Spielberg at AFI

Apropos of tonight's screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind at 9:30 at the Plaza Thetre, here is a selection of clips from an AFI seminar held by Steven Spielberg shortly after the film's release.

In the first clip, Spielberg talks about the importance of getting the film's groundbreaking special effects just right, and how his original concept of the mother-ship featured in the film's climax had to change for the better of the movie.

Next up is a quick breakdown of his process with actors, particularly in a film in which they spend a large deal of time interacting with elements that will not be added until much later.

Followed by a glimpse into his storyboarding process.

And finally, on what it was like to work with co-star (and future Focus on Directors subject) Francois Truffaut (all the more poignant due to the fact that the legendary auteur's life would be cut tragically short a mere six years hence).

The major take-away from all of these clips is not only the remarkable level of procedural assurance held by such a young director (only 32 years old at the time), but the fact that a big part of that process was being open to the changing demands of the film as it evolved over time, as well as an openness to the input of his collaborators. It's this looseness and fluidity, filtered at all times through an unshakable vision of the final product and dedication to the story above all else, that made Spielberg's films so successful dramatically - paving the way for their immense popularity. They were more than spectacle-delivery systems - they were stories about real people experiencing the spectacle along with the audience.

 Close Encounters screens as part of our Fall Focus on Directors tonight at 9:30 at the Plaza Theatre, followed by an encore showing Sunday afternoon at 1:00.

- cs

 Christopher Sailor is the Programmer of Education with the Atlanta Film Festival. He also waxes cinematic at  chrissailor.com.