Last night, I caught the HBO documentary about Spielberg. Have you seen this? Along with the historic effects Spielberg’s films have had on our culture, I was moved by knowing in our businesses, we too can be artists.
Spielberg was talking about his first directing hire in 1971 on a TV movie called “Duel.” It’s the story of a good guy, (Dennis Weaver), driving a 4-door Valliant being bullied by a 1960 Peterbilt driven by a lunatic whose face we hardly see.
It’s road race turned rage with Weaver watching his rear view mirror and the 40-ton truck glued to his tail. Until the final point where the road’s end meets the cliff’s edge. Weaver rolls out of his car to safety, but the semi can’t stop from sliding over.
We see it toppling, crashing, dying a slow, hard death — everything you’d want to see a villain do. Watching those big rolling tires slowly coming off, seeing the guts of the semi’s inside and the murder weapon rendered powerless was an unexpected (and to this day) classic emotional experience.
The Studio execs loved it too except for one thing:
The truck had to explode in flames because, as the execs said “that’s what audiences are used to seeing. We have to give them what they’re used to.”
But Spielberg insisted there was more experience to give people than what they assumed they’d see next. Real characters and their lives that Spielberg deeply knew. The car and the truck were the stars. No characters, no story. Spielberg knew he could be taken off the picture and never work again, but “I just couldn’t do it. I’m not shooting the scene again.”
It’s hard. It takes courage and patience to know our stories, why that matters and why the real heroes, our audience may care too. May be easier to just bring in the pyrotechnics and blow up the truck.
I understand. Years back, I was brought into DreamWorks to develop story for a Spielberg project in development and when he shut the project down, I wanted to blow myself up!
But this is Spielberg’s real legacy as I heard it last night:
“The thing is the more I’m feeling confident and secure about something the less I’m going to put out. The more I’m feeling — oh-oh, this could be a major problem. I’m not going to bring my story home. I’m going to stay over time to get the job done.”
Sure. Not everybody is Spielberg. But if Spielberg settled for blowing up that semi, "Duel" wouldn’t have gone on to be converted to a feature. And today Spielberg wouldn’t be Spielberg either.
I heard someone say, “what if I’m not selling imagination?”
We are all in the imagination business.
So, what if you have a far more powerful voice than you’re imagining? If you know you’re here to do work that changes lives, but you don’t know how ‘bring your story home’?
That’s where I can help you.
I will appreciate hearing from you. Let’s see what we can see together.
Thank you for reading.
p.s. Drive safely!