Director Profile: Steven Spielberg

In what will hopefully be the first in a series on my favorite directors, this profile of Steven Spielberg will...

Paul Sorrells

Contributor

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In what will hopefully be the first in a series on my favorite directors, this profile of Steven Spielberg will attempt to give a brief introduction into his career, memorable films, filmmaking technique, themes, critical reception, and his impact on the film industry, as well as look at his upcoming films.

Regardless of your opinion of him, Steven Spielberg is undoubtedly one of the most influential filmmakers of his generation, influencing many modern directors and changing the way Hollywood makes movies. Spielberg’s films remain very distinctive, as few filmmakers possess both his technical abilities and his flair for engaging storytelling and a number of unique characteristics run through his films.

Spielberg has enjoyed one of the most prolific careers of any major filmmaker, directing 27 feature films, most of which have received considerable critical and commercial acclaim. Spielberg has been praised for his natural directorial ability, having displayed considerable skill across many different style and genres of movies….

 

Biography and Career

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Steven Spielberg first started making movies when he was a teenager, shooting small pictures with his friends using his father’s video camera. When he was sixteen he directed an 140 minutes sci-fi film that was showed at his local theatre for a dollar a person. He applied twice to USC’s film school but was denied both times. Later, Spielberg became an intern at Universal Studios where he received his first exposure to big budget film-making.

His 1968 short film Amblin, earned him his first directorial contract, although he initially worked in television. One of his television features, 1971′s Duel, was so successful that it was later edited and released theatrically. Spielberg’s first feature length motion picture was 1974′s the Sugerland Express. While not successful financially, the film brought much attention to Spielberg’s directorial skills and the film won an award at Cannes for its screenplay.

Spielberg’s career changed forever when he was offered to helm Jaws, a now famous thriller-horror film. The shoot was a nightmare for Spielberg, who often calls it his worst experiences in filmmaking. The film’s budget ran over limits, delays were common, and the mechanical shark used in the film never worked properly. Once the film was finished however, it broke box-office records, was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and essentially invented the summer blockbuster.

Jaws made Spielberg one of the most in demand directors in Hollywood and enabled him to have his pick of projects. Spielberg used his newfound fame to direct a project he had worked on for years, resulting in 1977′s Close Encounters of the Third Kind which received similar levels of acclaim to what Jaws did. Spielberg’s next feature 1941 however, flopped with both critics and audiences and Spielberg would later admit that his sudden fame had made him overconfident.

With the help of his friend George Lucas, Spielberg rebounded with one of his most popular films, 1981′s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Over the next few years, Spielberg continued his streak of successful films but couldn’t quite shake the stigma of being considered nothing more than a populist director. In 1985, Spielberg attempted to answer his critics with the Color Purple, an adaption of an Alice Walker that was an attempt to tackle more complex subject matter. In the case of the Color Purple, the subject matter was the treatment of African American women in the early 1900′s United States.

Over the next decade, Spielberg continued his quest to be taken more seriously, making acclaimed films such as Empire of the Sun and his 1993 film Schindler’s List, often considered his best work, which showed the efforts of a German businessman who saves Jews from the Holocaust by employing them in his factory. Spielberg often broke up his more serious works with his trademark blockbusters, including his third Indiana Jones film released in 1989 and 1993′s Jurassic Park, which again broke the U.S box office record.

After successfully answering his critics and with the creative freedom few mainstream directors have ever received, Spielberg embarked on a string of interesting films in the late 90′s and early 2000′s. He made one of the most acclaimed war films of modern times with 1998′s Saving Private Ryan and directed two acclaimed sci-fi films at the beginning of the new millenium. Spielberg’s films began to see a critical decline later in the 2000′s but he seems to have made a bit of a comeback as last year’s Lincoln was one of his better films.

At 65 years old, Spielberg is still active in the film industry and has a number of projects in line for the future. Spielberg was set to direct the upcoming film Robopocalypse which was scheduled to be released in 2014 but is currently on hold indefinitely. Spielberg attempted to obtain the rights to the Halo video game series but negotiations proved unsuccessful. More recently, Spielberg has announced that he was developing Stanley Kubrick’s famously unmade screenplay about the life of Napoleon into a television miniseries.