ScreenPrism: What was different about Spielberg and his generation of directors?

Professor Lapadula: Spielberg was a student of cinema. In Jaws (1975), you see him using techniques like the Hitchcock zoom. What Spielberg represents, along with Lucas, along with Scorsese, along with Spike Lee (although Spike Lee came later), is a new generation of filmmakers who were university trained for the first time. They actually came out of film programs – they studied film formally at an institution (USC and UCLA). They were very aware of the shoulders they were standing on. 

By contrast, a director like Peter Bogdanovich of The Last Picture Show (1971) was a scholar of the cinema — he was a self-taught erudite student of the cinema — but he wasn't somebody who went to a film school. There weren't film schools when he was a young, young man. He came to film at the same time that people like Lucas were getting out of USC, but he didn't go through any formal training. His education was at the movies. 

Read More from Ask the Professor: Is Spielberg one of the all-time great directors?

 

Marc Lapadula is a Senior Lecturer in the Film Studies Program at Yale University. He is a playwright, screenwriter and an award-winning film producer. In addition to Yale, Professor Lapadula has taught at Columbia University's Graduate Film School, created the screenwriting programs at both The University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins where he won Outstanding Teaching awards and has lectured on film, playwriting and conducted highly-acclaimed screenwriting seminars all across the country at notable venues like The National Press Club, The Smithsonian Institution, and The New York Historical Society. He has also been an expert script analyst in major Hollywood lawsuits.