Lucas: SF filmmaking isn't just porn anymore

Star Wars director George Lucas opened up his new San Francisco Lucasfilm campus Saturday, in the heart of the wooded Presidio military base here, with pomp worthy of an Imperial party. The filmmaker might have a tin ear for dialogue, but he knows details, and everything from the Alice Waters box lunch to the cafeteria tables made from sustainable forest wood was done to perfect pitch.

The facility itself, eight years in the making, is built on the former grounds of a crumbling old hospital, which was torn down to make way for Lucas' new campus. Most of the asphalt and concrete went back into making the new grounds, which are dominated by green space and modern red brick and glass versions of the old military buildings.

San Francisco's Washington representatives, Senator Barbara Boxer and Congresswoman Nanci Pelosi, were on hand for the opening, alluding to the years of political battles they'd had to save the 143-acre woods, now mostly National Park land, from being handed over to developers. The event quickly emerged not only as a party for the opening of the digital production facility, but as a love letter to San Francisco and its high-tech surroundings.

Lucas himself said he had been adamant about keeping his facility in the Bay Area, as opposed to Hollywood. He's viewed as a "reclusive hermit" for not attending Los Angeles social gatherings, he said--but the media misses the point that he's simply happier in the north, outside the insular circle of Beverly Hills parties.

"We couldn't do this without our Silicon Valley," he said. "LA has its silicone valley. But I prefer ours."

With the help of Saul Zaentz, Steve Jobs, Francis Ford Coppola and a few others, he's helped turn San Francisco into a town where movies can be made, and particularly as the place where digital entertainment first took root, he said. It wasn't always that way.

"We have changed the face of entertainment," he said. "When I came back here, they said you couldn't make films here. If you said you made films in San Francisco, everyone assumed you made porn films."

 

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