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Firelight
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Produced by Arnold Spielberg
Leah Spielberg
Written by Steven Spielberg
Starring Clark Lohr
Carolyn Owen
Music by High School Band
Cinematography Steven Spielberg
Editing by Steven Spielberg (uncredited)
Distributed by Phoenix Cinema
Release date(s) 24 March 1964
Running time 135 minutes
Country USA

Firelight is a 1964 science fiction adventure film. It was written by Steven Spielberg at the age of 16 and he directed it on a budget of $500. The film was his first commercial success, was shown at a local cinema and generated a profit of $1. "I counted the receipts that night [...] and we charged a dollar a ticket. Five hundred people came to the movie and I think somebody probably paid two dollars, because we made one dollar profit that night, and that was it."[1]

Contents

Plot

Firelight follows a group of scientists – particularly Tony Karcher and UFO believer Howard Richards - as they investigate a series of colored lights in the sky and the subsequent disappearance of people, animals and objects from the fictional American town of Freeport, Arizona. Among those kidnapped by the Alien are a dog, a unit of soldiers and young girl called Lisa, whose abduction induces a heart attack in her mother. Spielberg, showing maturity as a teenager, has sub-plots involving marital discord between Karcher and his wife Debbie and the obsessive quest of Richards to convince the CIA that alien life does not exist. The twist comes as the aliens, represented by three shadows, reveal their purpose: to transport Freeport to their home planet Altaris and create a human zoo.

Cast

Many of the cast for Firelight were from the Arcadia High school productions of Guys and Dolls and I Remember Mama. Spielberg's sister had a leading role.

  • Clark Lohr (Howard Richards)
  • Carloyn Own (Lisas Mother)
  • Robert Robyn (Tony Karcher)
  • Nancy Spielberg (Lisa)
  • Beth Weber (Debbie)
  • Margaret Peyou (Helen Richards)
  • Warner Marshall (Soldier)
  • Dede Pisani (Lover)
  • Tina Lanser (Maid)
  • Chuck Case (Teenage Boy)

Production and Music

Spielberg composed the music for Firelight, his first original score, on his clarinet. Spielberg's mother, a former pianist, transposed the score to piano and then to sheet music. The Arcadia high school band then performed the score for the film.

The film was shot at weekends and evenings. Many scenes were shot at the Spielberg home and near the Garage. Outside shots were filmed in nearby scrub land near Spielberg's home and school.

Release and Analysis

Firelight premiered on 24 March 1964 at Spielberg's local cinema, the Phoenix Little Theatre, in Arizona. Spielberg managed to sell (through the use of advertising by friends and family) 500 tickets at one dollar each.

Later, when hunting for film work in Los Angeles, Spielberg gave two reels of Firelight to a producer as a showcase of his ability. However a week later the production company went bust and the producer vanished with his clips. The surviving clips however show a distinct Spielberg visual style and his use of tracking shots. Firelight came to form a basis of Spielberg's later hit movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Notes

  1. ^ From Inside the Actor's Studio with James Lipton interviewing Steven Spielberg.

References

  • Page 5 - 8, The Complete Spielberg by Ian Freer
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