That Day I Asked Steven Spielberg a Question at the BFG Press Day

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg is a filmmaker that has been a huge influence on my love of cinema. He is without a doubt one of the most notable filmmakers working today and it doesn’t matter how big or small of a film fan you are, I would bet money that you have seen at least one of his films over the past 45 years. Spielberg’s early work such as Jaws, E.T, and Close Encounters of a Third Kind were films that I grew up watching and I watched them over and over again with my mom.

After the 1970s era of Spielberg ended, the Indiana Jones trilogy began in the 1980s followed by Hook and Jurassic Park 1 & 2 in the 1990s. Steven Spielberg is a legend and after 33 years on this planet, I finally got to sit down with this brilliant man and ask him a question during an interview at the BFG press day. The BFG is Spielberg’s first Disney film in his 45 plus years as a filmmaker. The BFG is based on the book by Roald Dahl and is the final film written by the talented Melissa Mathison who passed away back in November of 2015. Spielberg talked at great lengths about how wonderful it was working with Mathison and how sadden he was that she wasn’t alive to see her screenplay brought to life. 

After sitting in a roundtable interview for about 12 minutes, I knew I had to speak up and ask a question otherwise I would regret it for years. While I don’t doubt that most journalists do in fact love their job and film as an art form, I have been addicted to film since I was 3 years old. I live for this stuff so I had to say something to one of maybe 5 filmmakers in total who truly inspired this passion since I was a toddler. So without any further delay here is my question to the master of filmmaking:

SM:  I have to – first and foremost, I’m sure everyone at this table feels the same way, personally thank you for everything that you do. You’ve changed all our lives with your films.

SS: Thank you, thank you.

SM: My question is, in terms of technology, since you’ve been making films – how has it changed and for you personally what’s the biggest struggle?

SS:  I wouldn’t characterize it as a struggle. But I think it’s more of a kind of duel between story and technology. And what should triumph in any project? And I believe it should always be story. And so, if there’s any kind of a struggle going on, it is basically what we offer audiences today. Are we offering them stories that they will remember for the rest of their lives? Or are we offering them spectacle? Are we making films that will be appreciated perhaps in the short term, but then forgotten very soon after. And that – and when I personalize that, I say that’s my struggle too. Because I get very seduced sometimes by concepts that have a wow factor. And I have to always go and realize, “But why am I going to spend 2 years of my life on something for a wow factor, when I’m not sure the story has any social value or any lasting value that will be remembered in a year – let alone in 10 years, let alone a single year?” So I get – like everybody else, seduced by big ideas and big franchises and big possible franchises. And I think I’ve gotten to the point in my life right now where it’s easy to say no. Used to be hard for me to say no. But I’ve said no to so many humongous, hit franchises that I think I’m getting pretty good at it.

There were a lot of other good questions asked during the 18 minute roundtable that included Spielberg talking about the next installment of Indiana Jones franchise to Ready Player One.

Here are five quick takeaways from some of the other questions that Steven answered during the event.

5. Spielberg and George Lucas will be back as executive producers on the next Indiana Jones film which will be directed by Rob Marshall.

4. Below is Spielberg take on Walt Disney as a filmmaker and his representation of women:

“Disney was the first time I realized you could be scared half to death and then rescued minutes later. Not hours later, but minutes later. Disney had this incredible power to create images that were so frightening you had to turn away from the screen. But then suddenly those images would turn into a beautiful kind of moment of transcendence. And the characters would – it’s the cliché about battling the dragon. Taking on the dragon, and it’s terrifying. But when you’ve finally vanquished the foe, you’re left with the damsel in distress. And Disney, of course, used to take the damsel in distress and Hollywood would make the victim and turn the damsel into the proactive heroine. So Disney also had strong women in all of the animated films. Cinderella, Snow White – you look at all the animated films – very strong women. And I find that Disney probably influenced me in that sense. And it also made me feel that it was okay to scare, as long as there was light at the end of the little vignettes of darkness.”

3. Spielberg mentioned that Ready Player One and The BFG are a nice step away from his previous films dealing with history. He mentioned that after doing so many films that dealt directly with history that during these two films felt like a nice cold shower. Ready Player One has just begun filming and will be shot primarily in Europe.

2. One of the biggest challenges for Spielberg in terms of turning the BFG into a film was the lack of plot found in Dahls book. He mentioned that Melissa’s script was really what made the film a reality. She created this world inspired by Dahl that developed into a full length feature film. Spielberg’s goal when making the film was to “capture something that had relevance today” in comparison to just a relationship between a little girl and a giant.

1.The Wiz Popper scene was the most fun and difficult scene to shoot. Spielberg pointed out that they barely captured this scene on film and went into great detail about how difficult the scene was.

For the Wiz Popper Scene, “Mark had to be put on wires and he had to be jerked into the air every time he Wiz Pops. And Mark loved it. He had never made a movie like this before, needless to say. He does mainly stage plays. And he’s been in some rigs on – in theater. But he’s never been pulled into the air with a off camera Wiz Popping sound effect before. And I think that was and I think Mark said, “Hey, if movies are going to be like this every time, I think I’ll make more movies now.” He had a great time. It was hard getting through a day without laughing our heads off. Because for one thing, you have to understand that Ruby and Mark are working in a big, big white space called a motion capture volume. And the sets are all made of wire. And Ruby is on huge set to reduce her in scale. Those huge dream jars on the table were humongous. And Mark is on a scissor lift 20 feet above Ruby looking down, so they can make eye contact.”

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  1. Very good question, Scott. And damn, what an answer. Spielberg can do it all. He’s such a wordsmith, he could run for president if he wanted to, but making films is way more fun, I’m sure.

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