Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Marc Dolan

Subject Categories

Film Production | Nonfiction | Other Film and Media Studies | Screenwriting | Theory and Criticism | Visual Studies


New Hollywood, Film Industry Studies, Digital Filmmaking, THX 1138, American Graffiti, Star Wars, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg


Because of the unprecedented popularity of Star Wars, George Lucas, the creator of the multi-media franchise, is one of the most well-known filmmakers in history. What makes Lucas’s relationship with Star Wars unique is that because the franchise has continually been exploited rather than left as a single unchanging, static text, its artistic value, along with Lucas’s legacy, is in constant flux and is often misunderstood. In other words, depending on Star Wars’s position in the public zeitgeist at a given time, Lucas is either revered, detested, or considered incompetent as a filmmaker. While there is no denying that it is impossible to know Lucas as a filmmaker without considering the outsized role Star Wars played in his career, this thesis argues that to truly understand Lucas requires centering and prioritizing his artistic journey before the esoteric space opera consumed his life.

As such, this thesis will first present a three-chapter chronological, narrativized historical account of Lucas’s artistic journey from its origins through the subsequent success of Star Wars (1977). Individually, each of the three chapters of this thesis will track the evolution of the Hollywood Studio System in the 1970s using a detailed production history of one of Lucas’s first three feature film productions as a vantage point. But, by placing the chapters together, they become a poetic ballad about the clash of art and commerce as the repetition of themes creates a resonance that characterizes Lucas as a folk-lore-like hero determined to challenge conventional filmmaking practices. Then, when Lucas’s career hits a fever pitch after the release of Star Wars, a coda will round out the narrative by providing an overview of how Lucas used the financial stability of the franchise to fund the development of digital filmmaking in the second half of his career.