John Korty


In 1968 I was asked to speak at a convention of Teachers of English in San Francisco.

A panel was to discuss translating fiction into films. I accepted the offer because Francis Ford Coppola was to be one of the other speakers on the panel.

On the day of the event, however, the seat beside me, behind the Coppola name card, was empty. At the last minute, a thin young man in jeans and sneakers came rushing in and sat down. “Francis is still shooting in Nebraska,” he said, “so he sent me. My name is George Lucas.”

So George talked about how THE RAIN PEOPLE was being made by a cast and crew in two station wagons and a truck. And I talked about making three micro-budget features in a tiny beach town north of San Francisco.

As soon as the event was over, George took me down to the lobby of the hotel to find a pay phone. “I have to tell Francis that you are doing exactly what he wants to do---make films outside of Hollywood!”

So Francis and I met via long distance and we all pledged to meet as soon as possible.

 Here is the rest of the story from Film in Focus:

“Two visits finally convinced Francis that Zoetrope was feasible. 

The first took place on Independence Day 1968, when along with George Lucas and Ron Colby, he drove up to John Korty’s mini-studio at Stinson Beach. They had come straight from the final days of shooting THE RAIN PEOPLE and were exhausted.

But the revelation that Korty’s cottage industry actually functioned was exciting. Korty had already made an impact in the States and on the European festival circuit with independent, oddball movies like THE CRAZY-QUILT and FUNNYMAN.

Indiana-born, he was genial, laid-back and persistent, a survivor beyond the system and above the Underground. His equipment may not have been perfect, but it was at least all under the roof of his barn. Coppola and Lucas told him that the studio looked like a fulfillment of their fantasies.”

 JK: What FFC said, after seeing my editing room with a flat-bed, two old arc projectors, a nine-foot screen and a home-made audio mixer, was:

 “If you can do it, we can do it!”

A week later, the three of us started looking for a place to work together. Eventually, it became American Zoetrope at 827 Folsom, with 3 corner offices for JK, GL and FFC.