Forgotten Spielberg-directed Sci-Fi Thriller That Made a $1 Box Office Profit

Forgotten Spielberg-directed Sci-Fi Thriller That Made a $1 Box Office Profit
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Today, Steven Spielberg is the highest-grossing film director in history – with his films earning over $10 billion at the box office. But long, long ago, he was just a teenage filmmaker with a Super 8 camera.

He started his career by making independent shorts as a teenager in the 1960s. At only 29 years old, he released the blockbuster Jaws which immediately made him an in-demand director.

He's since been nominated for 22 competitive Oscars and has worked on a few of the biggest franchises in history.

His first feature film was an early foray into the science-fiction genre, the 1964 indie Firelight. He premiered the movie at the Phoenix Little Theater in his home state of Arizona at only 17.

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The film follows a group of scientists in the fictional town of Freeport, Arizona. One of the scientists, Howard Richards, believes in the existence of UFOs.

Lights start appearing in the sky, and mysterious disappearances start happening across the small town.

Now, if a young filmmaker wants to get into the industry, their phone can produce video at a comparable quality to a professional's camera. In the 1960s, Spielberg wasn't granted the same ease.

While the Super 8 camera didn't produce the highest quality picture, viewers can already see the young Spielberg's talent for cinema. At age 17, he had professional-level camera work and pace of shots.

A short version of Firelight exists on YouTube, though most of the film is lost.

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Spielberg gave it to a producer when he was an up-and-comer in the industry, and a week later, the production company went bankrupt. The two master reels of the film vanished with the company.

Firelight cost only $500 to make, almost $4,000 adjusted for inflation. Most of the money came from friends and family – who also had starring roles in the 135-minute movie.

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His sister Nancy starred as Lisa, a girl abducted by aliens, and the rest of the cast was made up of his classmates from Arcadia High School.

Spielberg even created the score himself, having composed it on clarinet. His mother then created sheet music from the score, and his high school band played it for the movie.

For such a small-budget film, the technical aspect of it is impressive. One of the smart moves Spielberg made was showing the aliens only as shadows.

While it primarily served to lower the budget, it added a haunting effect to the mysterious alien forces.

At the Phoenix Little Theater, 500 people came to watch Firelight at $1 per ticket. He said that one person must have paid $2, because they ended up with $501 against their $500 budget.

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Still decades away from being history's highest-grossing director, Spielberg made a profit of $1 on his first feature film.