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A Little Help from a Friend Named Spielberg

posted by Nell Minow

The New York Times has a very sweet article about how the most successful director in Hollywood acts as a sort of fairy godfather to other directors, giving them advice about cinematic storytelling.

Mr. Spielberg, 66, is considered the most influential director of our time, thanks to the impact of the 27 features that he has directed (which now include “Lincoln”). And then there are the more than 175 films that he, in one form or another, has been ultimately responsible for, mostly through his production company, Amblin, and his studio, DreamWorks.

But less recognized is the feedback that Mr. Spielberg has provided as a sounding board for filmmakers not necessarily under his authority.

My favorite of the examples in the article comes from the nifty little thriller that came out last summer, Premium Rush because of what it reveals about the language and history of film as well as about Spielberg’s attention to detail, generosity, and willingness to act as mentor due to his devotion to his colleagues and to the craft.

Mr. Koepp asked Mr. Spielberg to read an early draft of the script for 2012’s “Premium Rush,” which Mr. Koepp directed but to which Mr. Spielberg had no affiliation. The film features a bike messenger engaged in several chase sequences from one tip of Manhattan to another and back again.

Mr. Spielberg’s advice to Mr. Koepp was to show the main character entering the screen consistently from one side when he was going downtown, and to enter the other side when he was going uptown, to help orient the audience.

“He is exceedingly practical and grounded in the storytelling,” Mr. Koepp said. In giving his notes Mr. Spielberg referred to how Peter O’Toole’s character, in “Lawrence of Arabia,”does the same thing when his character crosses the desert.

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