Steven Spielberg caught the filmmaking bug as a 12-year-old boy, and half a century on still goes "crazy" when he doesn't have a story to tell, he admitted to fans packing a masterclass in Paris on Monday night.

"/> Steven Spielberg caught the filmmaking bug as a 12-year-old boy, and half a century on still goes "crazy" when he doesn't have a story to tell, he admitted to fans packing a masterclass in Paris on Monday night.

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Spielberg shares storytelling secrets

Steven Spielberg caught the filmmaking bug as a 12-year-old boy, and half a century on still goes "crazy" when he doesn't have a story to tell, he admitted to fans packing a masterclass in Paris on Monday night.

Spielberg shares storytelling secrets
Georges Biard

Greeted with a standing ovation, the US director — whose works from “E.T” to “Indiana Jones” are the focus of a retrospective at Paris’ Cinematheque film centre — told the room in French, hand on his heart: “Je t’aime!”

“I’m a storyteller,” the 65-year-old told the filmmaking masterclass between screenings of his new film “War Horse”. “For a long time movies were everything in my life — and if I don’t have a story to tell I go crazy.”

“Ask my wife and my kids what’s it’s like to have me without a movie in my immediate future to direct!” he quipped. “I’m a terrible person to live with!”

“I mope, I walk around the house in a terrible state, I’m miserable!” Spielberg joked. “So my family is the first to call my company and say ‘Is there anything in the files he can direct? Please help us!'”

Revealed to film buffs with the 1971 car chase thriller “Duel”, then to the mainstream with “Jaws” in 1975, Spielberg has shot more than 30 feature films as well as a string of productions for television, from episodes of “Columbo” to the hit series “Band of Brothers” in 2001

“I got starting making movies as a kid because I couldn’t think of anything more fun to do,” Spielberg recalled. “When I was 13 there was absolutely nothing that interested me more than to take a movie camera and tell a three, four minute story.”

“And when I make a movie today, I get that same energy, the same excitement,” he said. “I remember the same feeling at 12, 13 years old, as the feeling I still had as I turned 65. That has never gone away.”

The director has been something of a work horse of late, directing the 3D blockbuster “Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn”, which hit screens in late 2011, before launching straight into “War Horse”.

When in the grip of a story — as was the case for “War Horse” which he based on a children’s book by British writer Michael Morpurgo, and a play adaptation by Nick Stafford — Spielberg works non-stop.

“From the time we started working on the script, to the time I called action for the first time in Devon (in southwestern England), was seven months,” he said, “which as you know is a very, very short time.”

“That’s an ‘E.T.’ sort of record, since ‘E.T.’ took seven months from the time the script was written to the time we shot.”

“War Horse” tells the story of Joey, a horse raised in the bucolic English countryside who is torn away from his home — and stable lad Albert — and sent to France to the battlefields of World War I.

Almost deliberately old-fashioned, the movie pits noble beast against the horrors of war with sweeping, emotional set pieces that earned it a Golden Globe nomination for best dramatic film, but has divided critics.

“I cried when I saw it on stage,” Spielberg said of the work. “It’s a straight narrative story. It’s completely clear: I like stories that are not encumbered by excessive symbolism or metaphor.”

Asked by the event host, the filmmaker Costa Gavras, to offer a tip to the aspiring filmmakers packing the audience, Spielberg said casting was key.

“First of all, the best thing you can do is to cast the right actor. If not, you have to work ten times more later.

“Once you have casted, listen to the people you casted: what do they have to bring? Let them do their work, read the books,” he said. “Why cast talented people if you do not listen to them? You got to listen more than you speak.”

Spielberg said the best piece of advice he received as a young filmmaker was from the French New Wave director Francois Truffaut, who he got to  know in the 1970s.

“He came to Mobile, Alabama, he had just finished ‘Small Change’ and he said: ‘You must work with kids,'” Spielberg recalled.

“What you are is going to be relevant in your movies,” he said, when asked to pin down the secret of his success. “This is just who I am.”

“I even never drifted away from that kid — and maybe here is my secret: childhood, to be like a child.”

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French films with English subtitles to watch in November

As days get shorter and temperatures drop, November is a great month to enjoy a warm and comforting moment at the cinema. Here’s a round up of the French movies with English subtitles to see in Paris this month.

Cinema in France
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The cinema group Lost in Frenchlation runs regular screenings of French films in the capital, with English subtitles to help non-native speakers follow the action. The club kicks off every screening with drinks at the cinema’s bar one hour before the movie, so it’s also a fun way to meet people if you’re new to Paris.

These are the events they have coming up in November.

Friday, November 5th

Boîte Noire – What happened on board the Dubai-Paris flight before it crashed in the Alps? In this thriller Matthieu, a young and talented black box analyst played by Pierre Niney (star of Yves Saint-Laurent among other movies) is determined to solve the reason behind this deadly crash, no matter the costs. 

The screening will take place at the Club de l’étoile cinema at 8pm. But you can arrive early for drinks at the bar from 7pm. 

Tickets are €10 full price, €8 for students and all other concessions, and can be reserved here.

Sunday, November 14th

Tralala – In the mood for music? This new delightful French musical brings you into the life of Tralala (played by Mathieu Amalric), a 48 years old, homeless and worn-out street singer, who one day gets mistaken for someone else. Tralala sees an opportunity to get a better life by taking on a new personality. He now has a brother, nephews, ex-girlfriends, and maybe even a daughter. But where is the lie? Where is the truth? And who is he, deep down?

The night will start with drinks from 6pm followed by the screening at 7pm at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema. There is also a two-hour cinema-themed walk where you’ll be taken on a “musicals movie tour” in the heart of Paris, which begins at 4pm.

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here. Tickets for the walking tour cost €20 and must be reserved online here.

Thursday, November 18th

Illusions Perdues – Based on the great novel series by Honoré de Balzac between 1837 and 1843, this historical drama captures the writer Lucien’s life and dilemmas who dreams about a great career of writing and moves to the city to get a job at a newspaper. As a young poet entering the field of journalism, he is constantly challenged by his desire to write dramatic and eye-catching stories for the press. But are they all true?

The evening will kick off with drinks at L’Entrepôt cinema bar at 7pm, followed by the movie screening at 8pm. Tickets are available online here, and cost €8.50 full price; €7 for students and all other concessions.

Sunday, November 21st

Eiffel – Having just finished working on the Statue of Liberty, Gustave Eiffel (played by Romain Duris) is tasked with creating a spectacular monument for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. It’s ultimately his love story with Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey) that will inspire him to come up with the idea for the Eiffel Tower.

After a first screening last month, Lost in Frenchlation is organising a new one at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema, with pre-screening drinks at the cinema bar. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here

Thursday, November 25th

Les Héroïques – Michel is a former junkie and overgrown child who only dreams of motorbikes and of hanging out with his 17-year-old son Léo and his friends. But at 50 years old, he now has to handle the baby he just had with his ex, and try not to make the same mistakes he has done in the past. 

The film will be followed by a Q&A with the director Maxime Roy who will discuss his very first feature. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here.

Full details of Lost in Frenchlation’s events can be found on their website or Facebook page. In France, a health pass is required in order to go to the cinema.