Watch Steven Spielberg’s Rarely Seen 1968 Film, Amblin’

In 1968, Steven Spiel­berg was 21 years old and the hip­pie coun­ter­cul­ture was swirling all around, but his mind was focused on one thing only: mak­ing movies.

Spiel­berg had been crank­ing out 8mm films since he was 12 years old, and he had been hang­ing around the sound stages and edit­ing rooms of Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures as an unpaid clerk and errand boy since the sum­mer after his junior year in high school, absorb­ing every­thing he could about the process of film­mak­ing. He hoped some­one would give him a chance to direct a project–any project. He tried to gen­er­ate inter­est by tak­ing his child­hood films around to pro­duc­ers. “I would bun­dle the pic­tures in a brief­case and lit­er­al­ly car­ry my pro­jec­tor over to some­body’s office,” Spiel­berg told Enter­tain­ment Week­ly last year. “It was like I was a very young Willy Loman; box­ing up my wares and going from stu­dio office to stu­dio office. Not a lot, but maybe 10 per­cent of the pro­duc­ers that I tried to get to see my films did see my films.”

Spiel­berg real­ized he need­ed some­thing more pro­fes­sion­al to show. He found a busi­ness­man to finance a 35mm short film. Denis C. Hoff­man, who ran an opti­cal effects house called Cine­fx, read a script Spiel­berg had writ­ten and agreed to give the young man $10,000 to make the film , so long as it fea­tured music by a band he man­aged, called Octo­ber Coun­try. The film was to be called Amblin’.

“It was going to be a tone poem about a boy and a girl who meet in the desert, hitch­hik­ing their way to the Pacif­ic Ocean,” Spiel­berg told EW. “Very sim­ple sto­ry. I wrote it in a day.” Spiel­berg asked Richard Levin, a young man work­ing at the Bev­er­ly Hills library, to play the male lead. He found the female lead, Pamela McMyler, in a direc­to­ry of actors. The sto­ry is told in pic­tures and sound effects, with no dia­logue. Spiel­berg would lat­er dis­miss Amblin’ as lit­tle more than a “Pep­si com­mer­cial,” but the film clear­ly shows Spiel­berg’s gift for visu­al sto­ry­telling. His ear­ly men­tor at Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures, Chuck Sil­vers, said of his reac­tion to Amblin’: “I looked at what I still feel is the per­fect motion pic­ture.”

Although Spiel­berg would go on to name his film and tele­vi­sion com­pa­ny Amblin Enter­tain­ment, he’s not all that fond of Amblin’ the film. “I can’t look at it now,” he said in 1978. “It real­ly proved how apa­thet­ic I was dur­ing the Six­ties. When I look back at that film, I can eas­i­ly say, ‘No won­der I did­n’t go to Kent State,’ or ‘No won­der I did­n’t go to Viet­nam or I was­n’t protest­ing when all my friends were car­ry­ing signs and get­ting clubbed in Cen­tu­ry City.’ I was off mak­ing movies, and Amblin’ is the slick by-prod­uct of a kid immersed up to his nose in film.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Steven Spielberg’s Debut: Two Films He Direct­ed as a Teenag­er

Ter­ry Gilliam: The Dif­fer­ence Between Kubrick (Great Film­mak­er) and Spiel­berg (Less So)

Steven Spiel­berg on the Genius of Stan­ley Kubrick

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  • ChuckAS says:

    No, Steven; you’re sim­ply buy­ing into the pre­ten­tious affec­ta­tion we all warned you against and helped you to stay bliss­ful­ly free from at the time, so you COULD view life as a film­mak­er and an enter­tain­er rather than a polit­i­cal pawn.

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