So often in the film school “debate” the same names get brought up over and over again. Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, etc. But I recently went to check out “Super 8”. This was, by the way, a really fun movie. And it was exactly what you’d expect from a Spielberg/Abrams collaboration. You had the childlike wonder of “ET” mixed with the freaky unseen monster of “Lost”.
What’s so crazy is to think that both of these guys, Spielberg and Abrams, two of the most successful creators in the history of cinema…. never went to film school. Spielberg is a mainstay of this conversation, but let’s look at Abrams. He went to college and studied literature. Awesome. Then what? He got his butt on film sets. He was in and around “Armageddon” learning how to blow shit up from Michael Bay, which in my opinion is much better than sitting in a classroom.
But consider the breadth of influence this guy has had on recent TV and movies. He co-created “Lost” which was a phenomenon like nothing else before. You had layers of mystery, adventure, human psychology, and spirituality in a show that captivated the whole world and made very little sense to anyone. Before that there was “Alias” which stole the thunder from James Cameron in the whole “hot chick badass crime figher” genre. Then he remade “Star Trek” in a way that fans and regular moviegoers thought was awesome.
How the hell does this guy do it?!
He’s got vision, confidence, and imagination. Imagination most clearly. And the most pervasive element of his work that generates the most heat is just that: the unseen. Provoking audiences to wonder and create with their own imaginations. This is not something you can learn in a classroom or by getting a degree. It is something that happens in the wild pursuit of your own creative process, something you can experience right now, today, by closing your eyes and asking yourself “wouldn’t it be cool if…..” And then you too can be like JJ Abrams and create cool stuff without having gone to film school.