Imagine a Spielberg film that isn't a tent-pole, either in the summer or the winter season. Imagine a Spielberg film that opens on two screens in New York City and Los Angeles before rolling out slowly to the rest of the country. Imagine a Spielberg film at Sundance. Can you possibly think of an indie film directed by Steven Spielberg, the most famous filmmaker of our time? Well, it might not be just a hypothetical idea for long, as the director of Jurassic Park and War of the Worlds has told AMC's Sunday Morning Shootout that he is interested in making smaller, lower-budget films for Dreamworks. It seems he was impressed by his competition at this year's Oscars, saying, "I would love to go off and make a picture like Capote or George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck."
Funny, I thought that Spielberg was powerful enough in Hollywood that he kinda has been making the expensive equivalent of indie films, but I guess with all his prestige, he still doesn't have complete freedom at the big studios. He claims the reason he didn't end up directing Memoirs of a Geisha (he served as producer instead) is because studio execs (at Sony, I'm guessing) wouldn't let him film it in Japanese -- and show it subtitled -- for a lower cost of $10 million. The thing is, Memoirs probably would have made more of its money back if Spielberg had gotten his way.
I think Spielberg doing smaller films is a great idea. After all, his movies are often about spectacle, but they are typically about the story first. He's one of the few who still uses special effects as a compliment to his storytelling rather than vice versa. Now, without the spectacle, he could go back to the kinds of thoughtful films he used to make. Take out the mechanical shark from Jaws, the mother ship from Close Encounters and E.T. from E.T. (I mean figuratively, not literally creating a void) and you still have excellent movies.
The episode and interview will be shown on AMC this Sunday.