Cinematic Motives

This is a blog post written for my Political Theory class. It is not about law but rather about political theory. It is still fairly relevant.

Steven Spielberg is a pretty talented director. He directed Jaws, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, Indiana Jones, The Color Purple, E.T., War Horse, and Lincoln. I was recently reading an article about Spielberg’s newest project, coming out in 2015, when I started to think: “what reason does this guy have for making another movie?”
I can’t say for certain why Mr. Spielberg is directing another movie (I’m certainly not sad about it, I love his movies), but it certainly can’t be about money. Forbes has estimated Spielberg to be worth about $3 billion, nothing to scoff at. And this money didn’t come recently.
Jaws, Spielberg’s first blockbuster movie (and really the first summer blockbuster ever), was released in 1975, when Spielberg was 29 years old. It was the highest grossing movie ever at the time and is still so influential in the American cinematic culture that almost everyone can recognize the movie’s score from two notes.
If it isn’t about money, is it about prestige? Likely not. Of the 30 feature films Spielberg has directed, the films in total have received 124 Academy Award nominations and 33 wins. He’s won the Best Director Academy Award twice. Seven of his movies have been nominated for Best Picture.
I believe Spielberg’s motivation is the activity of filmmaking itself. That is, filmmaking is an autotelic activity for Spielberg. Why else would he stress himself with creating yet another movie when he could easily retire to a mansion with his $3 billion and take it easy?
This isn’t to say that Spielberg’s only motivation ever was just filmmaking. He has always been making movies to create art but someone who releases eight films by the time they’re 29 has to be thinking of money. That is, they have to be creating movies with the hope those movies will become popular, bring in a lot of revenue and make them wealthy enough to live their life fully.
What I am proposing is that one can have dual motives for wanting to do something. That is, an activity can be both autotelic and instrumental. For Spielberg, filmmaking was instrumental in terms of making a profit, but is and was also autotelic; Spielberg enjoys making movies. He finds movies an end in themselves.
Bernard Suits and A. Bartlett Giamatti fail to bring up this idea in their writing. Both Suits and Giamatti believe in the dichotomy between autotelic activity and instrumental activity, or at least they fail to discuss any sort of middle ground. This is quite unfortunate because examples of this sort of dual motive are limitless. Many more extremely successful directors are continuing to make movies, like Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorcese, James Cameron, Ang Lee, Ron Howard, Clint Eastwood, and Woody Allen. Derek Jeter just ended his 20th season playing for the New York Yankees and Paul Konerko just ended after 18. Similarly, I did debate in high school for four years for both an instrumental reason (it would help with college admissions) and because the activity is autotelic (I found the activity engaging and fun). Clearly all these people are/were in a position to retire long ago, but have kept with their respective professions not only for the money, but for the thrill of the activity, an autotelic motivation if there ever was one.

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