Steven Spielberg on The Motion Picture Industry (1982)

“I’m one of the last of the optimists about the future of the motion picture industry and Hollywood. But I really believe that all of my colleagues who love film and know nothing else, if the end of the world came, we probably wouldn’t be able to dig a hole to climb into, we wouldn’t know how to do that. We know moviemaking. And so I have to be very optimistic that movies are only going to expand, hopefully not at the expense of other films that might contract for economic reasons. We all know that money is short today – this is 1982 – and the dollar doesn’t stretch as much as it used to. In 1974 when I made¬†Jaws, and I went 100 days over schedule – I went from 55 to 155 shooting days – the budget went to eight [million] which was twice as much. Today because of the dollar, the frank, the mark, the yen, whatever, and because we’re experiencing runaway inflation in the film business, Jaws today would probably cost about $27 million. If you shot for 155 days with a full crew, away from home in local hotels, having to feed them and house them and take care of all their needs. So my fear is that a movie like my most current film E.T., which cost $10.3 million – which for me is one of the least expensive movies I’ve made during the last couple of years – if you made a film like E.T. five years from now, it’s probably going to cost about $18 million. And that picture takes place in a house with children, a back yard, a front yard, and one shot in the forest. Very limited locations. I don’t think we can go around blaming anybody. I don’t think we can go around blaming unions for inflating budgets by the annual 50% increase in Hollywood across the board. We can’t just blame the government. We can’t just blame the dollar. And because there’s essentially no one else to blame, because of the state of the economic art, I think the best that we can do is simply live with what we’ve got … make the best movies we know how. If we have to compromise to make a film that looks like $15 million on a canvas that looks like $3-4 million, we’re just gonna have to do it. I mean, we are the prisoners of our own time. And our generation is probably the only generation that’s going to be able to break through this kind of … It seems that Hollywood – and it’s not that I’m guilty of this, it’s just that I’ve been fortunate enough to have made some very successful films – but it seems like everybody in studio positions with the power to say, ‘yes,’ the power to say, ‘no,’ wants a home run with everybody on base. They want¬† a grand slam during the last game of the world series when the game’s tied 4-4. Everybody wants to be a hero. They want to ride into Hollywood at the 11th hour and pull a piece of shit out of the closet and turn it into some sort of a silk purse. Everybody wants a last-minute hit. And they want that hit to be a $100 million hit. There seems to be an attitude among the people who run the studios – not all of them, but a lot of people who run the studios – seem to have an attitude that if a film can’t at least reach third base, let alone home, then we don’t really know if we want to make this picture. And that’s the danger. The danger’s not from filmmakers, the danger’s not from the producers or the writers. It’s from the people who are in control of the money who essentially say, ‘I want my money back, and I want those returns multiplied by the powers of 10. So I’m not really interested in sitting here and seeing a movie about your personal life, your grandfather, or what it was like to grow up in an American school, what it was like to masturbate for the first time at 13. I want a picture that is going to please everybody.’ In other words, I think Hollywood wants the ideal movie with something in it for everyone. And of course that’s impossible.”