Hollywood's Head Honcho: Spielberg is Born

He has earned four Academy Awards, is worth over $2.8 billion and ranks number six on this year’s Forbes list of Top 100 Celebrities. Steven Spielberg is a household name, and one that has become synonymous with success. There is rarely a project to which he is attached that does not either receive critical acclaim or break a new box-office record. Throughout Hollywood, Spielberg is in fact considered the most successful director of all time.

Spielberg’s life had been marked for the movies ever since he was a young child. Born on December 18, 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Spielberg was older brother to three younger sisters. Their father, Arnold, was an electrical engineer who was involved with the computer industry in its stage of infancy. He had married Leah, a concert pianist, who devoted herself to caring for their four children. The Spielberg name came from their Hungarian Jewish ancestors who lived in Spielberg, Austria in the 17th century. The family moved around frequently due to their father’s career and, unable to make friends easily, Spielberg spent much of his youth in isolation and loneliness.

The family eventually settled in Scottsdale, Arizona where Spielberg’s interest in film first began to develop. Under the encouragement of his father, Spielberg decided to make a movie for his Boy Scout troop. An active Scout, Spielberg would later go on to develop the requirements for the Boy Scout Cinematography merit badge. Using the money he had saved from his tree-planting business, Spielberg created his first amateur film, which was an eight-minute Western entitled The Last Gun. By this time, Spielberg was just 12 years old but his appetite had been whetted.

Spielberg continued creating films, which he soon began showing at his family home, charging fees for admission and getting his sister, Annie, to sell popcorn. With each movie, Spielberg stepped up its scale and scope. After just two years, Spielberg was already creating award-winning films. When he was 14-years-old, Spielberg had made Escape to Nowhere, a 40-minute, 8mm war film, which won him an award in his junior high school. He continued to produce short adventure films until his graduation from Saratoga High School. Despite his newfound passion, Spielberg would later look back on his years at Saratoga as “hell on Earth.”

After graduating, Spielberg knew his future lied in moviemaking. He applied to the prestigious film school at the University of Southern California, but was rejected. He tried applying again, working on his own pet projects in the meantime, but was turned down for a second time. To avoid being drafted for the Vietnam War, Spielberg enrolled in California State College, becoming a member of the Theta Chi Fraternity. He paid little attention to classes, instead using his time to continue making his own films.

In 1958, Spielberg finished his first project on 35mm film – the professional standard – a 26-minute short called Amblin’ about a boy and girl who meet and fall in love while hitchhiking. The film won an award at the Atlanta Film Festival and, more importantly, earned Spielberg a seven-year contract with Universal Studios. With this, Spielberg dropped out of university and began his career.

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