Steven Spielberg hardly needs an introduction. He’s the highest grossing director of all time, with over 50 influential titles under his belt—11 of which were nominated for Oscars and three of which won. He’s behind everything from JAWS, the world’s first blockbuster, to the iconic Indiana Jones movies, to serious fare like Amistad and Saving Private Ryan. And he’s a humanitarian to boot. Founded after his work on the Holocaust film Schindler’s List, his Shoah Foundation has collected more than 55,000 video eyewitness testimonies of global genocide including to try to educate and inspire action against intolerance. And yet, do we really know Spielberg? After all, he rarely does public appearances or gives in-depth interviews.
Perhaps the director was just waiting for the right moment to tell his life’s story and the right person to tell it to. Fortunately for us that time has come, and that person is this episode's guest, Susan Lacy. As creator and former executive producer of the PBS series American Masters, she produced no less than 250 films exploring the lives of America’s most influential cultural icons. For the documentary Spielberg, she turned her hand to directing. Lacy interviewed Steven Spielberg for over 30 hours collectively, skillfully pulling out threads from his own life to weave together the film’s thesis: though he’s not known as a personal filmmaker, there’s a part of Spielberg in every film he makes.
"People think Spielberg is a safe filmmaker but he’s not."
The documentary, which recently premiered on HBO, is like the ultimate behind the scenes video, combining never-before-seen personal footage from Spielberg of early days hanging out with Coppola and Lucas, his amateur films, archival and new interviews and, of course, clips from among his own considerable filmography, to create something that’s not just a retrospective of work, but a portrait of the man behind it.
In this episode, Susan Lacy and the film’s editor, Deborah Peretz, share how they managed all of that archival and interview material and what they learned from Spielberg—and his movies—in making this one.
Listen to the episode by streaming or downloading from the embedded player above, or find it on iTunes here.
This episode was edited by Jon Fusco.