Video Production Sydney: Spielberg’s poor grades in high school prevented him from entering the University of Southern California (UCLA), but he was accepted at California State College at Long Beach. He graduated in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in English. Because California State had no formal film program, he frequently went to the movies and saw every film that he could. He also cajoled (flattered and manipulated) his way past the guards at Universal Studios and watched major projects being filmed.
Spielberg continued to make films and prepared a short subject film, Amblin’, which he later entered in the 1969 Atlanta Film Festival. It also won an award at the Venice Film Festival, and got him a seven-year contract at the studio whose gates he used to crash—Universal. Studio executives had been so impressed with Amblin’, a simple story about a boy and girl who hitchhike from the Mojave Desert to the ocean, that they released it with Love Story, a major hit of 1970. Today Spielberg uses the name “Amblin” for his own production company.
Video Production Sydney: Early successes
Spielberg began his career as a professional by directing several episodes of television programs that were being shot at Universal. Included in his work at this time were episodes of Marcus Welby, M.D. and Columbo.
The first movie that Spielberg directed professionally was a made-for-television movie named Duel. It was about a deadly battle of wits between an ordinary man driving a car and a crazed driver of an eighteen-wheeler truck. It was generally regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made for U.S. television. It was released in movie theaters in Europe and Japan as a feature film. It took sixteen days to make and had only cost $350,000 to produce. Its release overseas earned over $5 million and the film earned many awards.
Spielberg was offered many scripts to film after that, but he was not impressed by the quality of the properties that he was offered. He withdrew from the studio mainstream for a year in order to develop a project of his own.
Video Production Sydney: Directing what he wanted
What Spielberg came up with was The Sugarland Express, a drama about a woman who browbeats (forcefully convinces) her husband into breaking out of jail to kidnap their baby from its foster parents. A spectacular car chase happens after the couple steals a police cruiser. The film was a critical success but a commercial failure. Nonetheless, it led to the breakthrough film of Spielberg’s career, the spectacularly successful Jaws (1975).
Despite bringing in Jaws at 100 percent over its $3.5 million budget, Spielberg became Hollywood’s favorite director of the moment when the film grossed over $60 million in its first month. The film was as popular with critics as with the public. Spielberg was now in a position to do whatever he wanted. He embarked on a film whose subject had obsessed him since his childhood.