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A Unified Theory of Physics and Spielberg

Back when I was minoring in Physics, physicists had theories for how things work on a cosmic/Astronomy scale; how things work on a General/Newtonian scale; and, how things work on a sub-atomic/Quantum scale. With things like string-theory, physicists were trying to find a unifying theory that could explain things on all scales.

The same difficulty exists when trying to create a framework for making films. There’s an over-arching vision that exists on a grande scale… an Auteur theory or directoral style.

But then, there are things that work on a smaller scale, the technical and production-level decisions that can work in a completely different direction from the director’s voice.

This discussion becomes more difficult with directors like Kevin Smith, who himself is a self-proclaimed director without any identifiable style.

Thankfully, there are directors like Spielberg, Hawks and Renoir who were complete auteurs of their movies. And despite the different types of stories told by Spielberg, we can find a unified thread (a general framework) that he uses across his movies. This is remarkable given that his movies range from popcorn-style movies (like Raiders of the Lost Ark) to Academy-style movies (like Saving Private Ryan).


If you want a cliff-notes version of Spielbeg’s framework, well, here is my theory for his decision-making process:


Now, Spielberg resists calling himself an auteur given the collaborative nature his movies had to take when relying on contributors like visual effects artists. But if he isn’t the author, he is far from being simply a journeyman director: when you compare the original written work of Jaws by Benchley and the final movie Jaws by Spielberg, it’s easy to see that Spielberg’s narrative focus, visual style, and even own script pages shows him as the clear author of that movie.

In his role as a film school lecturer, Spike Lee stresses one common piece of advice… to help yourself as a director, go out and write/author the movies that you direct.


Let’s look at Spielberg’s framework more closely…