Steven Spielberg Biography: Success Story of an American Filmmaker

Steven Spielberg Biography

Steven Spielberg

In this success story, we are going to share Steven Spielberg biography, an American filmmaker and producer. He is probably the greatest filmmaker of our contemporary history, who has made a record number of commercially and critically successful films. Spielberg is easily the most curious filmmaker who explores the everyday lives of people, their clash with the strange, extraterrestrial, and unknown.

Spielberg’s taste in cinema draws heavily from his childhood. He and his friends frequently watched B-movies, read sci-fi novels, and filmed their mini-films regularly. Practicing filming from an early age gave Spielberg the boost to create blockbusters like Jaws (1975) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

Steven Spielberg is the father of seven children — some of whom have followed in his film-making footsteps. Spielberg first became a father with the birth of his son Max, whom he shares with his ex-wife Amy Irving.

Steven Spielberg is an American film director and producer. He directed such classics as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), historical dramas like Schindler’s List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998), and science fiction flicks like Jurassic Park (1993).

As a teenager, Steven Spielberg started making amateur films and later studied film at California State University, Long Beach. In 1969, his twenty-two-minute short Amblin was shown at the Atlanta Film Festival, which led to his becoming the youngest director ever to sign a long-term deal with a major Hollywood studio.

To understand precisely how Spielberg became such a prolific filmmaker he is today, we have to trace back to his roots and the roots of his European ancestors who had escaped the war and had found a new life in America.


Spielberg is known to have mined his childhood obsessively for movie ideas. As he leaped into young adulthood, his Hollywood path was set in place, and his success story became a series of one blockbuster after the next. The roots of Spielberg’s entire visual style are rooted in his childhood, which will be the primary focus of this biography.

Spielberg’s subjects in his films are the regular everyday person. That is how he continually keeps in touch with his audience and makes his characters relatable to them. He also shows elitists and high-profile figures in a disdainful light. Instead, he focuses on the ordinary human conflicts of ordinary beings. Troubled youth is another character trait in many of Steven’s films, a youth trying to escape adult responsibilities.

The Spielberg Family Roots

The Spielberg family is a story often echoed in many families with the Jewish-American heritage. His ancestors, or grandparents, are initially from Ukraine and they escaped the Russian occupation in the early 1900s. They moved from Russian cities to find religious freedom in America.

Russian Jews in the late 1800s were very much exposed to antisemitism, which forced his family to leave. Jews lived in small villages, and were barred from most occupations and looked down upon. The great migration between 1881 and 1941 saw 2 million Jewish people fled from Russia into America. To them, America was seen as a land of hope, of transformation. A significant leap away from their segregated past in Russia.

Spielberg’s ancestors settled in Cincinnati, a hospitable American city featuring one of the most prominent and most culturally rich Jewish communities in America at the time. Most of the Jews that did not escape Russia at the time were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust, with over fifteen relatives lost to the Holocaust in the Spielberg family, both Ukrainian and Polish.

Shmuel Spielberg, who was Steven’s grandfather, was born in 1873 in Kamanets-Podolsk which was then Russia but is now Ukraine. The city had a population of about forty thousand, including a large Jewish community. The relationships between the Jewish folk and the people from Kamanets-Podolsk was positive; there was little anti-semitism.

When his parents died in an epidemic, Shmuel spent most of the time with his brother until getting drafted into the czarist army. He stayed in that army for six years being a member of the army band. He played the baritone, noting that by staying in the band he avoided getting killed. Then the Russo-Japanese war erupted in 1904, and he was forced to escape to America, to avoid being drafted.

Arnold Spielberg

Steven’s father Arnold worked as an electrical engineer and was closely involved in developing computers. When Arnold worked as an assistant manager in Kentucky, his cousin Max handed Arnold a movie camera. It was an early 8mm movie camera, and Arnold quickly put it to use by making home movies around the age of seventeen. He recalls it being no class, just pictures. But this camera would eventually get passed on to young Steven.

Arnold was drafted to the U.S. Army in January 1942 and soon began working with airplane parts in Pakistan. He was part of the B-25 bomber squadron and had flown a couple of missions. Although he mostly recalls that his war experience was sitting in the communication room most of the time.

As the full picture of the Holocaust and the lives it had taken came to light, America started welcoming American Jews and helped them advance post the war, opening up economic and social opportunities. It is also worth noting that the Soviet Union also accepted many Jews in higher educations and businesses. After the war, Arnold Spielberg was enabled to go to college, with the GI Bill of Rights was then seen as an admission ticket to a better life.

This enabled him to finish the University of Cincinnati in 1949 and embark on a very successful engineering career, making a significant impact on early computer development. He married Leah before college, and she urged him to become the pioneer and the successful person he was.

Leah Posner

On his mother’s side, Spielberg had Polish roots. His mother, Leah Posner (a name attributed to a Polish village) was a concert pianist and restauranteur. Leah Posner started daring Arnold in 1939 after a good match of tennis. She had musical ambitions which she pursued further by being a concert pianist. She was the artistic talent in the family, a talent which later transferred to young Steven. After Arnold came back from the war, she worked around in several jobs but never stopped playing the piano. She’d play all the time, especially classical music, as they had a big collection of records in their house. She would often play the piano when she was pregnant with Steven.

Steven’s imagination was well developed as it is known that playing classical music to a kid is great for early development. He loved to hear his mother play. Arnold meanwhile continued pioneering in the field of computers and even had several patents to his name. Although Steven had no interest in engineering, he took up filmmaking from his father.

How Old Is Steven Spielberg?

Steven Alan Spielberg was born in Cincinnati on December 18, 1946. Or 1947. It is a question that his early Hollywood colleagues pondered a lot on. The reason being is that Steven, at one point, changed the year of his age to boost his wunderkind status. It culminated in several lawsuits between Steven and his producers in 1995, to which the director did not want to comment. Many articles and publications of the time had different years of age for Steven until his college and birth records came out.

It is possible that Steven lied about his age to boost his wunderkind status. It is also possible that he did so to avoid certain legal obligations. Steven dreamed of directing a film before the age of twenty-one, and it seems he had managed it. A headline in the Hollywood Reporter read, “Spielberg, 21, is believed the youngest filmmaker ever acted by a major studio.” In reality, he was twenty-two at the time of the article’s publication. He kept it confusing that way.

Young Steven: Personality and Relationship With Parents

As a young child, Steven Spielberg was very energetic and curious. He wanted to get into everything and ask all the questions possible. The traits of a successful filmmaker. He also learned things very quickly and began speaking at a very early age. Steven’s parents did not halt their son’s curiosity and would buy him everything he wanted. They gave him freedom so that no nervous conflicts arose between child and son. He always got what he wanted, and he was free to express himself.

During his time at the University of Cincinnati, Arnold studied all the time and was a bit emotionally distant from Steven. This showed in his successful computing career, but Steven felt disconnected from his father. This also reflected in Steven Spielberg’s personality as a workaholic, which is very descriptive of Arnold. Arnold was very introverted and intellectual, and Steven grew up similar to him in this way.

All of these things resulted in Steven having a kiddish personality. He never cared about growing up or becoming a man in the traditional sense of the word. He recalls himself being like an adult with a Peter Pan syndrome, and he never wanted to grow up. There is even a book by Dr. Dan Kiley titled The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up which explores the problem of delayed maturation in kids like Steven Spielberg.

The Spielberg family moved around very often because of Arnold’s job. After living in New Jersey and Phoenix, Arizona, they finally settled in San Jose, California- which would soon become known as Silicon Valley. Steven was indulged throughout his childhood by his mother and three sisters who gave him a great deal of attention and spoiled him.

During his time in New Jersey, young Steven Spielberg was taken to a movie theater. He was five years old, and he didn’t fully understand what movies were. He was told that the family was going to a circus movie, and he was more interested in the circus aspect of it all. What he was surprised to see was a giant white piece of cardboard behind a curtain, no elephants or lions. The next hour and a half were a full spectacle for Spielberg as he witnessed The Greatest Show on Earth, with Cecil B. DeMille. It was a fantastic movie for the time, which won an Oscar that year. Steven was initially disappointed, hoping to see a real circus. But the experience stayed in his head.

Steve the Prankster, Early Fascination with Visual Effects, and Religion

At that time, young Steven Spielberg was slowly transforming into a wild hurricane of a boy. He would pull pranks on his next-door neighbor Arnold Fuhrman and his little daughter. Spielberg used to terrify little Janie which got Fuhrman very annoyed with him, promising he would kill him (as a joke of course). He later said that he should be credited for Steven’s success because he avoided killing him.

In retrospect, Steven’s fascination with creatively scaring little Janie was among his earliest forms of artistic expression. He would love scaring friends with spooky stories, creepy makeup, or showing them movies that would terrify them and make them scream. There were lots of phobias in young Steven; he would be scared of the smallest things. One time after the family moved (again) there was a tree across their house which was illuminated by a streetlamp. Steven Spielberg was haunted by the shapes that the tree made, like tentacles or scary creatures under the moonlight.

Eventually, young Steven became fascinated by these fears, manipulating them to create strange visual effects. He would stay up all nights playing with his hand shadow and even scare himself with the shapes he made. As these phobias progressed, Steven learned to channel them into creative stories and terrify his siblings, especially his sisters. His sister Anne later said this about Jaws: “Steven scared us for years. Now he gets to scare the masses.”

Steven was also interested in asking people about their religions. His family moved around a lot, and he got exposed to lots of different people from that era. One of his disenchantments from his youth was watching every house set up Christmas lights while his didn’t, because of the Jewish roots. Religious rituals also fascinated him. As a result of his exposure to Christian kids and schools, his family had to teach him the differences between Catholicism and Judaism at an early age.

Jesus Christ was a huge symbol to most American kids in that era, but not to Steven’s family, and he didn’t understand why. This made Steven feel like a little outcast; he thought that being a Jew meant that he wasn’t normal because he wasn’t like everybody else. He just wanted to feel accepted.

Moving to Arizona

Around that time, Arnold progressed in his job and worked for RCA. He was known to be one of the best engineers, as his technical talents were very sharp. Leah, on the other hand, was the creative soul in the family. The synthesis of creativity and technicality is what made Steven the great filmmaker he was. A film was a medium, which relied heavily on synthesizing sophisticated technology with creativity, and Steven excelled at doing so. When Arnold handed Steven his first camera, Steven began shooting amateur films in imitation of his father. As Steven began delving into filmmaking, his father supported and mentored him.

At school, Steven wasn’t excelling very well. He was bright and playful, but teachers recall him being a C-level student. This was Edison School in Haddonfield. Instead of studying, Steven cared for expressing himself, expressing his dream world, and being lost in thought. One early fascination of Steven was dinosaurs, which later showed in his directing of Jurassic Park (1993). Other fascinations included T.V. (the family was raised in the Golden era of television), and World War II.

Arizona was where Steven Spielberg first delved into filmmaking. He recalled it as the place which felt most like home to him, you know: the first car, the first kiss, the best friends and such. Spielberg solidly says that he began making films ever since the age of 12, and Arizona was the perfect place to start.

It was a wasteland at the time. The family moved into a tiny apartment with two bedrooms and had to stay there for six months. It was hell. Luckily they moved into the city’s Arcadia neighborhood which was a big step up. Although their life was pretty well set up in Arizona, Spielberg recalls himself being an outsider in the community. The desert itself looked very creepy and alien-like, the type of desert where flying saucers landed and monsters roamed at night.

Culture Shock, Meteor Shower, and Messing Around with 8mm

In Arizona, Steven Spielberg got the most crap for his Jewish heritage. People in the fifties and sixties were very intolerant, and Arizona didn’t have high Jewish popularity. This is where small-minded people engaged in anti-Semitic practices and bullied kids like Steven. He says that it felt almost as if you were a communist. The Ingleside Elementary school gave him culture shock and quieted him down. He was a nerdy kid, dressing appropriately with button-downs and living in his dream world.

Arizona was a foreshadowing of all the greatness to come in Steven Spielberg. Steven remembers one night, his dad woke him up and hurried him outside and to the car in his pajamas. He wasn’t told what was happening, until they drove up to an open desert area to find about a hundred people laying on the sandy ground, staring up at the illuminated night. Arnold and Steven found a spot and lay down too, and observed a magnificent meteor shower in the bright Arizona night sky. Steven, obsessed by lights from an early age, was in awe at this grand spectacle. But all he could think was, “where is this coming from?” Steven’s fascination with extraterrestrials inspired films such as E.T. (1982) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

At school, Steven Spielberg recalls being unpopular and wacky. People remember him as being that weird fifties kid with large glasses and acne, the type that wouldn’t get girls. If you have ever seen American Graffiti (1973) by George Lucas, you will get the perfect picture of this American 50s. Kids taunted Spielberg for his Jewish heritage and his skinny, weird character. Spielberg always said that his future was in Hollywood, and many scoffed at the idea. Other boys chased cheerleaders and enjoyed football, being like “Come on, Steven, what are you going to make movies all your life?”

Steve started messing around with his dad’s 8mm film camera shortly after arriving in Arizona. It was a cheap little camera that Leah gave Arnold as a birthday present, and Steve quickly confiscated it and put it to use. Arnold would use the camera to film family stuff, and Steven would soon pick up that role. The Spielberg family enjoyed trips and staying outdoors, and for Steven, that was a perfect opportunity to film. When his father filmed during trips, Steven would criticize him for the shaky footage or for the bad exposures. This all culminated in the classic “Well if you’re such a smart kid, why don’t you try?”

That’s when Steven became the family journalist. He was fascinated by the power of what he chose to show, his view of the trip. Steven soon evolved to not only documenting trips but staging them. He’d ask his parents to let him out of the car a hundred yards before they’d arrive at their location. This enabled him to film the car pulling up, the family unpacking; all the exciting details that make good cinema. Steven soon began staging these trips, turning these mini-documentaries into little surrealistic movies. Perfect for any modern indie band’s music video.

The Spielbergian Touch

Arnold accepted that there was little he could teach his son about the art of filmmaking. After all, all you did with a camera was load the film and hit the record button. This was a trial and error type of practice, the kind you only get better at by trying. And Steven did it all day, every day. Steve’s practice enabled him to experiment with shots: you know how photographers get into strange poses to get the perfect angle? He would lie down on his stomach or climb something while his family was shouting “Quick! We’re leaving! Let’s go!” He stretched those moments, and the results became the first elements of Spielbergian cinema.

Spielberg’s first real film (or at least what he considers his first film) involves a few trains crashing into each other. Except those were not real trains, they were toys. He got very fond of staging toy train wrecks, so fond that his father grew increasingly concerned and told him to stop it or he’d take all his trains away. To close this chapter of his fascinations, Steven decided to stage the one train wreck to rule them all, a crash of spectacular magnificence, created out of different angles and cutaways of plastic people reacting in horror. This was his first instance of using artistic inspiration he got from The Greatest Show Ever and applying it to his own cinematic venture. The film was accurately titled The Last Train Wreck.

Soon enough, Spielberg began filming just about everything. He would edit the films while shooting, by pausing them and setting up shots like a real film director. He eventually made friends with other young, friendly neighborhood filmmakers, who were also outcasts and gooks. They watched Western and sci-fi movies together and got many ideas. It was a little film club where friends got to share ideas, and it gave young Steve a sense of belonging.

Boy Scouts, Scaring People With Sci-Fi, and B-Movies

Another thing that gave Steve a sense of belonging was when he ventured into the Boy Scouts. Boy Scouts are like a brotherhood of young people who go outdoors and practice their survival skills. For Steve, it was something that supported his creative development. He even got close to his father, who went as a treasurer of the troop. Steve’s fellow boy scouts remember him as being beloved in the gang. He always read and told stories at the fire, especially science-fiction stories with monsters, more particularly the space ones. Ghost stories were common too, he loved scaring people to near death.

Steven was a great storyteller, even in class. He would get fascinated with writing a sci-fi story and tell it to kids. Nobody wanted to hear other kids’ stories, everybody waited for Steve’s. In these early storytelling years, he showcased his ability to create twist endings and induce humor into sci-fi. Most of his work was inspired by greats like Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke, but it didn’t stop at a surface level. The family would have lots of their novels and other pulp fiction lying around at the house. Friends recall him talking about authors and films that they’d never heard of as if he were making them up. Steven was really more buried into the world of sci-fi than anybody on a surface level.

At breaks between reading and writing obscure sci-fi, Steve indulged in television. Arizona T.V. wasn’t exactly to die for, but they did have Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone, so it wasn’t all that bad. Steven loved imitating some of the characters and directors like Hitchcock, who was quite the character himself. Every Saturday, a local adult theater took a break from showing adult movies and showed B-movies and westerns instead. Steve frequented that theater because of the obscure B-movie classics as well as stuff that was better than on T.V. Spielberg’s close circle of film geeks have said that he’d even duplicate scenes from those movies in his work. The most notable example being Raiders of the Lost Ark, which includes a scene with Harrison Ford riding a horse, which was pulled directly from the 1937 Zorro Rides Again serial.

During his time with the boy scouts, Steven made his first attempt at real cinematic storytelling. He wanted the merit badge for photography (merit badges were important in the scouting community), and his dad urged him to go out to the desert and make a little film. The Western aesthetic came naturally to Steve, having seen hundreds of movies like this before. He gathered some scouts and some other kids and directed his father (the kids were too young to handle a real movie camera) to film them in the desert and the parking lot. Young Steve played a bandit who robbed people. He directed his father on nearly every shot, creating illusions of grandeur: like making the horse carriage appear real even though they didn’t have the horses. You don’t need expensive gear to be a creative filmmaker.

The film also gave Steve a sense of power over the kids who would bully him. Since he was the director, he got to boss people around and be important. But for him, that didn’t matter much. What mattered is that the result was something tangible, an experience he could relive over and over again. When the film was presented on the boy scout meeting, the crowd loved it, and Steve started bringing his camera just about everywhere he went. Film cameras back then did not have sound, which was a fantastic advantage for Steve. Film is a medium where the picture rules all; it is a medium of visual storytelling. For Steve, filming without sound gave him the necessary discipline to really understand how visual storytelling works. Spielberg made about fifteen or twenty films during his 8mm apprenticeship.

Young Steve Becomes and Entrepreneur

In his teenage years, Spielberg moved on to 16mm films. He had made so many films at that point that he already played around with soundtracks, posters, and advertising. People who attended screenings of various films in school, found Steve’s mini-films squeezed in between breaks. People who attended real movies ran into Steven at the exit. He quizzed people on what they liked about the film, their reactions, and critiques— all the necessary gossip. This was the feedback young entrepreneur Steven needed to know what the mass audience liked. Steven often screened his movies at school, promoting them with eye-catching posters and selling actual tickets. The money off the sales enabled him to buy more film and make more movies. Film was pretty expensive, and every video young Spielberg made came at around a $20 check. Once he was a teenager, he learned how to make money and buy his own film.

Moving past eight grade saw Steven experiment with a variety of genres, including comedy and horror. His most famous movie at the time was Fighter Squad, a film about World War II. He made a lot of films about the war because his father always kept telling stories about it. Fighter Squad was a fifteen-minute short which was shot inside the cockpit of an actual airplane. Arnold, who supported Steve’s early filmmaking career, got them permitted to the cockpit. One of his friends remembers seeing an early version of the movie in Steven’s bedroom, which was filled with posters, camera gear, a bunch of different props and models of airplanes. People who saw the movie were always intrigued at how this kid managed to pull this off.

Arcadia High School, and Escape to Nowhere

When Steven got into Arcadia High School, he changed from being the outgoing kid into a quiet one. High school presented lots of problems a typical teenager in America would face. Steven would row with his dad over his education choices: his dad wanted him to take classes that led to a computing or an engineering career. Also, high school is where you begin to get girls, where cool boys become more bossy and bully-like. Since Steven was kind of a jock with his gang of weirdos, he would often get pushed around by the local bullies. He would take knocks as they say and be subject to anti-Semitic jokes by one particular school bully. All this tumulus high school time took away from Steven’s constant film venture, although he still managed to pull off an important project in his movie Escape to Nowhere. He also got his first real glimpse of Hollywood, when he managed to sneak into the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank to watch a battle sequence for a World War II movie being filmed.

Soon enough, Spielberg would go on to film and produce his first-ever real feature film. This film was inspired by the meteor shower episode which he witnessed as a childhood. That meteor shower inspired young Steve to delve into the extraterrestrial, the unknown. The Arizona desert landscape adds to the whole feeling of stranger things about. Even their high school library kind of looked like a flying saucer. Spielberg was fascinated with extraterrestrial lights and flying saucers, and all the things like that.

Meanwhile, his film Escape to Nowhere won a bunch of prizes from the amateur film contest including a proper 16mm camera (which he traded for a really good 8mm because 16mm film cost a fortune). He also won a bunch of filmmaking books which were at college level, teaching him valuable technical information he needed to make his first real feature film. He could also use his new equipment to record sound directly on his film and create a bunch of pro visual effects. Around 1963, the script for Firelight was completed, and the film was shot in a span of six months. Arnold paid for the movie, between four hundred and six hundred bucks, but they got it back because Steve made close to eight hundred from the screening.

Firelight, Steven’s First Feature Film

Firelight was a spectacle about a scientist who was obsessed with UFOs and aimed to prove that aliens exist. There was a cast of characters, and a real alien abduction scene, which was created using flaming red light and provided a visual spectacle for his audience. The film was shot at night, and Steven also used stop-motion for big things like tanks and men being disintegrated by aliens. Quite an achievement for a sixteen-year-old. Firelight was the predecessor to his other alien film called Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which Steve claims is a very much a remake of Firelight.

Although young, Spielberg managed to portray very interesting ideas in his first feature. His portrayal of the U.S. government hilariously unable to deal with an alien invasion was very accurate of sci-fi. He portrayed his protagonists as seemingly ordinary people who were stunned by the events unfolding, a trademark of Spielbergian cinema. His open view of alien existence suggested influences from Arthur C. Clarke, who in one of his novels showed extraterrestrials as healers, not invaders. All these themes and ideas were explored in Spielberg’s first feature Firelight. That and of course, red alien lights melting humans to dust.

On March 24, 1964, Steven Spielberg stepped out of a real limousine to attend the premiere of his first-ever film, along with the cast of his stars. The spectacle of the movie left audiences bedazzled at the cinematic achievement of this youngster. He made more money than he spent, and this was, by all means, a first commercial success for Spielberg.

Entry Into Hollywood

His entry into Hollywood was not any less fascinating. Whether the story is real or fabricated is a good question. It goes that one day in 1969 when Spielberg was a young adult of 21, he sneaked into Universal studios and set up an office in an empty bungalow. Then he proceeded to the movie sets and, the main switchboards, and the Hollywood officials introducing himself and giving them his card with his number. They took him very seriously. Every day he would walk in past the guards in a black suit with a briefcase, and visit all the film sets, observe all the processes and absorb everything that Hollywood has to offer.

The story is most probably fake, and Steve got into Hollywood through connections. At least that’s what his inner circle says. A man called Chuck Silvers of the editing department at Universal Studios had met Steven prior and was interested in the young boy’s work. Silvers was acquainted with Arnold, and he agreed to show young Steven around the film studio. Silvers immediately saw the energy and potential in young Steve, who was excited about everything. When he watched Firelight, Silvers was amazed at how this young kid could achieve such a substantial cinematic feat. He was also impressed at the editing, the visual effects, the dialogue, and the music — all which the young boy managed to record and mix by himself. Real wunderkind material.

Spielberg became an apprentice to Chuck Silvers in Hollywood in 1964 after his junior year in high school.

Hollywood: A Middle-Aged Man’s Profession

The movie industry at the time “was still a middle-aged man’s profession,” as Steven recalled. Hailed as a youthful filmmaking prodigy in Phoenix, Steven had already learned a thing or two about publicity and was conscious of the specificity of his case as the youngest filmmaker in Hollywood. He had one request for Sid Sheinberg, who offered Steven a directing contract, and that was to direct his own film before the age of twenty-one.

After Universal announced his signing, The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “Spielberg, 21, is believed the youngest filmmaker ever pacted by a major studio.” The one thing they didn’t know was that Steven was possibly lying about his age. When he was interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter during the first day of shooting Night Gallery, his age was emblazoned on the article’s headline which read “22-Year-Old Tyro Directs Joan Crawford”.

Joan Crawford, who was one of Hollywood’s leading stars, was speechless and horrified at the idea of a young newcomer directing her. When they started working on her scenes, she completely changed her mind. “When I began to work with Steven, I understood everything. It was immediately obvious to me, and probably everyone else that here was a young genius. I thought maybe more experience was important, but then I thought of all of those experienced directors who didn’t have Steven’s intuitive inspiration and who just kept repeating the same old routine performances. That was called experience.”

“It’s Just a Job,” Early Films, and International Breakthrough with Jaws

At first, Steven’s job was limited to directing episodes of various T.V. series. Some of the more popular ones were Columbo, Marcus Welby, M.D., and Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law. In 1971, Steven directed his first television movie called Duel, a thriller that was more intense than a typical T.V. movie. Duel is a film about a psychotic tanker truck driver chasing the terrified character of Dennis Weaver trying to run him off the road. The film was praised for Spielberg’s handling of action sequence and was screened in movie theatres across Europe, enabling Spielberg to direct more theatrically released motion pictures.

Duel enabled Spielberg to make his first major directorial debut with the 1974 film The Sugarland Express– a story about a husband and wife trying to outrun the law. The Sugarland Express is the first film in which Spielberg and composer John Williams collaborated. Williams will go on to score almost every film that Spielberg ever made except for Twilight Zone: The Movie, The Color Purple, Bridge of Spies, and Ready Player One. The film was a big success and marked Spielberg as a rising star in Hollywood. Film critic Pauline Kael called it “one of the most phenomenal debut films in the history of cinema.” However, it was Spielberg’s next picture that turned him into an international superstar.

After the success of The Sugarland Express, Spielberg was offered the director’s chair for the 1975 thriller-horror film that became an instant success and virtually created the genre of the summer blockbuster: Jaws. Although the film was in danger of being shut down because of delays and budget over-runs, Spielberg finished and released the movie to enormous success. Jaws won Academy Awards for editing, original score, and sound, grossing over $470 million worldwide at the box office. After the release of this film, Steven Spielberg became a household name and a multi-millionaire, granting him the freedom of pursuing any projects he wanted. And the rest is history.


Spielberg is probably the greatest filmmaker of contemporary history. He has scored multiple blockbusters since a very early age, putting him several leagues above other filmmakers. Steven’s films have tremendous commercial successes and artistic successes, praised by critics for their incredible storytelling, social relevance, and creative curiosity.

The road to success for young Steven had been quick but right. Filmmaking is a practice makes perfect medium, and Steven had spent lots of his childhood telling stories through film. This enabled him to become the successful filmmaker he is.

Spielberg has stated that his goal with every film is to fill a movie theatre with a thousand strangers and give them a rollercoaster experience they will never forget. We hope that this trip through Steven’s filmmaking roots has given you a memorable experience and inspired you to create something of your own.

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