Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Style of Steven Spielberg

In July 2009, all students who had been accepted to USC were required to come to the school for orientation. I had always distanced myself from the School of Cinematic Arts and had never gone inside, simply because I didn't think I deserved to do so until I had been officially accepted. I had the chance to explore parts of the building when the Critical Studies group separated to discuss our Fall 2009 classes. It was here, sitting in the Carson Television Center, that I discovered the upcoming course on Steven Spielberg. It was a film analysis course on the director's style and it had only been offered twice before, in 2002 and 2005. Our counselor told the group that Steven Spielberg himself visits the class for a Q&A. I was sold.

I didn't take the class to meet Steven Spielberg, that was an added bonus. I enrolled in the class to learn about his career. I have always viewed Steven Spielberg as a man who has influenced us all in some particular way. He has created magical worlds and we have embarked on journeys throughout his films, and I wanted to learn about all of this. It also helped that the class was being taught by one of the greatest film professors.

I stumbled across the syllabus for the course before school started. I skimmed through until I discovered what we were doing for one of the class meetings - "Q&A with Steven Spielberg" - and that's when it hit me. I was going to meet Steven Spielberg in just a couple of weeks. I went from dreaming about studying film in school to being accepted to what is arguably the best film school in the world, just days away from meeting one of the most legendary filmmakers of all time. Since then, I began wondering what I could ask Steven Spielberg. I came up with nothing. This evening would be forever memorable to everybody who dreamt about becoming a filmmaker.

The evening arrived on November 4, 2009. We walked into Norris Cinema, to our usual seats, but this time, we weren't going to learn about Steven Spielberg. Tonight, we were going to meet him, and have the opportunity to learn from him, firsthand. Over the loudspeakers, we could hear the beautiful music of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, which is probably the first piece of music that comes to my head when I think about this man. We waited a full hour, impatiently, until we heard our professor introduce Mr. Steven Spielberg.

I can't quite begin to describe how I felt at that moment, and I think it is safe to assume that everybody probably felt the same way. There was magic in the air, and as we stood up to applaud Steven Spielberg, we could feel something magical in our hearts as well. This wasn't just a film director, this was a man who shaped our childhoods, with films like E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and a handful of others. He was responsible for starting the "blockbuster" with Jaws, and is single-handedly responsible for shaping the face of Hollywood as well.

I had the opportunity to ask Steven Spielberg my question. I stood up, reached for a microphone and told him how I felt, as best as I could in less than one minute. I told him that telling him that he has been a major influence on all our lives is an understatement. We didn't just grow up on his films, but his films became apart of our lives very early on. Every time we hear the music from his films or see E.T. and Elliott flying over the moon, these sounds and images were iconic to us. His films, ultimately, shaped our childhood and I thanked him for what he had given us. Surprisingly, my fellow classmates began applauding me, not because of my comment, but because it was true. Steven Spielberg affected our childhood, he gave us these wonderful memories and journeys, and it was an honor meeting him. It was obvious he felt touched by my words because he nodded and thanked me. I quickly remembered, however, that I forgot to introduce myself, and when I told him my name, he simply smiled and said, "Well, it's very nice to meet you this way."

An hour and half after he had entered, he had disappeared. We all sat down, speechless. The screening following could not have been a better pick, it was Schindler's List, arguably Steven Spielberg's best film and most memorable. Once the screening was over, the entire audience was silent. It was a truly wonderful evening and something I could not have imagined being apart of.