Steven Spielberg 1947–
American director, screenwriter, and producer.
Spielberg is one of the most successful of the many young directors who emerged in the seventies. Spectacle is perhaps the most prominent element in his films: the shark in Jaws, the alien spaceship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In these films, Spielberg creates the terror of the unknown to bring about a catharsis in his audience.
Spielberg began making short films while in high school. He spent three months at Universal Studios in 1967, sneaking past the guard each day to watch directors work in television. Spielberg's short film Amblin' won a number of awards and helped him become a television director. He directed episodes of six different programs, including Night Gallery, The Psychiatrists, and Columbo, and also directed three made-for-TV movies. The first of these movies, Duel, has been widely acclaimed as one of the best movies television has ever produced.
Spielberg's first feature, The Sugarland Express, contains a number of the best elements of Duel, including a choreographed car chase, but critics are divided as to the film's artistic merit. Spielberg himself has said, "If I had it to do all over again I'd make Sugarland Express in a completely different fashion." Spielberg was totally unprepared for the huge commercial success of his next film, Jaws. The movie combines humor, violence, contemporary problems, and horror, and the end result is an engrossing story that has received much critical acclaim. Close Encounters of the Third Kind received as much publicity for its special effects as for Spielberg's directorial prowess and screenwriting talents, and it is generally believed to be his best work to date.
Although Spielberg's directorial abilities seem to get lost among the special effects in his films, he still feels that his films are personal statements. As Spielberg has said: "A lot of my films are question-answer pictures leading up to an inevitable conclusion that the audience is waiting for, and hopefully they won't be disappointed." (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 77-80.)