Published on February 19, 2008
Steven Spielberg: Steven Spielberg Childhood: Childhood Steven Spielberg was born on December 18, 1946, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Grew up as the only Jewish family in the neighborhood, this impacted his childhood and later his movies. Looking for a distraction from life, young Spielberg picked up his father’s 8mm camera, which was to be his newfound hobby. In which he created many short films, enlisting his family members as cast members. At the age of 13, Spielberg taught himself how to master camera angles, technical tricks, and visual storytelling skills. His first feature-length film, “Firelight”, was two-and-a-half-hours long. Firelight showed at a local movie theatre, whereby Spielberg made one hundred dollars in profit in one night from his film. After graduating from high school, Spielberg attempted to enroll into film school but failed due to poor high school grades. Early Years: Early Years He attended California State College at Long Beach, and majored in English. After graduating from college in 1970, Spielberg snuck onto the Universal Studios lot and tried to convince producers to look at his films. Spielberg’s film, “Amblin” told the story of a couple hitchhiking from the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Ocean. Spielberg scrounged together fifteen thousand dollars from his friends and family to make this 22-minute film. The film “Amblin” revealed Spielberg’s talent and a producer from Universal Studios, contracted Spielberg for 7 years after he saw the movie “Amblin”. 1973 - First assignment at Universal Studios: 1973 - First assignment at Universal Studios Universal assigned Spielberg to make a film made for television, “Duel”. “Duel” is about a traveling salesman whose car is relentlessly chased down rural highways by a large truck with an unseen driver. The American public enjoyed this thriller, and was popular enough to be shown in theaters overseas. The movie “Duel” may still be considered to be the best American television movie ever made. 1974: 1974 The film “Sugerland Express” was released in 1974 as Spielberg’s feature film debut. Inspired by a real incident, Spielberg constructed this movie about a young couple that led a police chase across Texas as they attempt to retrieve their baby from the foster parents. It received praise from box office critics but failed at the box office. “The Sugerland Express” won a Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Screenplay 1975 – “Jaws”: 1975 – “Jaws” “Jaws” became Spielberg’s claim to fame, becoming the top-grossing film of all time in 1975. The movie was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and won a few technical awards. “Jaws” marked a new movie genre, the blockbuster. The blockbuster movie could be interpreted as a highly anticipated movie that made a lot of money and captured both critics and viewers attention. In 1998, the film was named by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films of the century. 1977 – “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”: 1977 – “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” Spielberg created and directed “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, in 1977. He showed the viewing audience his passion for science fiction. This film earned Spielberg his first Oscar nomination for best director. “Indiana Jones”: “Indiana Jones” 1977 - Spielberg told George Lucas he wanted to make a film with the James Bond character. Lucas suggested a movie set in the 1930’s about an archaeologist and his adventures. “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc” came out in 1981. Spielberg won an Academy Award nomination for best director. Later he directed the film’s two sequels, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” 1982 – “E.T.”: 1982 – “E.T.” In 1982, “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” toppled the film Jaws from the all time top-grossing movie ranking. Appealed to suburban America, the story line became a classic hit. Once again, Spielberg earned an Academy Award nomination for best director, Spielberg’s status was “the first director since Alfred Hitchcock to become a household name.” 1982 - Spielberg creates “Amblin” Entertainment: 1982 - Spielberg creates “Amblin” Entertainment Universal Studios restricted the amount of films he could produce, this was a hindrance to Spielberg’s will, therefore, he was stimulated to found his own production company “Amblin”. Amblin Entertainment, using the E.T. logo as its trademark of good fortune from the movie E.T. At this point in his career Spielberg was perceived more as of a producer than a director. Spielberg did not find producing as satisfying as directing and gradually has become less involved. 1985 – “The Color Purple”: 1985 – “The Color Purple” Spielberg directed “The Color Purple” (which launched Oprah Winfrey's career), as a response to critics claiming that he can't make a "serious" movie. This “serious” movie received a lot of “serious” critical acclaim, and brought the Directors Guild of America award to Spielberg for Theatrical Direction in 1985, as well as 11 Oscar nominations, but not one honoring the director. As a consolation prize, he did receive the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Award in 1987. Slide13: 1987 saw the release of “Empire of the Sun” “Always” was released in 1989 “Hook” was released in 1991. These were each moderate successes, while the latter two were pretty forgettable, especially by the time 1993 came around. 1993 – “Jurassic Park”: 1993 – “Jurassic Park” Jurassic Park: Jurassic Park Spielberg made a major career resurgence in 1993 with the special effect-heavy dinosaur extravaganza Jurassic Park. Jurassic Park made an outstanding impression, with a record-setting opening weekend gross of $70 million and a total gross of $357 million. The film encouraged and launched other big money franchises, including two sequels, the lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), which Spielberg directed, and Jurassic Park 3, which he produced. “Schindler’s List”: “Schindler’s List” Also in 1993, Spielberg displayed an affectionate, caring, and giving side of himself when he released his sobering black and white adaptation of Thomas Keneally’s prize winning novel "Schindler’s List", the story of a complicated real life hero. "Schindler’s List" earned over $100 million at the box office. Spielberg gave all of his earnings from the film to the Righteous Persons Foundation, an organization that supports a number of projects that impacted modern Jewish life. 1998-2005: 1998-2005 2005 “Munich” 2005 “War of the Worlds” 2004 “The Terminal” 2002 “Catch Me If You Can” 2002 “Minority Report” 2001 “A.I.” 1998 “Saving Private Ryan” Slide18: Roger Ebert (Sun-Times film critic) said: "If Spielberg never directed another film, his place in movie history would be secure. No other director has been more successful at the box office and few placed more titles on various lists of great films. No director or producer has ever put together a more popular body of work" (Filmmakers).