“Where’s the Horizon?!!!” When 15-year-old Steven Spielberg Met John Ford

It’s a story with something of the complexity (and wit) of a Zen koan. Listen to Steven Spielberg recount his childhood meeting with his lifelong hero John Ford. It’s one of the best stories of any kind you’ll ever hear, and if you love Ford, you’ll cherish this story. It’s a moment of tremendous film-historical import. Ever since, Spielberg has watched a Ford film (or two) before starting a film of his own.

Ever since I first heard this story, I have thought about Ford’s “Where’s the horizon!?” anytime I’ve watched a Ford film – or a Spielberg film – or anybody’s film.

“All of a sudden a man comes into the office, dressed like a big game hunter. Like, safari clothes. Floppy hat. He had a patch over his eye. He was chewing on a handkerchief and he had a cigar in his other hand. And he had lipstick kisses all over his face, but the kind that are put there for fun, you know. Not smears but complete shapes of lips on his forehead, his cheeks, one on his nose. And he goes into his office without saying a word to his secretary. She grabs a box of Kleenex and she runs after him.”
“When you can come to the conclusion that putting the horizon on the bottom of the frame or the top of the frame is a lot better than putting the horizon in the middle of the frame, then you may someday make a good picture-maker. Now get out of here!”