In 1973, George Lucas' coming-of-age comedy American Graffiti earned critical acclaim—and even an Oscar nomination. But just two years before, nobody was interested in his idea for a "musical" teen movie. After countless rejections, an adventurous United Artists executive finally gave Lucas $10,000 to develop the screenplay. Unsure of his own writing abilities, he hired a USC classmate to finish the script, but the resulting screenplay "was completely different" from Lucas' original vision, and "more like Hot Rods to Hell."
With the $10,000 spent on an unusable screenplay, Lucas was forced to write American Graffiti himself—but United Artists rejected his script, on the grounds that the interwoven story with a rock 'n' roll soundtrack was too bizarre. After rejections from MGM, Paramount, Fox, and Columbia, Francis Ford Coppola signed on as a producer, and American Graffiti was finally bought by Universal—with strings attached. Lucas couldn't use studio space for filming and was given only a $750,000 budget, $90,000 of which was spent on the soundtrack. The studio even tried to change the name, suggesting cringeworthy alternatives like Coppola's Rock Around the Block. Universal clearly didn't expect Lucas' film to be a success, but they had a surprise hit on their hands after it premiered. All their penny-pinching had an unexpected side effect, too: American Graffiti became one of the most profitable films of all time.