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GUEST POST: Summer of Amblin' By Jeff Graber

Summer of Amblin'
By Jeff Graber
For Harvey Graber

The Spark of Childhood Wonder.

In 1981, a month after my 11th birthday in September, my father ushered me into the cool embrace of a movie theater. The film he had chosen was ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, a title unknown to my young mind. I wasn’t quite sure what I was about to experience, but my dad’s excitement was infectious. As the lights dimmed and the film began, the world outside ceased to exist.

Indiana Jones, the whip-cracking, quick-witted archaeologist, leaped onto the screen and into my world. I found myself riveted, perched on the edge of my seat, my young heart drumming in my chest. Each chase, each narrow escape, each victory had me leaning forward, my breaths shallow, my palms damp with anticipation. I could feel the adrenaline surging, pulsating, echoing Indy’s every move. 

When the film reached its climactic end, I found myself shaking slightly, a tremor born from the rollercoaster of emotions I’d ridden. As the theater lights flickered back to life, my father turned to look at me. His eyes held a twinkle of amusement as he observed my wide eyes, my flushed cheeks, the tremor that still lightly shook my small frame.

“So I guess you liked it?” he said, his words wrapped in a gentle chuckle. His smile was broad, knowing, a mirror reflecting the profound impact of what I had just experienced. Little did we both know then, Indiana Jones would not just be a hero I admired on the silver screen. He would become a beacon that lit my path, a lesson embedded deep within my heart—never give up, never stop chasing what’s important, and always, always believe in the power of your dreams.

The Summers of Spielberg.

My fascination with Spielberg did not stop with ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. Throughout life, I eagerly devoured each new Spielberg film that hit the theaters. The heartwarming journey of ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ from 1982, the spine-chilling narrative of ‘Poltergeist’ released in the same year, and the thrilling dinosaur encounters in ‘Jurassic Park’ from 1993 - each movie has carved a unique space in my cinematic experience. Spielberg’s magic had morphed me into something of a fan turned scholar, his storytelling shaping my understanding of the craft and fueling my aspiration to venture into the realm of filmmaking.

In the summer of 1992, while working at a 16mm film rental business named Welling Motion Pictures, my fascination with Spielberg was rewarded. Welling’s vast, dusty warehouse was a treasure trove of past glories, filled with films that boasted big names such as Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, and more, but held titles you had likely never heard of—‘’Night Moves’, and ‘Scarecrow’ among others.

While sifting through the racks, my hands brushed against a yellow hard plastic container, a nondescript shell safeguarding the celluloid treasure within. A peek inside, and there it was—an original 16mm print of ‘Amblin’’. My hero’s first masterpiece lay in my hands, a piece of history that resonated with my own filmmaking aspirations. That summer’s day was not just an ordinary one but a chapter of discovery, a testament to my journey towards the realm of filmmaking. It was a reminder that dreams were not just abstract concepts but tangible realities waiting to be grasped, just like the film reel I held in my hands.

A Promise Kept, a Journey Begun.

By 1992, the ten-year-old boy, entranced by the adventures of Indiana Jones, had grown into a promising young filmmaker. I had shot a few short films, the fruits of tireless nights and fervent passion, which had earned accolades and stirred the buzz of potential within the NYC indie film scene. Yet, as is the case with most artists standing on the cusp of their dreams, I needed funds to breathe life into my next vision.

Clutching Spielberg’s inaugural masterpiece tightly, I mustered up the courage to dial Amblin’, the esteemed director’s own production company. I harbored the audacious hope that selling this rare artifact of film history could fund my ambitious dream project. The ring of the phone echoed in my ears until a receptionist finally broke the silence.

Taking a deep breath, I stammered, “Hello, could I possibly speak with Steven?” Her tone was bemused as she inquired about the purpose of my call. I plunged into my rehearsed explanation, my voice shaky but determined. She took diligent notes, before assuring me I’d receive a call back.

An hour later, Spielberg’s attorney called back, requesting my verbal assurance that I wouldn’t sell video copies of the film. In the quiet of my surroundings, under the implied scrutiny of my aspirations, I gave a solemn promise—one I intended to keep. Regardless of how tempting the money might become, I resolved not to be swayed. I would stay true to my word, maintaining my integrity as an artist and honoring the unwavering spirit of my hero, Indiana Jones. After all, I stood not merely as a fan, but as an aspiring filmmaker with my own stories to tell. Like Spielberg, I too understood the sanctity of originality, artistry, and a promise.

We Are Not Alone.

Throughout that conversation with Spielberg’s lawyer, a prickling sense persisted. An echo of a breath, a pause too long, a murmur of acknowledgment on the other end of the line—it was as if there was someone else, a silent companion, sharing the call’s intimacy. Could it be Spielberg himself listening in? I found my pulse quickening, my breath hitching at the thought.

After all, it was his film, his genesis as a director, that lay safely nestled within the yellow plastic container in my possession. A part of his journey, a sliver of his creative spirit was with me, and in that moment, I felt connected to my hero in a way I had never imagined. I was not just an awestruck spectator but a keeper of his legacy, a part of his narrative, bound by a promise to protect this relic from being replicated. This unseen presence, this possible connection with Spielberg, added a surreal dimension to the whole episode, making it an experience as exciting as any Indiana Jones adventure. Well, almost.

Life Finds A Way.

The journey from a 23-year-old aspiring filmmaker to a successful 53-year-old entrepreneur has been an incredible one, shaped by unexpected twists and riveting turns, much like the Spielberg films that ignited my passion for storytelling.

At 23, fresh out of college and fueled by Spielberg’s cinematic influence, I dove headfirst into the world of filmmaking. The 16mm print of ‘Amblin’’ in my possession was a symbol of this dream, a tangible connection to the director who had inspired my path. Yet, as my journey unfolded, life took an unexpected turn.

While filmmaking was my first love, I discovered another passion in the world of technology. It was the dawn of the computer age, and the innovative Macintosh computer, released by Apple back in 1984, ignited a spark within me. The blend of creativity and technical prowess it offered felt like directing a different kind of symphony, one that struck a chord deep within my heart. Much like Spielberg had done with the world of film, I yearned to make a mark in this new, exciting realm.

And so, my journey took a detour. With the same grit and relentless effort that I had admired in Indiana Jones, I built my life around this newfound passion. I founded two tech companies, both of which I successfully sold after years of hard work and dedication. My path had diverged from Spielberg’s, yet the lessons his films had instilled in me—the pursuit of passion, the resilience in the face of adversity, the importance of integrity—remained my guiding principles.

It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.

At 53, as I perch on the brink of another significant moment, I sense the arc of my cinematic odyssey drawing to a close. The original ‘Amblin’’ print, dutifully concealed from the public gaze all these years, is soon to be auctioned at Julien’s Hollywood Legends. This coming September, my birthday month, my cherished treasure is poised to commence an exciting new chapter. Is it truly beyond price, as its scarcity suggests? Might Spielberg himself make a bid to maintain its confidentiality? These queries persist, yet irrespective of their responses, the expedition has been rewarding. The ambitions of a young Spielberg devotee have matured into the legacy of a man who hewed his own route, propelled by the wisdom of a hero, the commitment to a promise, and an unyielding pursuit of dreams.

The auction is scheduled from the 6th to the 8th of September, dates now indelibly inscribed in my calendar, interlaced with the anticipation of my birthday festivities and my marriage anniversary. Over time, the ‘Amblin’’ print has sustained as my private treasure, continually reflecting my journey, aspirations, and the pledge I made years prior. Its impending showcase at Julien’s Auctions epitomizes a full cycle of events, marrying my earlier aspirations with my contemporary achievements.

Intriguingly, the curiosity around this artifact has swelled to such an extent that neither Julien’s nor the esteemed Sotheby’s could ascertain its worth. Its value, it appears, is as elusive as the print has been over the past three decades.

When the auction day dawns, I don’t intend to be an anxious seller, brooding over each bid. Instead, I envision myself at ease, perhaps even clutching a bowl of popcorn, reminiscent of the countless Spielberg movie nights that sparked my passion for storytelling.

With each bid, it will feel as though I’m watching a film of my own life unfold—a narrative painted by dreams, molded by decisions, and starring a young Spielberg admirer who discovered his way and honored a promise. As the auctioneer’s hammer ascends and descends, it will resonate not just the offers for a fragment of cinematic heritage, but also the heartbeat of my journey from a dream-filled aspiring filmmaker to a triumphant entrepreneur. And as with any great film, I eagerly await a gratifying conclusion, crunching on popcorn and swelling with the excitement of the unforeseen and the satisfaction of a journey well-trodden.


Guest post by Jeff Graber

The Bearded Trio - The Site For Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, John Williams and a whole lot more.


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