Steven Spielberg, a Friend to Veterans, Busy with Projects

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By Frank Barron

Steven Spielberg and Frank Barron.

There’s no doubt that Steven Spielberg is a friend to veterans everywhere. The acclaimed filmmaker was part of a dedicated team of notables instrumental in getting the World War II Memorial erected (in 2004) in Washington, D.C. — while remaining WWII vets could still be alive to see it. He has given us the monumental films Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List. They were eye-opening cinematic masterpieces, but they were more than movies. They showed what it was like to serve, and what we were fighting for. As an executive producer (along with Tom Hanks) he helped give us the epic HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and The Pacific that helped preserve the history of our soldiers and sailors. When we talked awhile ago, Steven told me he was intrigued with the WWII era because of his father’s involvement.

Of course there have been many other noteworthy productions in his stellar career, but Spielberg is not one to rest on his laurels. The busy director-producer continues a hectic schedule consisting mainly of motion pictures, but he produces some television projects for good measure.

Admitting he doesn’t mind getting awards for his work, Spielberg said he still loves making movies, and he has a couple of good ones upcoming soon.

Coming out at Christmas time is War Horse, directed by Steven Spielberg. It’s a World War I tale that started as a children’s book and was turned into a Tony Award winning show on Broadway. Now it’s an epic adventure for DreamWorks Pictures about a friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man named Albert. The story is told via Joey’s experiences, changing and inspiring the lives of all who meet the horse.

He also has The Adventures of Tintin, a 3D feature starring the intrepid young mystery solver, the character having been introduced in 1929 as a newspaper cartoon. Spielberg worked with producer Peter Jackson for The Adventures of Tintin, which has its North American premiere scheduled for the closing night of the AFI Film Festival, Nov. 10, at the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

In the works is Lincoln, the story of the great Civil War president, which is set for release the end of 2012. It’s been filming on locations in Virginia with Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of Abraham Lincoln, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln.

On the TV side, Spielberg follows his own Jurassic Park films and is doing duty as an executive producer on Terra Nova for Fox.

Many years ago he told me the story about how he got started directing. He said, “Making movies was always on my mind. I got a Super8 camera from my father when I was eight. And a pivotal moment in my life was when I set up two electric trains to run into each other, and captured the crash on film.”

Throughout his teens he made several amateur films, helping to get him into the photography school at Cal State Long Beach. He made a short film called Amblin, and that lead to Universal Studios signing him as the youngest director ever to get a long-term deal. We all know what followed, great films such as Jaws, ET: The Extraterrestrial, the Indiana Jones movies, Catch Me If You Can, War of the Worlds, Munich, Amistad, The Color Purple, and the list goes on. He’s had hits that have grossed billions in total.

He said, “There’s one thread that ties all my films together, and that is good storytelling, and putting the audience first.” Every one of his films bears his imprint. He storyboards each and every frame, and it is said he could shoot the storyboard and have a complete picture. Still, “It’s got to be a good story, compelling and something that will engage the audience in some way,” he explained.

Does he ever get tired of receiving awards? “No,” the Oscar-winner stated emphatically. “The fact that we make a movie and it gets honored by a particular group and the voting members, is fantastic. It’s really a way of saying ‘you do this well, and we’re going to honor you for that.’ It’s not that I do it so well, it’s just that I believe in it.”

This story was written by Frank Barron, WWII vet, four years medical corp.

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