Spielberg offers aspiring directors pointers
Steven Spielberg, arguably Hollywood’s best-known director, had many golden nuggets of advice for budding filmmakers during an appearance at Tsinghua University, encouraging them to take advantage of new technologies and make movies that truly speak to them.
“Tell the stories you’ve been too afraid to tell, but tell them,” he said at the university on Monday. “Make the movies you always admired other people for making. If you love a superhero movie, make one with your iPhone. You’ve all got a little video recorder in your devices. And those can tell stories and show who you are,” he said.
Spielberg started making 8-mm films at the age of 12. He recalled how he had to lug a projector and a screen to get people to watch the short films he had made, and he called attention to the unprecedented access that social media has provided for today’s film students.
“For me, filmmaking is both a hobby and a profession. I love it so much it seems I shouldn’t be paid for it,” he said.
One must have that kind of ambition and faith in oneself, he added. “I had more people say no to me than say yes. A hundred nos, but that one yes got me started as a film director.”
Spielberg, who dropped out of college but went back and got a bachelor of the arts degree at California State University Long Beach in 2002, said a formal film education is important, since it will help one cultivate the craft that’s necessary in the industry.
As for the importance of visual imagination, he said there are movies that are text-oriented, such as Lincoln. He only “framed tableaus and let Tony Kushner’s dialogue sing”, he said.
There are directors who don’t need the iconography of visual imagery, he said, while others enjoy playing with images, such as the boy riding the bicycle toward the moon in E.T. and the dream tree and the big reflecting pool in the new film The BFG, which was directed and co-produced by Spielberg.
He said it’s “a personal question” of whether a young filmmaker should specialize in a limited set of genres and subject matters or try as many as possible.
The director said he respects great filmmakers who haven’t had a wide variety, such as Alfred Hitchcock or Martin Scorsese, but also admires predecessors like Victor Fleming who never told the same story twice.
“I’m much more eclectic,” he said. “I’d like to be able to find the subject that I don’t know much about but somehow interests me and forces me to pay attention to it.”
Steven Spielberg, speaking at Tsinghua University