During Entertainment Weekly's Visionaries panel at the San Diego Comic-Con Thursday afternoon, writer-producer-director J.J. Abrams briefly discussed the origins of his upcoming project, Super-8. The film marks his first official collaboration with none other than Steven Spielberg, but he indicated that they sort of worked together many years before Abrams made any movies, much less this one.
"When I was 16 years old, Matt Reeves and I did a Super-8 film festival in LA," Abrams told a capacity crowd in Comic-Con's Hall H. "The LA Times wrote a story about it that came out the next day, and we got a phone call that day from Steven Spielberg's assistant, who at the time was Kathleen Kennedy." He explained that Spielberg wanted the duo to repair some of his childhood films whose splices had fallen into disrepair over the years. "We said, we've got finals, but we could probably make time to repair Steven Spielberg's movies. So we repaired the movies and they gave us $300, which was when I knew why they got us to do it."
Abrams indicated that he brought Super-8 to Spielberg precisely because he knew the seasoned filmmaker honed his talents using the format. "A couple of years ago, I called Steven and I had an idea for a movie called Super-8 and I pitched it to him and he was very excited about it, which I knew having in a weird way working on those movies. I had a sense what he had done as a kid."
Although he demurred when asked for more details about the mysterious new project, he did say that he hopes early enthusiasm will translate into him finding a formidable cast. "I would love to show you footage but we haven't shot any," he said. "My favorite thing about the movie though is that someone will go to the theater and see the trailer and hopefully go, oh my God, that looks bitchin', and have no idea they will be starring in it."
Despite an absence of other details, Abrams revealed that the film was both an homage to the work of Spielberg and something very personal to himself. "It's impossible to work with him and not constantly reference the work he has done," Abrams said of the development process. "You don't want to sound like a sycophant, but it's been incredible. Constantly referencing Spielberg's work. He's been beyond helpful, and movie is very much in the spirit of those Amblin films."
"It is a dream come true and I couldn't imagine something more sort of personal and also kind of hyper-real," he continued. "It's not like the movie is some kind of autobiography, but there's a lot of stuff in it that feels very personal."
Abrams moved on to other subjects, but did conclude his discussion of Super-8 by saying it would not be in 3D.