Steven Spielberg needs little introduction. In a career that has spanned over sixty years, he has directed more than 50 films, helped revolutionize the movie business, and won countless awards for his work.

Jaws was the first film in history to pass the $100 million mark at the box-office. Since then his films have had a combined  gross of more than $11 billion worldwide, making him the highest-grossing director in history.

Below, we have put together the best Steven Spielberg quotes on making movies. The article covers everything from finding projects to storyboarding to the future of cinema and CGI, and much more.

This article took over two weeks to research and write, so if you find it helpful then I would be grateful if you could share it with other filmmakers through blogs, forums, social media etc

So without further ado, here’s my list of the best Steven Spielberg quotes on filmmaking.

Notable films: Jaws, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, and Schindler’s List.

General Filmmaking Quotes

The older I get, the more I look at movies as a moving miracle. Audiences are harder to please if you’re just giving them special effects, but they’re easy to please if it’s a good story. The audience is also the toughest critic – a good story that exists in your world may not be the first choice for an audience. So I just do the best I can.

The most amazing thing for me is that every single person who sees a movie, not necessarily one of my movies, brings a whole set of unique experiences. Now, through careful manipulation and good storytelling, you can get everybody to clap at the same time, to hopefully laugh at the same time, and to be afraid at the same time.

After a scary movie about the world almost ending, we can walk into the sunlight and say, “Wow, everything’s still here. I’m OK!” We like to tease ourselves. Human beings have a need to get close to the edge and, when filmmakers or writers can take them to the edge, it feels like a dream where you’re falling, but you wake up just before you hit the ground.

Spielberg, ET
Spielberg stands by on the kitchen set as technicians prepare his animatronic lead.

Film Career

I don’t dream at night, I dream at day, I dream all day; I’m dreaming for a living.

Only a generation of readers will spawn a generation of writers.

When I don’t have a movie, I don’t take a job just for the sake of working. I just sit it out until I find something I’m passionate about.

Every movie is really a time capsule, when you finish a film and you say goodbye to your cast and crew you’ve burried a piece of your life right there on that set and that’s going to stay there forever, and those movies are going to mark time in your life when you look back… I can understand dates in my life based on two things: when my kids were born and when my movies were made. Every single movie I’ve made, and every child has marked a chapter and that’s why it’s fun to see how many chapters you can get out of this book.

I always produce to fill in the gaps in which I’m not physically directing, but if I had a choice I’d just be a director 24/7.

I think every movie I’ve made after Indiana Jones, I’ve tried to make every single movie as if it was made by a different director, because I’m very conscious of not wanting to impose a consistent style on subject matter that is not necessarily suited to that style. So I try to re-invent my own eye every time I tackle a new subject. But it’s hard, because everybody has style. You can’t help it

I turned down Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) and Spider-Man (2002), two movies that I knew would be phenomenally successful, because I had already made movies like that before and they offered no challenge to me. I don’t need my ego to be reminded.

I learned immediately that I needed to get final cut someday because a director in television loses control the second that he walks off the sound stage and postproduction begins and editorial takes over. Then the producers get very involved and kind of over-cut you or re-cut you or second-guess the cutting of the film. And I realized that my goal was at some point in my life to have control over the movies I made. Directors Guild of America, Richard Schickel, 2007

I want to be the Cecil B. DeMille of science fiction.

Even though I get older, what I do never gets old, and that’s what I think keeps me hungry.

I’m not really interested in making money. That’s always come as the result of success, but it’s not been my goal, and I’ve had a tough time proving that to people.

I don’t plan my career, you know. I don’t think I’ll go dark, dark, dark, then light, then dark. I react spontaneously to what falls into my arms, to what is right at the time. I’ve never made a conscious choice, except maybe for the Indiana Jones sequels and The Lost World. They’re the only times I’ve said, “Okay, I need to make these pictures for the public because they’re craving it.” Also, with Lost World, I hadn’t directed for three years so I wanted to do something I felt secure making. I didn’t want to make a serious picture like Schindler’s List.

The most expensive habit in the world is celluloid, not heroin, and I need a fix every few years.

Sometimes a dream almost whispers… it never shouts. Very hard to hear. So you have to, every day of your lives, be ready to hear what whispers in your ear.

Influences

Before I go off and direct a movie I always look at four films. They tend to be: Seven Samurai (1954), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and The Searchers (1956).

[on Akira Kurosawa] Kurosawa is the pictorial Shakespeare of our time.

[on John Ford] I try to watch a John Ford film before I start work on any movie simply because he inspires me, and I’m very sensitive to the way he paints his pictures, and the way he blocks people, and frames the action while giving the illusion that there’s things happening outside of the camera when there’s not. He celebrates the frame, not just what happens inside of it. He’s like a classic painter. So I have to watch The Searchers (1956). I have to. Almost every time. I never tire of it. It has so many superlatives.

I was really influenced, as a kid, [by] Walt Disney. Disney did two things for me: he scared me more than anyone else ever scared me, then he rescued me from [that] fear five minutes after he terrified me. The other thing Walt Disney did was he extolled the virtues of strong women characters. He did that throughout his entire career, through his animated films.

I think the responsility of an artist is to get to know themselves really well and to put as much of yourself into your work, and not to pretend to be someone else. Don’t try and be somebody you admire, I did that a lot early in the early part of my career, I wanted to be John Ford,  I wanted to be Alfred Hitchcock, I wanted to be everybody but me. It took me a number of films before I was comfortable with allowing myself to be seen through my films. It took a long time for that to happen, it didn’t happen right away. I fell back on technique, and the craft of telling a story, I’ve always been a pretty good storyteller but never let myself into any of the stories and I think a true artist is somebody who eventually lets themselves into their work.

Story, Screenplay Quotes

Audience members are only concerned about the story, the concept, the bells and whistles and the noise that a popular film starts to make even before it’s popular. So audiences will not be drawn to the technology; they’ll be drawn to the story. And I hope it always remains that way.

[on Saving Private Ryan] I was looking for a World War II story to direct. I read many books, many screenplays, many short stories, and then Robert Rodat’s screenplay for Saving Private Ryan was sent to me by my agency. As a matter of fact, it was the only time in my several decades of having an agent that they actually gave me a screenplay that I wound up directing.

Finding Ideas for Projects

All good ideas start out as bad ideas, that’s why it takes so long.

The public has an appetite for anything about imagination – anything that is as far away from reality as is creatively possible.

History opens up new worlds to film-makers all the time.

I call it That Old Familiar Feeling. It’s the only way I can test how emotionally involved I want to be. I’m getting married to a movie. I’ve got to know it’s true love. And every time I read the script again, I say, ‘This read – this time around – I’m going to find the fatal flaw that will turn me away from this.’ And when I can’t find it, I throw my hands up in the air, and I say, ‘I surrender, dear!’”

Spielberg Quotes
Spielberg cheking the frame on the Bridge of Spies.

Emotion and Engaging the Viewer

Film is a visual language, and then there’s the great art of the spoken word. And my job is to put the audience inside the movie. My job is to reduce the aesthetic distance between the audience and the experience, so they are lost for two hours and they only wake up when they walk out of the theater and the sunlight hits them in the face. I think all of us are either successes or failures based on how far inside the experience of the story we can put the audience.

The supernatural horror really does not take place on the screen. It takes place in the minds of the audience. By not showing the driver, the audience gets to make any substitution they choose. And that’s where it takes on a supernatural vibe.

In all great drama there’s redemption. Without redemption there is no hope. And the one thing I’m never going to give up on is hope.

I don’t think I know of anything more terrifying than off-camera violence, off-camera suspense. If you don’t show it… you have to give the audience credit, they bring with them to the movie theatre, probably collectively much more imagination than any of us behind the scenes. They come in there [the theatre] with their imaginations and they implore us as filmmakers to allow them to use it.

Spielberg on Characters

I simply look in all of my films for one character that I can tell my story through, it doesn’t mean that I’m putting myself in his shoes and I am him, it just means that I need to see through somebodies eyes, so I can have a point of view.

I think every film I make that puts characters in jeopardy is me purging my own fears, sadly only to re-engage with them shortly after the release of the picture. I’ll never make enough films to purge them all.

Well, people who are at least touchstones to the human race, that anybody can identify with and say, “That could be me.” That’s all I look for in a movie that I go to see as an audience. Is there any character in the film that I can identify with; that I can experience these events through their eyes. That’s all I’m looking (for), somebody I can believe in. Harrison Ford, who is iconic now, was so full of vulnerabilities in both Star Wars as Han Solo as well as then casting him as Indiana Jones, even though he was a big hero with a whip and a resolve to achieve all of us could identify with him. He wasn’t so out of reach that nobody could believe they never could become him.

Structure and Pacing

Part of the speed is the story – it’s the story. If you build a fast engine, you don’t need fast cutting, because the story’s being told fluidly, and the pages are just turning very quickly. You first of all need a script that’s written in the express lane, and if it’s not, there’s nothing you can do in the editing room to make it move faster. You need room for character, you need room for relationships, for personal conflict, you need room for comedy, but that all has to happen on a moving sidewalk.

I don’t make unconventional stories; I don’t make non-linear stories. I like linear storytelling a lot.

People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.

Spielberg on Pre-Production

You can’t start a movie by having the attitude that the script is finished, because if you think the script is finished, your movie is finished before the first day of shooting.

Storytelling is the most important aspect of anything I’ve ever done. It’s how the story is told. That’s all I’ve focused on. If something doesn’t tell a story or if it’s confusing, I either don’t shoot it or I cut it out.

The thing about being on the side of the camera that I love to be on is that I can have a thought in the middle of the day and I can have a crazy, off-the-wall, out-of-phase thought, some kind of an image, and if it’s provocative enough, I store it away. And then I forget it. I will forget the idea, but it will come out subconsciously when I’m making a movie and I need that thought. Seven, eight, ten, twenty years later, what I put in my head, in my brain file and totally forgot, pops up and I remember the idea and I use it on that film. So it’s interesting that filmmakers who have an active imagination can bank a lot of great ideas and then just forget about them because they will serve you well in years to come.

I do them all [storyboards] myself. Then I turn over my little stick figures to professional storyboard artists, and they make me look good. Vanity Fair, 2008

with most of the movies I make today, I don’t have any storyboards. I figure it out on my feet. I feel like improvisation is more exciting and gives you more ideas than forethought.

Note: Spielberg now uses storyboards and pre-vis only for special-effects or expensive sequences.

Spielberg Quotes, Jaws
Spielberg and his crew on the set of Jaws.

Shooting the Movie

I always like to think of the audience when I am directing. Because I am the audience.

I usually get to the set before most of the crew show up – very, very early. I put together my day then because, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve got a little more sanguine about allowing myself to be more spontaneous in some of the places that I put my camera, or some of the choices I talk to the actors about.

I’ve always worked fast, with enthusiasm and energy. If I don’t work fast – if I concentrate too much on the details – I lose the picture.

[Discussing Saving Private Ryan] I didn’t quite know what that opening sequence was going to be because I shot the whole movie in continuity, and I certainly shot the whole first sequence in continuity. The first shot of the movie is Tom Hanks’ hand shaking, and I went right through to the end of the picture in continuity, which meant that I was making up the entire opening attack of the landings at Omaha Beach. I did the whole thing stream of consciousness. I had no storyboards, no pre-visualization on the computer, did the whole thing from actually up here [points to his head], in a weird way being informed by all the literature I had read about the up-close-and-personal experience of what it was like to survive that day on Omaha Beach. I didn’t know it was going to take four weeks to shoot 26 minutes of movie. When people would come over to me and say, ‘Are we going to be done next week?’ I’d say, ‘I don’t know.’ Because the whole thing was being improvised, in a very safe, rational, controlled way, but improvised nonetheless, and I think if anything gave that scene its impact, its first person, in-your-face impact, it was because I didn’t know what was going to happen next, just like real combat.

Cinematography

I set the camera. I do all the blocking. I choose the lenses. I compose everything. But Janusz, basically, is my lighting guy. And he’s a master painter with light. And he sort of, you know, made tremendous contributions to my work through his art.

I use a lot of short lenses on most of my films. I like master shots, I like the audience to sometimes be the film editor and choose who to look at from time to time. I don’t like films that all close-ups or cut too fast, so you can’t catch your breath. A lot of my movies, I tend to not do one master but three or four masters of the same scene, it gives you the audience more geography, you know where stuff is.

I often find it interesting to watch people thinking. I miss that in movies today. I like watching people thinking and that invites us into their thought process, that’s like a magnet, once a character spends a little time not running the blinds, but thinking, it draws us into the curiosity of what are they thinking about… once again it respects us and allows us into the filmmaking process, allowing us to become participants in the story, not just observers.

[Saving Private Ryan opening sequence] I wanted to tell the story like I was a Signal Corps cameraman. They basically tried to save themselves while documenting the combat that surrounded them. That’s why most of the shots are low to the ground, because all the Signal Corps cameramen stayed sensibly low to avoid being killed. I also included all the mistakes that they’d make: if a camera fell over, I used it in the movie. The camera drops and everything is suddenly sideways for a couple of seconds. That’s more truthful than slickly staged combat. [on Sound] If a shell goes off near you, you lose your hearing. You can’t hear orders being screamed at you. I had the sound drop out several times. Total Film, 2004

Spielberg with his cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.

Compromise and Problem Solving

The shark [on Jaws] not working was a godsend. It made me become more like Alfred Hitchcock than like Ray Harryhausen in the sense that Ray Harryhausen in his day could do anything he wanted because he had control of his art. When I didn’t have control of my shark it made me kind of rewrite the whole script without the shark. Therefore, in many people’s opinions the film was more effective than the way the script actually offered up the shark in at least a dozen more scenes that today is history.

The one ingredient I bring to all of my films is the ability to listen to anybody who has a good idea on the production. I’m very collaborative with actors, with my writers, with my editor, my cinematographer, with Johnny Williams who does all of my scores. And I just think from a very young age my parents taught me probably the most valuable lesson of my life – sometimes it’s better not to talk, but to listen.

You have to understand that sometimes compromise is your bunkmate and compromise is sometimes the best thing you can do for your own film. When you have a tremendous dream and you pull out all the stops to accomplish your dream and nothing will stop you, you become very… rigid. You only see that moment and you forget all the hundred of other details you need to think about when making decisions and directing your picture. Sometimes you can go in there loose and figure if something doesn’t work, you might even get a better,  cheaper idea with your second thought, so I always covet my second thoughts because those are the spots that are often better than the first ideas.

I credit Jaws with everything, being a movie director, having final cut. Jaws gave me freedom, and I’ve never lost my freedom. But the experience of making Jaws was horrendous for me. And it was partially because the script was unfinished and we were all making it up as we went along, not unlike the whole experience with Casablanca. Directors Guild of America, Richard Schickel, 2007

Working with a Team

I’ve always collaborated with the crews as much as I could at the very beginning. I was still learning at the very beginning, and before my first big success, which was Jaws, everybody helped me and they had tons of ideas. And if they were good ideas, I would use them. If you want to get the best out of your crew, you’ve gotta get them to not be shy and come forward and tell the director what they think. I’ve done that my entire career. Spielberg interviewed by Edgar Wright, 2018

When I was a kid, there was no collaboration; it’s you with a camera bossing your friends around. But as an adult, filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself.

You have to be good at every job you hire people to perform. You have to have taste so when the costume designer brings you five costumes you make the selection between five choices and you know what you’re talking about. You’ve got to be able to sit with a film editor, and you’ve got to know editing as well as the film editor because filmmaking is editing, film editing is as important as directing. The philosophy of directing a sequence isn’t just talking to the actors and blocking the actors with the camera, it’s also what does the scene look like: Is it dark? Is it light? Does the light come from the windows? Is it an upbeat scene? Is it a downbeat scene? Is it silhouette? Those are lighting cameraman decisions which the director must know enough about to collaborate with the lighting cameraman.

Working with Actors

[on his definition of acting] Acting is not being afraid of being made a fool of, and having the courage of people laugh at you and still do it, and still want to do. Acting to me is about courage.

I like to do my own casting. I think eighty percent of what you contribute to the film is in the selection of the actors. Steven Spielberg

[on actors turning him down] They would turn me down if they didn’t like the part. We’re all slaves to the screenplay. When the story in a screenplay comes out, we respond to that. We are intrigued by the elements that come out of that. If somebody wants to work with me, I promise you someone like Dustin Hoffman looks to the story first, looks to his part, his character and the overall, then he looks to me, then we work together. It’s extremely pragmatic.

[on Daniel Day-Lewis, preparing to portray Abraham Lincoln] Daniel did something first that made me sad. He wanted to wait a year. And it was a masterstroke because he had a year to do research. He had a year to find the character in his own private process. He had a year to discover how Lincoln sounded, and he found the voice. He had Lincoln so embedded in his psyche, in his soul, in his mind, that I would come to work in the morning and Lincoln would sit behind his desk, and we could begin.

I do something which some actors don’t like, and other actors love and I don’t rehearse. I wanna hear the words when the film is turning, and I want as many, as Arthur Penn calls them, happy accidents to occur on take one or take two.  I think when an actor, is both aware of who he or she is, but also frightened about showing it, some magic happens, fear produces such extraordinary moments in film. Fear is really something to embrace and something to get your actors not to be afraid of showing, and the big thing is getting your actors to trust you, so they’ll give you those unexplored moments on take one or take two. Sometimes an actor doesn’t trust the director, the actor will be very, very guarded and only take seven or eight will the actors start to level more out.

Spielberg, Raiders of the Lost Ark
Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark

Spielberg Quotes on Editing

The greatest films ever made in our history were cut on film, and I’m tenaciously hanging on to the process. I just love going into an editing room and smelling the photochemistry and seeing my editor wearing mini-strands of film around his neck.

I go for geography. I want the audience to know not only which side the good guy’s on and the bad guy’s on, but which side of the screen they’re in, and I want the audience to be able to edit as quickly as they want in a shot that I am loath to cut away from. And that’s been my style with all four of these Indiana Jones pictures. Quick-cutting is very effective in some movies, like the Bourne pictures, but you sacrifice geography when you go for quick-cutting. Which is fine, because audiences get a huge adrenaline rush from a cut every second and a half on The Bourne Ultimatum, and there’s just enough geography for the audience never to be lost, especially in the last Bourne film, which I thought was the best of the three. But, by the same token, Indy is a little more old-fashioned than the modern-day action adventure. I tried very hard, and I hope I succeeded, in not re-inventing the genre, because that would not make it an Indy movie. I just didn’t want to re-invent Indy in a way that would deny that these movies are more based on 1930s Hollywood pictures than anything else.

I’m in my second cut, which means I’ve put the movie together and I’ve seen it. I usually do about five cuts as a director. I haven’t ever directed a film where I haven’t made five passes through the movie, and that takes a long time. I [then] send my fifth cut to [composer] John Williams and the sound-effects people. They will soon be getting the cut, and John Williams will start writing the music.

Tracking action without cutting is the least jarring method of placing the audience into a real-time experience where they are the ones making the subtle choices of where and when to look.

[On editing the film on computer] It doesn’t smell like film, it smells like an electronic lab. There’s a whole different odour in the air. When you’re actually opening up trim boxes and taking film out. Granted I can make four cuts electronically to every one cut I can make on the Moviola or Mike Kahn [editor] can make, but it gives me time while they’re pulling the trims for me to walk around, catch my breath and think about what I’m doing, and I need those little moments, seven or eight minutes where I can think about what I’m doing.

Film Music and Score

The genius with John [Williams] is he see’s your movie one-time and he knows the score. He see’s the picture, we then do a spotting run, usually the next day when it’s fresh in his mind, and we spot where music is simply going to go. At the moment, John goes off and he [does] six or seven weeks of writing, and about the seventh week I get a call from John, ‘do you want to hear the music on the piano.’  I’m by there in no frames. I’m  by the piano and he plays me all the main themes, and I’ve never once heard something and said, ‘can you write something else, I don’t like that.’

John Williams has made the most remarkable contribution to all of my movies. With the exception of one film, he’s scored every film I’ve ever directed. He’s made contributions that you can’t quantify because they reach the heart before they ever go anywhere near the brain. With E.T., especially, at the end, ILM and I can make those bicycles lift off and get off the ground, but John Williams is the only one who can make them truly airborne, because the audience lifts off the ground on his violins. And the audience is carried across the moon or the sun with his string section and his horns later on when they land. I think the last 15 minutes of E.T. is as close to an opera, because of John Williams’ contributions, as anything I’ve ever done before in my life.

John has given movies a musical language that can be spoken and understood in every country on this planet. John Williams is the most common language through which people of all ages communicate and remember to each other why they love movies. I am the only person who can say that I’ve collaborated with John for exactly half of his life. Without question, he has been the single most significant contributor to my success as a filmmaker. This nation’s greatest composer and our national treasure is also one of the greatest friends I have ever had in my entire life.

I’ve never used John Williams to tell people how to feel. I use John Williams to enhance my vision and my thoughts emotionally from scene to scene. He’ll signal when the shark is coming, which are the most famous single notes next to Beethoven’s Fifth. In telling a story, I will use every tool in my arsenal. I will do anything in my power to communicate the best story as I know how.

John does that all on his own – I just hand my movie over to him. I’ve done that since the first movie we made together; I think he’s scored 28 of my 30 films. What John does [is], I give him my story, [and] he rewrites my story in music. He writes a musical version of the story I’ve just told. But he does sit with me and we look at the movie. Every single scene, we watch together, before he writes a single note. We watch the movie and we decide where there should be music and where there shouldn’t be. He’s a real strong believer [in that]. [For example,] he didn’t want to write any music for the Omaha Beach landings [in ‘Saving Private Ryan’]. He wanted that just to be the reality of what it was like. Those guys didn’t hear an orchestra in their heads when they landed on Omaha Beach. So John said, ‘There’ll be no music until we see the women writing the letters home.’ And that was really the first music after that sequence. So where there isn’t music is as important as where there is music.

Post-Production

If I do commentaries it takes you out of the movie. It just takes you totally out of the movie because you’re not really watching a movie, you’re listening to a radio show. So, I’ve just never believed in doing commentaries because once people start one of my movies I want them to get into the film. I don’t want to knock down the fourth wall for them and take them into the handbook of how I did it because I just think it breaks the illusion. Aint it Cool, 2011

[On his behavior following the premiere of a new film] My ritual is total blackout. No radio, no television, no internet, no newspapers. I just want to hear one number, which is the Monday-morning number.

When I was younger, all I cared about was what people thought of me and my films. Now I care less about catering, hand-serving, hand-feeding the audience. I’ve gotten to the point now in my life where I’m serving myself.

I don’t ever read reviews. When the movies over, as we say in America, ‘that’s when the fat lady sings.’ There’s nothing you can do about it, it’s already been shipped.

CGI and Special Effects

My philosophy now is that every single movie is a signpost of its time, and it should stand for that. We shouldn’t go back and change the parting of the Red Sea in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments just because with digital tools we now can make that even more spectacular than it was.

I’ve learned that we can do just about anything under the sun with computers. So the question becomes, should we? Or, should we remind ourselves, as filmmakers, to be careful and remember that there is nothing more important than how a story is told? If storytelling becomes a byproduct of the digital revolution, then the medium itself is corrupted. On the other hand, if digital tools are simply a way to enhance a conventional story, then in that case, they can make telling that story easier. It’s easier and more practical to show 20,000 soldiers in the Crimean War using computers, obviously. So, that’s fine. But now, we have technology that can replace actors, or an entire performance in an already existing movie. We could cut out Humphrey Bogart and replace him with Vin Diesel, if somebody wanted. Who would want to? Well, there might be people who would. That’s why we have to be careful. Movies reflect our cultural heritage from the period in time in which they were made. Therefore, altering them can destroy that historical perspective. That’s disrespectful of history, which is a big issue for me. The situation is like walking a tightrope – we have to move forward, but we have to be careful.

I’m as guilty as anyone, because I helped to herald the digital era with Jurassic Park (1993). But the danger is that it can be abused to the point where nothing is eye-popping any more. The difference between making Jaws (1975) 31 years ago and War of the Worlds (2005) is that today, anything I can imagine, I can realize on film. Then, when my mechanical shark was being repaired and I had to shoot something, I had to make the water scary. I relied on the audience’s imagination, aided by where I put the camera. Today, it would be a digital shark. It would cost a hell of a lot more, but never break down. As a result, I probably would have used it four times as much, which would have made the film four times less scary. Jaws is scary because of what you don’t see, not because of what you do. We need to bring the audience back into partnership with storytelling.

Bloated budgets are ruining Hollywood – these pictures are squeezing all the other types of movies out of Hollywood. It’s disastrous. When I made The Lost World I limited the amount of special-effects shots because they were incredibly expensive. If a dinosaur walks around, it costs $80,000 for eight seconds. If four dinosaurs are in the background, it’s $150,000. More doesn’t always make things better. Total Film, 2004

Spielberg, Jurassic Park
Behind the scenes on Jurassic Park.

The Business of Film

The only time I have a good hunch the audience is going to be there is when I make the sequel to ‘Jurassic Park’ or I make another Indiana Jones movie. I know I’ve got a good shot at getting an audience on opening night. Everything else that is striking out into new territory is a crap shoot.

It was Universal’s choice to release it in the summertime. They figured that people would be at the beach, go swimming and say, “Hey, that reminds me – let’s go and see that shark movie!” I honestly didn’t know it was gonna create this, you know, lava flow each summer. Frankly, I don’t really think there’s a right time or a wrong time to release a movie. Take Titanic. That was initially scheduled for summer but came out at Christmas. People don’t always know what they’re talking about.

I think that the Internet is going to effect the most profound change on the entertainment industries combined. And we’re all gonna be tuning into the most popular Internet show in the world, which will be coming from some place in Des Moines. We’re all gonna lose our jobs. We’re all gonna be on the Internet trying to find an audience.

Times have changed. It’s like when the first 747 landed at Los Angeles international airport: everybody thought flying through the sky was the most greatest marvel they had ever seen – floating through the air, seemingly in slow motion. Today we never even look at 747s. They’re a dime a dozen and it’s that way with the blockbuster. If there was one blockbuster every three years, it meant a lot more than when you have a blockbuster every three weeks. It’s the job of each of these studios to market these movies as the must-see movie of the year, so they go after blockbuster status by creating a grand illusion. Sometimes they’ve got a real engine behind that grand illusion, meaning the movie is damned good and the audience will say they got their money’s worth. Other times, the audience comes on the promise of seeing something they’ve never ever seen before and it becomes just another sci-fi action yarn and they feel disappointed.

Advice for Filmmakers

Watch films with the sound off, not the sound on. If you want to know about craft and technique and the tools of the trade, and why a close up and why a master, and why an insert then turn the sound off. Writers forgive me, I’m not undermining your essential but main contribution, but I think if you want to know where the camera goes, see where the writer and director in collaboration could tell the story without dialogue. See if there’s enough visual illustration to help tell the story, and if there is somebody’s doing the right thing.

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Steven Spielberg: Interviews, Revised and Updated (Conversations with Filmmakers Series), 2019
West Side Story: The Making of the Steven Spielberg Film 
Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Second Edition, 2011

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