Buried deep inside the playlists of streaming platform Hotstar is Spielberg, a fantastic documentary that chronicles the journey of filmmaker Steven Spielberg. The 2 hours 21 minute HBO film is a treasure not just for Spielberg fans, but also for aspiring filmmakers or anyone who loves the movies. There are wonderful stories about Spielberg’s early experiments with the camera, unseen footage from the sets of some his biggest movies, insights into how he pushed himself to dabble in different genres, and tributes from actors and directors who’ve worked with him. We also get to know him better on a personal level. We learn about his fraught relationship with his father and how it reflected in his cinema.
There’s so much to love in Spielberg, but here are 5 reasons why you absolutely can’t miss this.
1) The Early Days Of Filmmaking
Spielberg describes his younger self as “a lonely guy”. He got bullied a lot and that didn’t do much for his self esteem. “When I was able to say control and cut, I wrested control of my life. The second I finished a movie I wanted to make a second one because I felt good about myself when I was making a film,” says the filmmaker. When not making films, he was sneaking onto film sets to secretly watch other filmmakers at work. One time he sneaked into Hitchcock’s set and watched him direct for a bit until he got caught and was asked to leave.
2) The Story Behind The Making Of Jaws
The process of filming Jaws was as scary as the movie. When Spielberg started filming, they had no shark, no cast, and no script. The script was being rewritten 12 hours before shooting. The first time they tested the shark, it sunk. Everything was falling apart. And yet, this 1975 movie about a murderous shark on the loose went on to make more money than what any film had earned at the time. Spielberg calls the success a “free pass into my future”.
3) Raiders of the Lost Ark Was Meant to Be An All Out B-Movie
After the colossal failure of his period comedy 1941, Spielberg was shattered. His close friend and filmmaker George Lucas came to his rescue by pushing him to make a “pure escapist movie”. And that’s how Indiana Jones and the Raiders Of The Lost Ark was born. “It was meant to be an all out B Movie,” they recall. At the time, it was an uphill task getting a studio onboard. Spielberg had by then developed a notorious reputation of going over budget and over schedule on all his films.
4) Jurassic Park and the Birth Of A New Era
“It was the end of an era, and the beginning of a whole new era,” says George Lucas while speaking about the impact of Jurassic Park in 1993. With that movie, Spielberg became the first filmmaker to attempt a movie where the central characters were digitally created. Dennis Muren, the visual effects supervisor on the film, recalls telling the filmmaker, “We can build these things but they can’t run.” Once they cracked how to make the dinosaurs run and emote, it opened up a whole new world of storytelling.
5) The Movie Brats
The most heartwarming bits of the documentary are those that shed light on the long-lasting and unique friendship that stalwarts like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Brian De Palma and Spielberg shared with each other. This blossomed in the mid to late 60s, when there was a major shift in the Hollywood studios. They were suddenly welcoming of young filmmakers with original ideas and that’s how these guys got their chance. People often referred to them as the ‘movie brats’. “It’s almost like crashing the party. People were on the way out and we were going in,” says Scorsese. What held them together as they penetrated Hollywood was their mad love for the movies. But this didn’t mean they weren’t competitive. “Everybody was sort of forced to do a better job to impress everybody,” says Lucas.