Steven Spielberg is one of the best known and wealthiest filmmakers in the world. So far he has directed 50 movies including Close Encounters, the Indiana Jones movies, Hook, Jurassic Park, and my favorite, E.T. We had the rare chance to talk to this busy, busy man about some of the highlights of his career so far, his favorite of all his movies, and his advice for future filmmakers.
Q: You have created so many sci-fi icons in your aliens and creatures. How do you decide what the alien is going to look like?
Spielberg: That isn’t really my decision. In Super 8 that was the director and writer’s decision, J. J. Abrams. He designed the alien and brought me the design and showed it to me and I was scared by it and at the same time I was attracted to it and I thought because of those two responses J. J. had done an amazing thing.
Q: What do you like about science fiction?
Spielberg: Science fiction has always freed the imagination and given us the chance to explore impossible places, or certainly never-imagined places, and I just think it’s a great exercise. I have seven kids and my kids used to always want me to make up far-fetched stories. They didn’t want stories about what they could experience themselves in their everyday lives. They wanted stories that didn’t exist for them in life. I was able to tell them all sorts of wild science fiction and fantasy stories, which I loved doing, and they loved hearing them. But that’s really where science fiction and mythology and fantasy comes from. It always came from a place where parents told their children stories and sometimes thought they were pretty good yarns and wrote them down and published them.
Q: Do you try to keep true to the real science in science fiction?
Spielberg: Yea. It’s important to me to do that. The science in Close Encounters and the science in E.T. was as important as the fiction in both of those extra-terrestrial stories. When you’re doing a down-to-earth science fiction story it’s important that the rules exist for everybody to identify with because those rules apply to them too. Then you’ve got a very, very realistic combination that makes people believe that perhaps what you’re seeing could happen someday.
Q: Do you believe in extra-terrestrials?
Spielberg: I do believe in extra-terrestrials. I’m not saying I believe they’ve ever visited here on Earth, but I do believe that we are not alone in the vast universe.
Q: What is your all-time favorite movie?
Spielberg: I had the most fun making E.T. of any film I’ve ever made, and it led me to wanting a family. It was the first time I ever wanted to have children after finishing that film and being so close to those kids for three months and suddenly I was back home with myself and realized that what I had really been missing in my life is what I was able to draw from those kids. So, my first child was born only three short years after I finished E.T.
Q: When you were a kid, you were making home movies. Did you parents support your interest in that?
Spielberg: Oh yea. Well my dad always worried about my schoolwork because my dad was an electrical engineer and he worked on one of the first computer projects at RCA back in the early fifties and he you know, held me to task, having to do with math and science and all the things I wasn’t very good at. My mom was a concert pianist and was a free spirit and she’s the one who encouraged me to do whatever made me feel free. And so in a sense I had the best of both worlds in two great parents who were polar opposites. For instance my dad said, “Look, I’m not going to pay for all of your movies. If you want to buy film to thread into my 8 millimeter movie camera, which I’m only lending you, then you’ve gotta earn some money and whatever you earn, I’ll double it.” So I had a business where I would white-wash people’s citrus trees in Phoenix, Arizona. I guess when you paint the trunk of the tree white, it both reflects the sun and prevents the fruit from drying out. So I did this and I charged 50 cents a tree and I made enough money that when my dad matched it, I could go out and buy film to make my little 8 millimeter movies when I was between 12 and 16 years old.
Q: What advice do you have for kids that would like to get into filmmaking, whether it be writing, directing, producing, or acting?
Spielberg: Well it’s so much easier for kids today to get their start making movies and even acting in front of the camera, and there are so many more outlets to allow others to discover your talent because of how prevalent video cameras are. Now your telephones have cameras where you can make a movie just on your phone, on your flip phone, and you can post it on YouTube or on Facebook and you suddenly have an audience. You have a much larger audience than I had when I was making my movies and having to go door to door to get people to pay a quarter to come see the movies at my house during the summer. For me a full house was 25 kids sitting in my mom and dad’s family room watching an 8 millimeter image projected on a big white screen. That was to me a full house. Today you can get millions of hits if you make an interesting little video.
What do you guys think? Is Steven Spielberg awesome or what? Which one of his movies is YOUR fave? Let us know in the Comments.
This is only the first half of our interview with Mr. Spielberg. In December, we will hear more about his upcoming movie, The Adventures of Tintin coming to theaters on December 23. So if you’re a Spielberg fan, be sure to come back for Part 2 of this interview in December!
Interview by Marie Morreale