GOLDING:  I can't remember how we got those now.  I think maybe George knew the guy who shot that...

TV STORE ONLINE:   What about the "Buy More Bananas" sequence with John Milius and Walter Murch?

GOLDING:  Those were just commercials that we wanted to include. That and the Camaro commercials were just very popular spots at the time on the radio.   That's not the voice of John Milius in the banana thing, it was Richard Walter, and George did the animation in the Camaro spot.   What was funny about the original Camaro commercial that you heard on the radio was that they never told you that a Camaro was a car...laughing   We thought it was appropriate to make it a rhinoceros instead.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What were some of the films that influenced you and what were some of the films that you thought influenced George?

GOLDING:  George and I both loved the films of Akira Kurosawa.  I really loved the films of Godard, but I don't think George liked his work as much as I did at the time.   What you need to understand about George was just how far out he was back then.   He wasn't the conservative person back then that he slowed morphed into today.  George was the guy who introduced me to the music of Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention, and had it not been for that, I might not have used Zappa's music on the soundtrack when I was editing MEDIUM COOL (1969). 

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung 
        Watch THE EMPEROR (1967)

Watch the other U.S.C. Golding/Lucas Shorts:
1) Herbie (1965)
2) Anyone Lived In A Pretty [How] Town (1967)
3) Wipeout (1966)