The L&L Blog  /  Scrivener

Write Now with Scrivener, Episode no. 35: George Stevens Jr., Movie Producer and Director

George Stevens Jr. has been a movie producer and director for decades, and has written a memoir about his life in Hollywood.

Show notes:

Learn more about Scrivener, and check out the ebook Take Control of Scrivener.

If you like the podcast, please follow it in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast app. Leave a rating or review, and tell your friends. And check out past episodes of Write Now with Scrivener.

George Stevens Jr. has been a movie producer and director for decades, and has written a memoir about his life in Hollywood.

Growing up as the son of Hollywood's great directors - his father made many classic films, such as A Place in the Sun, Shane, Giant, and The Greatest Story Ever Told - gave Stevens an inside view of Hollywood. Hobnobbing with the greatest actors of the time, Stevens has been a background force in the film industry for decades. His memoir My Place in the Sun tells the story of his experiences in Hollywood and Washington DC.

"I grew up in a house with a person who happened to be a rare combination of a wonderful father, great director, I could say a war hero, he spent three years away, and was on the ground and in Europe in World War Two. I think the most important thing I learned from him was when he told me you have to respect the audience."

And Stevens Sr. did respect the audience. When his movie A Place in the Sun was released, he threatened to sue, for $1 million, any TV station that inserted any commercial into the running of his film without his specific approval of the ad. This was a bold move, but one intended to ensure that his films retained their integrity.

"He was quite confident that he wasn't going to win, but he did get considerable respect from the judge. His contract provided that Paramount Pictures could not alter or change in any way, the final cut of his film, A Place in the Sun, which was so highly regarded that he won the Oscar." [It garnered nine nominations, and Stevens won for best director.] "And then he started seeing it on television, as he referred that they cut into it little playlets, meaning that Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor are at an important moment in the film on the beach, and then going in a motorboat. And then comes a commercial, and it's got a beach and water, and a whole other story begins. And no judge was going to up entirely the whole system of commercial television. But he did get considerable respect in the decision."

George Stevens Sr. was in Europe during World War II, and his son discovered, in the 1980s, some color footage he had shot of the war, the first of its kind that anyone had seen. "Dad had a storage room in North Hollywood, California. It had everything, it had file cabinets, it had his Laurel and Hardy scripts, it had souvenirs from World War Two, everything. When I discovered that footage, I was living in Washington and the store room is in Los Angeles. I took one little reel of that film back to Washington with me. I was running an American Film Institute and had a screening room and I asked the projectionist on a warm, sunny Friday afternoon. And on the screen, came footage with barrage balloons in the sky on a gray morning. And I'm looking at this footage and I realize it's D-Day. And I further realize that my eyes are the first ones that weren't there on the day to see color. And around a bulkhead comes up a man in his late 30s in a helmet, and it's my father. It's the most remarkable color footage because that was a black-and-white war."

Stevens later set up the American Film Institute, which was set up to recognize film as an art form, mentor young directors, and restore old films, which he describes as the organization's cornerstone. "More than half of the films that had been made since the beginning of film, at the beginning of the 20th century, were lost or missing or destroyed. AFI's first task was to organize the rescue and preservation of American film. We did that in collaboration with the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, George Eastman House, and other institutions. It was the rock upon which we built the AFI."

Stevens started writing his memoir about 12 years ago, taking notes and organizing ideas. "Somebody told me about Scrivener, and I got it and I just kept putting everything into Scrivener in different categories and subcategories in [the Binder]. It gave me command of the material. It was like my father shooting all of this film, and then going into the editing room, and being able to make the film. Writing is rewriting, and filmmaking is re-cutting until you get it just right. I don't know how I would have written this book without Scrivener."

Kirk McElhearn is a writer, podcaster, and photographer. He is the author of Take Control of Scrivener, and host of the podcast Write Now with Scrivener.

Keep up to date