The gig was a thrill for the teen, who had already logged eight years shooting his own shockers with his father’s Super 8 camera.
“All my life I had said, if I get my name on a movie, a credit on a film, I could die happy,” he recalls. “That was all I needed.”
Nearly 30 years have passed since that milestone. And now, here is producer-director J.J. Abrams at age 44, calling on the phone from London, where he is promoting the third major directorial effort of his very successful Hollywood career: a potential blockbuster called “Super 8,” which happens to focus on kids making movies and a deputy sheriff attempting to fight off an alien monster on a deadly rampage. Oh, and it’s produced by Abrams’s childhood idol, Steven Spielberg.
Apparently for Abrams — the man who co-created the TV phenomenon “Lost,” rebooted the “Star Trek” motion picture franchise in 2009 and has established himself over the past decade as the modern-day master of mainstream sci-fi — now is the time to reflect on the things that got him to his decidedly envious position. And “Super 8,” which opens in theaters Friday, is certainly a partial reflection of those enterprising, cinematically focused childhood roots.
The film can be described as a loving homage to Spielberg, a portrait of aspiring-filmmaker preteens perpetually seeking production value for their DIY zombie thriller, an emotional story about a child losing a parent, and, oh yeah, a monster movie. But Abrams also views “Super 8,” set in 1979, as a reminder of the sense of discovery that still existed in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the golden era of the unspoiled-in-advance summer blockbuster and a time when the closest thing to a mobile device was the Walkman.
“In a lot of ways, this movie embraces an analog time, which I think is emotionally very similar and, in an important way, very much like the way things are now,” Abrams says. “Friendships, relationships with your parents, first love — all that kind of stuff is still, you know, intact. But there’s a kind of pace and patience that needs to be considered that I think we’ve lost.
“When we look for something online, we’re getting the extra paragraph we need, the exact information we need, so there’s less unpredictability,” he continues. “You won’t stumble upon the song that happens to be playing in the record store. You won’t read the chapters that precede and follow the information that you’re looking for. . . . The more it’s ‘we want what we want,’ perhaps the less we’re getting what we really want, which is an experience.”