A Meditation on Steven Spielberg
Art and Experience: Steven Spielberg is a master of cinema, and for his 73rd birthday, we meditate on what that means to the next generations.
I like to meditate every day.
At first, most of my attempts wound up being naps. But now, I think I have a pretty good handle.
I find meditation to be the most important skill I’ve learned since moving to Hollywood. Being here is stressful in itself. You have to worry about your career, networking, friendships, sales, specs, and writing new ideas. And that’s all right when you wake up.
The rest of the time is spent making sure you make enough money to live in a city where the cost of just being a resident increases so rapidly that it’s hard to get a grip on anything stable.
So why did I come to Hollywood and why do I meditate?
The answer is Steven Spielberg.
A Meditation on Steven Spielberg
Like many of our readers and people across the globe, I grew up watching Steven Spielberg movies. I wore out my copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark and was scared of ET until I was old enough to imagine myself being able to escape the government agents trying to chase him.
Jurassic Park is in my veins and if you cut me, my blood attracts the shark from Jaws.
And I’m not even only obsessed with Spielberg’s hits. I’ve been known to reference Always and 1941…it doesn’t always achieve my intended results.
But you didn’t come here to learn about Steven Spielberg. Besides, he’s such a ubiquitous person in popular culture I think it’d be hard for me to tell you something you don’t already know about him.
So I want to talk about me and my relationship with Spielberg instead because I think it could be a lot like yours too.
I think about Steven Spielberg a lot because I want to be him when I grow up.
Yes, I know I’m 32 and a grown man. What I mean is, I moved to Hollywood because I deeply cared about the movies Spielberg made and the movies he continues to make now.
Even though I’m 32, I still feel like I’m coming of age in Hollywood. I’ve sold scripts, had a small movie made, and I’m constantly trying to produce something new while older things get packaged, developed, and sometimes fall apart.
I try not to think about the movies Spielberg had made at 32, or compare our careers, but you can only look at some many BTS photos before you wonder if things are never going to stack up quite like they did for the most famous director of all time.
For me, Steven Spielberg represents that ultimate dream. The dream of being so successful that you can pick and choose the projects you want to write, direct, produce and see them come into existence.
He, more than anyone, has used his imagination to pave his own way.
And he did this by finding the intersection between art and commerce like no one else.
He was involved in the blockbuster shift of Hollywood from art films to crowd-pleasers. Part of a pack of directors who straddled both worlds. He won Academy Awards by pleasing audiences and took immense risks when he thought stories like Schindler’s List and The Color Purple needed to be told.
Above all else, his name became synonymous with wonderment and as a dreamer.
And so, like so many before and after me, I find myself in Los Angeles, California, dreaming.
Today, it’s about pitching to Steven Spielberg.
I think about how I’d describe a story to him, the references I think he’d key in on, the “why now” that might be relevant, and the characters that might pique his interest.
I meditate on stuff like this because I recently realized that it’s completely fruitless to try to be the next Steven Spielberg.
It will never happen.
No one is going to be the next Steven Spielberg. Especially not me. Sure, you’ve read articles crowning various directors after their achievements. Everyone wants to throw that moniker around.
But the names like Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, Rian Johnson, JJ Abrams, Gareth Edwards, and the like all became famous because they were not trying to be Steven Spielberg.
In fact, I think the best thing that can happen to Hollywood moving forward in the next year and onward is that we all stop trying to be Steven.
Instead, we should figure out the reason we came to this town.
See, those people I just listen, along with lots of other blockbuster filmmakers, are famous and broke the Spielberg mode because they figured out what they had to say.
They actively work to solidify the impact they can leave.
So, in 2020 and on Steven Spielberg’s birthday today in 2019, I mediate on pitching him because my mantra moving forward is about telling my own stories.
Not the ones Spielberg already told.
I want to think about the stories I think only I can tell.
And the people I can inspire.
So should you.
This is not supposed to be some faux meditation on why you write or direct. It’s legitimately my stance. Movies and television are rife with themes and stories we’ve seen thousands of times. Some of them were better when Spielberg told them, and there’s no room for improvement.
The media I want to consume in 2020 and moving forward needs to be created by other people in their own voices.
At 32, my entire life has revolved around the age of Spielberg. And I am sure my writing will always contain homages, Spielberg faces, and I hope a sense of wonderment. But the stories will be from me.
Assuming I make it to 73 (please God) like Spielberg, I want to know that the next 41 years are new, exciting, and fruitful.
I want them to be full of new stories that come from me, from you, and yeah, I want a few more from Spielberg too. Because I think I have a lot left to learn.
So, if you would, please excuse for me for the next 15 minutes, I’m going to go meditate for a while.
When I get back, I’m excited to hear what you thought about and any ideas that came to you from doing the same.