Steven Spielberg has been out of the public eye for the last few years, but that’s all about to change this week. 2011 will actually be one of the most prolific years for the famed director ever, with his long-gestating motion-capture project “Adventures of Tintin” and the drama “War Horse” being released within a week of each other over the holidays, the premieres of his two sci-fi television series “Falling Skies” and “Terra Nova” in the fall and summer, and of course, this week’s “Super 8,” which may be the project he’s least personally invested in, but bears his greatest imprint. That’s because Spielberg doesn’t only serve as a producer on JJ Abrams‘ alien invasion thriller, but one of its prime influences and perhaps the only thing that hasn’t been kept secret about the film and though an entire generation of filmmakers will credit the “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” director for getting into the business, few actually have been able to be taken under his wing as Abrams has.
However, “Super 8” has oddly not inspired as much nostalgia for the Amblin years for me as it has for the time when Spielberg aimed to mentor millions, despite the fact that upon its 15th anniversary this year it’s little remembered. Back in 1996, “Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair” debuted and was according to Spielberg, “a film school in a box,” a CD-ROM game spread over three discs that allowed users to helm a film starring Quentin Tarantino (during his “Destiny Turns on the Radio” acting phase following “Pulp Fiction”) and Jennifer Aniston as a death row inmate and his girlfriend, respectively. Nascent filmmakers could consult with future “Pirates of the Caribbean” screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, Spielberg’s longtime editor Michael Kahn and “Jurassic Park” cinematographer Dean Cundey as they pointed and clicked through a series of videos that took them through the process of making a film from the script stage through its premiere, with Spielberg guiding the way.
Here’s the trailer, and its accompanying behind the scenes footage that just may be the most entertaining thing you’ll watch all day as Spielberg talks about “Director’s Chair”‘s worldwide prospects, Aniston’s praise of “a situation you’d cut of your right arm as an actor to be in,” and Tarantino’s admonishment that “a whole generation of filmmakers could really come out versed in editing” from the game:
“Director’s Chair” actually wound up being a little too accurate to the filmmaking process, proving tedious for most as it tested its audience’s patience with too many decisions about camera setups and lengthy loadtimes. Asylum.com once ranked it number nine on their list of the “10 Worst Celebrity Video Games” ever. But the experience didn’t sour Spielberg on games or attempting to give novices a a leg up, although he was far more successful at the former with his creation of the “Medal of Honor” series than he was at the latter when he tried his hand at a reality TV competition in 2007 with “On the Lot,” the Fox series where a group of filmmakers competed for a DreamWorks contract that he bailed on almost as quickly as its original host Chelsea Handler did when it was obvious the ratings weren’t up to snuff. But Spielberg’s always been at his best when not working with raw talent and besides, he’s always got a day job to fall back on.