We all love Steven Spielberg. It's safe to say that most of us have grown up with, or been raised on his excellent work. Maybe it's his ubiquitous stylings or the fact that I believe he's an auteur filmmaker, but his work is so easy to pull out when it comes onto any screen.

Much of his work is closely defined by Spielberg themes, but we'll get into that later.

Today, we're going to look at Spielberg as an auteur, go over fourteen Steven Spielberg trademarks, and talk about how his signature visual style changed Hollywood forever.

Techniques of an Auteur | STEVEN SPIELBERGwww.youtube.com

Why Is Steven Spielberg Considered an Auteur Filmmaker?

Steven Spielberg, a name synonymous with groundbreaking cinema, is celebrated not just as a director but as an auteur—a filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so significant that they are regarded as the author of the movie.

This distinction, not given lightly in the film industry, is reserved for those whose work is unmistakably their own, marked by a unique style, thematic consistency, and a deep personal connection to the content.

Spielberg's journey in the cinematic landscape has been one marked by innovation, emotion, and a relentless pursuit of storytelling excellence. In understanding why Steven Spielberg is considered an auteur, it's essential to delve into the various aspects of his filmmaking approach that distinguish him from his contemporaries.

  1. Unique Visual Style: Spielberg's films are known for their innovative camera work, compelling visual storytelling, and often a sense of wonder and spectacle. His use of lighting, camera angles, and movement are consistently recognizable across his body of work.
  2. Recurring Themes: Many of Spielberg's films explore themes such as the innocence of childhood, the importance of family, and the struggle of ordinary people against extraordinary circumstances. These themes are deeply personal to Spielberg and are woven into the narratives of many of his films.
  3. Personal Connection: Spielberg often infuses his films with elements drawn from his own life experiences. This personal touch adds depth and authenticity to his storytelling, making his films resonate with audiences on a more intimate level.
  4. Innovative Storytelling: He has a knack for pushing the boundaries of storytelling, often pioneering new techniques and technologies in filmmaking. For instance, his use of special effects in "Jurassic Park" revolutionized the industry.
  5. Impact on Film Industry: Spielberg's films have not only been commercially successful but have also had a significant impact on popular culture and the film industry. He has influenced a generation of filmmakers and continues to be a leading figure in Hollywood.
  6. Control over Productions: As an auteur, Spielberg maintains a high level of control over his projects, from the scriptwriting phase to post-production. This control ensures that his creative vision is consistently realized across his films.
  7. Diverse Filmography: While he is often associated with blockbuster films, Spielberg has also directed and produced a wide range of genres, including dramas, thrillers, and science fiction, each bearing his unique touch.

In summary, Spielberg's status as an auteur is attributed to his distinct visual style, thematic consistency, personal investment in his films, innovative storytelling, significant impact on the film industry, control over his projects, and a diverse and influential body of work.

When you think about the films and trademarks of Steven Spielberg, what comes to mind?

Is it his tragically nostalgic presentation of childhood? Is it the whole daddy issue thing? What about the iconic "Spielberg Face" or "Spielberg Oner?"

There are so many stylistic trademarks that make Spielberg's work stand out from the rest of his contemporaries, and in yet another fantastic episode of "You Know It's a ____ Movie When" series, ScreenPrism breaks down the signature style of one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time, highlighting the many motifs, themes, and cinematic characteristics that make a Spielberg movie a Spielberg movie.

Check it out below:

You Know It's Steven Spielberg IF...www.youtube.com

It's safe to say that any director would pull from their personal lives while telling a story. Spielberg's personal life has to do with divorce, dreaming, filmmaking, reconciliation, and being an underdog. You can see his autteur fingerprints all over the following trademarks pulled from this video.

Steven Spielberg Trademarks

ScreenPrism discusses 14 trademarks of Spielberg's work, from the scores of John Williams to the use of lights to add mystery to the visual narrative. However, one of the most notable weapons in the director's armory is the way he represents the "fractured family."

Hello, auteur filmmaking!

Spielberg trademarksCredit: Cinelinx

So many of his films, including Jaws, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Color Purple, tell stories about families that have gone through some kind of trauma, be it divorce, abuse, or illness.

The way that Spielberg deals with this is interesting because he tends to give more agency to the children who are suffering from trauma than the adults who are suffering from trauma. In E.T., Elliott is much more resourceful and proactive about the absence of his father than his mother is. In Hook, Peter is a completely useless stiff until the Lost Boys manage to pull The Pan out of him.

Even when children aren't much of a presence through the length of the film, they still find a way to appear long enough to give the struggling adults just enough hope, strength, or will to push through their darkest moments in the narrative. In Jaws, Brody is feeling completely defeated sitting at the kitchen table until his son begins to copy the faces he's making. In Schindler's List, it's only after Schindler sees the Girl in the Red Coat that he is able to empathize with those who were being murdered in the Cracow ghetto right in front of him, recognizing the events that were occurring before him as atrocities. That one girl's innocence touched Schindler so much that she became the symbol for the millions of Jews that were losing their lives to the Nazi regime.


But there are far more trademarks that can be found in Spielberg's work. Here are the ones highlighted in ScreenPrism's video:

  1. The "Spielberg Face": This term refers to a close-up shot of a character, often in awe or wonder, reflecting their emotional response to an extraordinary event. This technique, frequently used by Spielberg, effectively immerses the audience in the character's emotional journey and heightens the impact of the scene.
  2. Sweeping Score by John Williams: Spielberg's frequent collaboration with composer John Williams has resulted in some of cinema's most iconic scores. Williams' grand, emotive compositions perfectly complement Spielberg's visual storytelling, enhancing the emotional depth and resonance of his films.
  3. Tells You How to Feel: Spielberg is known for not leaving emotions to ambiguity. His direction, combined with music, cinematography, and performance, guides the audience to feel a specific way at any given moment, be it awe, fear, sadness, or joy.
  4. Ordinary People in Extraordinary Circumstances: Many of Spielberg's films center on everyday individuals facing remarkable situations. This contrast makes his stories more relatable and compelling, as viewers see aspects of themselves in the characters.
  5. Emphasis on Childhood: Spielberg often explores themes of childhood and innocence. His depiction of childhood is both nostalgic and profound, resonating with audiences of all ages.
  6. Fractured Family: The theme of fractured families is a recurrent and deeply resonant element in Steven Spielberg's body of work, often serving as a crucial backdrop for the narrative and character development. This motif is not merely a plot device but a lens through which Spielberg explores complex human emotions and relationships.
  7. Daddy Issues: Family dynamics, particularly strained father-child relationships, are a recurring theme in Spielberg's films. This element often adds a layer of emotional complexity to his stories.
  8. The Supernatural Among the Normal: Spielberg frequently blends elements of the supernatural or extraordinary with everyday settings, creating a sense of wonder and suspense.
  9. Middle-Class Values: His films often portray middle-class American life, reflecting values and experiences that resonate with a wide audience.
  10. Struggle to Survive: Many of Spielberg's narratives involve a fundamental struggle for survival, whether it be physical, emotional, or moral.
  11. Reflection Shot: Spielberg uses reflections in surfaces like glass or water to create visually compelling shots that add depth and symbolism to his scenes.
  12. Natural Long Takes: His use of long, uninterrupted takes allows scenes to unfold naturally, giving actors the freedom to fully embody their characters and heighten the realism of the scene.
  13. Light as Mystery: Spielberg often uses light creatively to create an atmosphere of mystery or revelation, playing with shadows and beams of light to enhance the mood of a scene.
  14. The Spectacle of Cinema aka Blockbuster Trademarks: Spielberg is a master at creating cinematic spectacles. His blockbusters are known for their grand scale, innovative special effects, and ability to captivate mass audiences, setting the standard for what a blockbuster can be.

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What is your favorite Spielberg trademark?

Let us know down in the comments.

Source: ScreenPrism