Steven Spielberg - Early Life

Early Life

Spielberg was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, to a Jewish family. His mother, Leah Adler (née Posner, 1920– ), was a restaurateur and concert pianist, and his father, Arnold Spielberg (1917– ), was an electrical engineer involved in the development of computers. He spent his childhood in Haddon Township, New Jersey, where he saw one of his first films in a theater, as well as in Scottsdale, Arizona. Throughout his early teens, Spielberg made amateur 8 mm "adventure" films with his friends, the first of which he shot at the Pinnacle Peak Patio restaurant in Scottsdale. He charged admission (25 cents) to his home films (which involved the wrecks he staged with his Lionel train set) while his sister sold popcorn.

In 1958, he became a Boy Scout, and fulfilled a requirement for the photography merit badge by making a nine-minute 8 mm film entitled The Last Gunfight. Spielberg recalled years later to a magazine interviewer, "My dad's still-camera was broken, so I asked the scoutmaster if I could tell a story with my father's movie camera. He said yes, and I got an idea to do a Western. I made it and got my merit badge. That was how it all started." At age thirteen, Spielberg won a prize for a 40-minute war film he titled Escape to Nowhere which was based on a battle in east Africa. In 1963, at age sixteen, Spielberg wrote and directed his first independent film, a 140-minute science fiction adventure called Firelight (which would later inspire Close Encounters). The film, which had a budget of US$500, was shown in his local cinema and generated a profit of $1. He also made several WWII films inspired by his father's war stories.

After his parents divorced, he moved to Saratoga, California with his father. His three sisters and mother remained in Arizona. He attended Arcadia High School in Phoenix, Arizona for three years; Spielberg graduated from Saratoga High School in 1965. It was during this time Spielberg attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

Spielberg attended Hebrew school from 1953 to 1957, in classes taught by Rabbi Albert L. Lewis, who would later be memorialized as the main character in Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith.

As a child, Spielberg faced difficulty reconciling being an Orthodox Jew with the perception of him by other children he played with. "It isn't something I enjoy admitting," he once said, "but when I was seven, eight, nine years old, God forgive me, I was embarrassed because we were Orthodox Jews. I was embarrassed by the outward perception of my parents' Jewish practices. I was never really ashamed to be Jewish, but I was uneasy at times. My grandfather always wore a long black coat, black hat and long white beard. I was embarrassed to invite my friends over to the house, because he might be in a corner davening, and I wouldn't know how to explain this to my WASP friends." Spielberg also said he suffered from acts of anti-Semitic prejudice in his early life: he later said, "In high school, I got smacked and kicked around. Two bloody noses. It was horrible."

After moving to California, he applied to attend the film school at University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television two separate times, but was unsuccessful. He subsequently became a student at California State University, Long Beach. While attending Long Beach State in the 1960s, Spielberg became a brother of Theta Chi Fraternity. His actual career began when he returned to Universal Studios as an unpaid, seven-day-a-week intern and guest of the editing department (uncredited). After Spielberg became famous, USC awarded him an honorary degree in 1994, and in 1996 he became a trustee of the university. In 2002, thirty-five years after starting college, Spielberg finished his degree via independent projects at CSULB, and was awarded a B.A. in Film Production and Electronic Arts with an option in Film/Video Production.

As an intern and guest of Universal Studios, Spielberg made his first short film for theatrical release, the 26-minute Amblin' (1968), the title of which Spielberg later took as the name of his production company, Amblin Entertainment. After Sidney Sheinberg, then the vice-president of production for Universal's TV arm, saw the film, Spielberg became the youngest director ever to be signed for a long-term deal with a major Hollywood studio (Universal). He dropped out of Long Beach State in 1969 to take up the television director contract at Universal Studios and began his career as a professional director. In 1969, Variety announced that Spielberg would direct his first full length film, Malcolm Winkler, written by Claudia Salter, produced by John Orland, with Frank Price being the executive producer. However, because of the difficulty in casting the key male role, the film was not made. Steven Spielberg also attended Brookdale Community College for undergrad.

In 2007, Spielberg was diagnosed with dyslexia, which he disclosed five years later in an interview.

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