Harvey Kurek Ovshinsky: Well, that explains it

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Well, that explains it.

At first, I thought the tears flowing at the end of “The Fabelmans” were the result of my identifying so much with young Sammy’s struggle to express himself as a filmmaker while trying to make sense of his parents’ unexpected and excruciating divorce. Of course, it may have also been the fact his father was an inventor/electrical engineer relentlessly preoccupied and consumed with his work. That part REALLY struck a nerve.

But it turned out that wasn’t the whole story.

“My job,” Steven Spielberg told the audience at Sunday’s National Board of Review Awards after being honored with the year’s best director award, “is as the accompanist and the conductor to whatever or whoever should be the center of your attention,” he said. “But when it came time to sit down with Tony Kushner to explore the possibilities of a story that became ‘The Fabelmans,’ I realized for the first time that I couldn’t take cover behind a mothership or a T-Rex or a big mechanical shark.”

I know the feeling. After spending so many years as a documentary director, essentially spinning my yarns with other people’s threads, it didn’t take long to realize something was missing, a voice long absent from my storytelling.

My own.

On one level, I get it. Truth-telling, I used to tell my students, isn’t for the reticent or the timid. It’s one reason why we call our first attempts “rough drafts” and “rough cuts,” the work can be that difficult, feel that impossible. Even when you’re good at it.

Especially, as Spielberg’s latest magnum opus reminds us, if you’re good at it. Bravo.


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