Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg is an American director, producer, and screenwriter well
known for his role in filmmaking. He is the top grossing director of all time.
Spielberg has won three academy awards and has been nominated 16 times. He is
the most commercially successful director of all time. His genres include
science fiction, literary adaptations, hero adventures, imaginary fantasies,
monster-horror, and historical films.

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Steven
Spielberg was born on December 18th, 1946 in Cincinnati Ohio. He is

the
only son of four children. His father was an electrical engineer and his mother
was a concert pianist. He had poor grades in high school but graduated with a
bachelor’s degree in English from California State College. As a child
Spielberg was an amateur filmmaker. Spielberg became one of the youngest
Universal television directors in the late 1960s.  Some of Spielberg’s Most important films are Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, Schindler’s List, Catch Me If You Can, Saving Private Ryan, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

            No stranger to public recognition Spielberg
has won multiple awards. Saving Private
Ryan, and Schindler’s List each won
Spielberg an Oscar at the Academy Awards and two Golden Globes. Spielberg has
been nominated 16 times for an Academy Award. In 1994 Spielberg won the Irving
G. Thalberg Memorial Award. Spielberg has also won four Emmys for The Pacific, Band of Brothers, and Pinky and the Brain Christmas. Spielberg
has won many other awards including the BAFTA Games Award, Saturn Award,
President’s Award, Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year Award.

Critics have
commented that the endings in Spielberg’s films work because he has organized
the events in the film and met the emotional needs of the audience. Thomas
Caldwell says, “However there are many examples of Spielberg
films where the audience is successfully primed by the bulk of the film to
surrender themselves totally to the climactic ending. Emotionally satisfying
endings such as the showdown between human and shark in Jaws
would have appeared ridiculous if the rest of the film had not so carefully
established the chain of events and nurtured the emotional needs of the
audience” (Caldwell). 
“Spielberg experimented with the visual texture in his
films. He may have been one of the first to perfect the technique of using
bright lights to add ambience to his films. In specific, his use of camera
filters and overlays in Close Encounters paved the
way for a decade of soft filters and lenses flares in film” (Perno)

The
two films I viewed were Saving Private
Ryan and Jaws. I will first
discuss Saving Private Ryan.

Special Camera
work –  Every
time a mortar or explosion went off the camera shook to give it the realistic
feel that they were the ones fighting on the beach. Spielberg got this concept
from watching actual WWII battle footage.

Cinematography
– On the beach scene the camera stays low below the whizzing bullets in the
air, and as the audience follows, the men fight their way up the beach. This
was done to give the realistic feel that if the camera was to go any higher the
camera man might die. Spielberg studied WWII footage and noticed this and
applied it to this movie. Spielberg switched between three viewing
perspectives; one from the battlefield camera man, one from the perspective of
Tom Hanks, and one from the German soldiers in the bunker, to give a 360-
degree view of the battlefield. During this same scene, the audience again is
taken into Tom Hanks’ point of view as he runs to the sand bank.

Editing – Instead
of using cuts, Spielberg uses pans, tilts, or moving the camera. He also uses
the action from the previous scene to start off the scene that the audience is
transitioned to. The movie was shot 24 frames a second to give it a newsreel
feel. Color was drained from the scenes to give it a more dark and dramatic
effect. The first transition makes the audience feel like they are entering a
memory. The audience watches as Ryan cries at Captain Millers grave, the camera
zooms on Ryan’s face then the audience sees clouds, then the camera pans down
to the ship as in a type of memory or flashback.

Sound – During
the beach scene, the decision was chosen to use the sound of battle instead of
putting a score over it. This puts the audience into the blood bath that the
men are facing as they land on the beach. Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Miller,
has certain moments where he is in shock and the sound from the battle fades
out and this low ominous noise is heard. The scene that follows the beach
landing uses a score to display the scale of the battle. It is also used to
show just how tragic D-Day was and how many men lost their lives.

Special Effects – The
men that we see with their legs or arms blown off are actual amputees that were
brought in to make it look like they just then lost their leg or arm. There
were 1000 dummy dead bodies that piled the beach. Hundreds of gallons full of
fake blood was poured into the water and on the beach over the dummy bodies. “And
I said, ‘Michael, can you rig blanks with some kind of a transmitter in the gun
itself to the squib, so when the actor fires the gun at the appropriate amount
of time, the squib goes off on the person he’s shooting at?’” (Sumra).

Now
I will discuss Jaws.

Special Camera
work – During the beach scene when Martin Brody is sitting
watching the people in the water a dolly zoom was used. This was done by moving
the camera closer to Martin while at the same time zooming out. To provide the
realistic feel of being on a boat. The camera was tilted up and down during the
scene when the men were on the Orca and chasing the shark. Instead of using
tripods it was decided it was easier to keep the camera steady by holding it.

Cinematography – Spielberg
used multiple point of view shots throughout the movie to imply the shark was
attacking or following since the mechanical shark did not want to work. The
camera was placed in the water to get above and below water shots. We see this
in the beginning when the shark attacks Chrissie the camera goes under the
water and the audience sees Chrissie get dragged around and finally taken
under. In the same scene, a static shot is used, the camera does not move but
lets the action go in and out of frame.

Editing -Verna
Fields, the editor of Jaws, used people
walking past the camera as wipes to cut to the next scene. A lot of jump cuts
were used to make the audience scared and panic. In the opening scene Verna
creates a dramatic and severe shark attack by opening up to Chrissie being
attacked by the shark and screaming, then cutting to Tom who is passed out on
the beach next to the sunrise, giving a calm feeling. This makes the scene
scarier and gets the audience to react.

Sound-
when the film starts the audience is taken under water and a dramatic score is
used to build up suspense and keep the audience watching and wondering what is
about to happen. John Williams’ score lets the audience know something bad is
about to go down and is called “one of the most terrifying music ever written
for the cinema” (Burlingame).

Special Effects- Three
mechanical sharks were used during the production of Jaws. Since the mechanical
sharks broke down multiple times Spielberg had to use other objects when the
shark was supposed to be shown. For example, barrels, fishing line, and the
pier attached to the shark were used as objects to imply the shark without
using the actual shark. “Spielberg knew he needed a stuntwoman for the role and
cast Susan Backlinie, a stunt performer who specialized in swimming scenes. She
was fitted with a harness connected to a 300-pound weight that had ropes coming
out of each side. Crew members on either rope ran first one way, then the
other, to create the illusion of the swimmer being dragged back and forth in
the water.” (Nixon)

Jaws had a big
influence on European filmmaking so much that Italian filmmaker Enzo
G. Castellari made his own version of the movie.

Steven Spielberg is an American director, producer, and screenwriter. He
is the most commercially successful director of all time. Steven Spielberg is
best known for the 1975 thriller Jaws, the 1993 historical film Schindler’s
List and the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.  
Spielberg’s films include many genres including science fiction, literary
adaptations, hero adventures, imaginary fantasies, monster-horror, and
historical films.