November 07, 2004
"Do you wanna graduate college or do you wanna be a film director?" – Spielberg makes his choice
More from this book.

Following on from the success, such as it was, of Firelight, Spielberg's next effort as a film maker was Amblin, and this, given that he had already made some movie industry insider contacts, got him the serious attention of Hollywood. So much so that Hollywood made him an offer which he did not refuse …

A couple of months later Amblin was ready for unveiling. Since the negative was held at the Technicolor lab within Universal Studios, the twenty-four-minute movie was handily situated for a providential borrowing.

Universal's president in charge of TV was thirty-two-year-old Sidney Jay Sheinberg, and after a feature screening one night. Chuck Silvers prevailed on him to watch 'this young guy's short film'. Sheinberg agreed and was suitably impressed. He liked the way Spielberg had selected the performers and developed their relationship, he admired what he saw as the maturity and warmth in the movie. Taking in the close-to-mirror image of himself that Spielberg presented in the hastily arranged follow-up meeting was something else again. Sheinberg recalls a 'nerd-like, scrawny creature' appearing: 'The surprising thing was that he looked just like me.'

'You should be a director,' he informed Spielberg.

'I think so too,' came the rapid agreement, 'but I'm still at college. I haven't graduated yet.'

'Do you wanna graduate college or do you wanna be a film director?'

A TV contract at Universal or back to college? Oh, real tough. Spielberg quit college so fast – to hell with graduation – he didn't even stop to clean out his locker. His seven-year deal was drawn up and signed a week after the offer was made.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 08:06 PM
Category: Famous educationsHigher education