A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope

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A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope is a documentary special (included with the DVD version of George Lucas’ “THX 1138”) directed by Gary Leva, about the creation and rise to prominence of the production company “American Zoetrope,” co-founded by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. The documentary includes interviews from Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Lucas and Coppola regarding the early years of the formation of the company.


During the early 1960s, director George Lucas had written a screenplay for his now-famous first work in film, “THX 1138,” a precursor to his sci-fi franchise “Star-Wars” and the screenplay which brought him to the attention of noted director Francis Ford Coppola, known now for his critically acclaimed “Godfather” trilogy. The documentary begins with interviews from both Lucas and Coppola regarding their first meetings, and the subsequent negotiations that ensued with Warner Brothers Studios following Coppola’s introduction of Lucas and his screenplay. The documentary itself was funded and produced by Warner Bros., to be packaged as a commentary with the DVD collector’s version of THX 1138. The film was both promotional and informational, in that it acted as passive promotion for Warner Bros. Studios while allowing information of the early years of their collaborations with American Zoetrope to be told in uncut interviews (which shed light on the relatively unsavory partnership between the two companies). The film really had no stated purpose other than to give an insider’s view of the formation of American Zoetrope Studios, something Warner Bros. correctly judged to be of interest to those individuals who purchased THX 1138. The film was shot using primary interviews patched together from various sources giving information on the topic, with a dramatic score and photos of the founding of American Zoetrope as accompaniment. “A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope” is an informative, enjoyable documentary that will be found quite interesting to those who wish to know more about the rise of the fabled production studio and its impact on world-renowned filmmakers of the 20th century.


A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of the American Zoetrope. DVD. Directed by Gary Leva. New York: Warner Home Video, 2004.