Tuesday March 14, 2023

Be Like Spielberg

Over the weekend, in “Hollywood: An Oral History,” I read the following about Steven Spielberg:

KATHLEEN KENNEDY: Steven has this ability to bring about an idea and then really open it up for discussion. It doesn't matter who's involved in the process. If they have a good idea, he's going to listen to it and he's going to add on it. When people are in an environment, a creative environment like that, and they realize that that isn't closed off to them, then I think people begin to get very creative and they begin to get very alive in terms of ideas. And he's very good at creating an atmosphere like that, and I think, consequently, it shows in his films.

That should be taught in Management 101 classes. It's the answer to so much. A moment later, we get this recollection from Spielberg's longtime collaborator:

JOHN WILLIAMS: I met Steven Spielberg at Universal Studios when he was a very young man. I think he was about, maybe, twenty-three years old, twenty-four years old. One of the executives there, Jennings Lang, said, “I want you to meet a young director who has a film called Sugarland Express. Would you like to have lunch with him?” I'd never heard of Steven Spielberg. Okay, so Mr. Lang's office arranged a lunch at a very fancy restaurant in Beverly Hills, and I was five minutes or so late to the restaurant. And I went over to the table, and here was this kid, he looked like he was seventeen years old. He stood up, and he said, “I'm Steven Spielberg.” And I felt like an elder, more or less immediately. “Oh!” And he was dressed like a very young person might. And the wine list came over. He looked at it, and I could see—I don't think he'd ever held a wine list in his hand before. And we had lunch and spoke about his film. I had no idea what he had done before, some television, I think. But I discovered five minutes into the conversation that this young gentleman knew as much or more than I did about film music. He started singing the themes of films that I'd written, subthemes, you know, that I'd forgotten about, and everything of Max Steiner or anyone else you wanna pick. He was really quite a scholar, an erudite, almost, in this area. Much more than I. And I loved that about him, of course, instantly. And we could sit and dish about film music, ones that I'd played for, the ones I liked, didn't like: “Well, why didn't you like it?” “Why do you like this?” An insatiable capacity to learn. A glistening intellect, obviously, in the first meeting with this kid.

What's the lesson? Learn as much as you can. Learn so much that when you meet a master he's impressed by how much you know. Hell, in some ways you know more than he does about his own stuff. And then keep going. Don't stop. Keep asking questions. You don't know enough. There's always more.

Posted at 08:27 AM on Tuesday March 14, 2023 in category Books  
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