Like Steven Spielberg, I also tried my hand at filmmaking in my early youth. A sequence in The Fabelmans triggered the memory. Teenaged Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) is shown directing a WWII action movie with his teenaged high-school pallies. Well, when I was 11 I also rounded up my friends and attempted to shoot a short western in a local park.

I was shooting with my parents’ manual wind-up 8mm camera. I had roughed out some kind of synopsis (the usual good guys vs. bad guys routine). The big climax would’ve shown the bad guy getting shot and falling off a cliff. What happened, to my profound embarassment, is that I over-wound the camera, which caused it to freeze or jam or something. The bottom line is that despite making noises as if it was operating normally, I only got about five minutes worth of footage. I discovered this when the film came back from the Kodak lab.

I was mortified — all that planning and organizing and braggadocious ambition, and it was all for naught. If I’d been braver and more tenacious I would have confessed my technical failure to my friends and asked them to perform the western on another weekend, but I was so embarassed and deflated that I abandoned the idea. A fire-in-the-belly filmmaker would’ve tried again, but I didn’t. I wasn’t encouraged by my parents to give it another go (maybe they felt they’d indulged me sufficiently with the first filming attempt) but it was my fault. If I’d simply manned up and said “Okay, mistakes happen, let’s do it again,” I might have ended up with enough half-assed footage to assemble a half-decent attempt at a short film…who knows? And then I might’ve felt sufficiently encouraged to shoot another one and so on.

But I didn’t. Not trying again was the first significant failure or lack of nerve in my life. But I gradually rebounded on some level, and by my mid teens I was writing my own satiric high-school newsletter. But then I got into trouble with the high school assistant principal for using raw, ribald language, and my furious father was called in for a meeting with this blustery dickhead, and again I felt angry and mortified so my first journalistic enterprise was half-suffocated in the crib. I could have ignored the scolding and kept going, but I didn’t.

I hated my life back then — I hated damn near everything about it. The only spiritual escape valve was watching TV and movies and sneakily drinking beer on weekends. I was so angry and suffering from such a bad case of low self-esteem that I didn’t feel moved to try journalism again until my mid 20s.

Kids really do need support and encouragement from their parents and extended families, especially in their teens. Spielberg was lucky in that sense. The Fabelmans pretty much tells it all.