I was sad to learn this morning that my friend, Professor Stephen Prince, author and film scholar, passed away December 30, 2020.
A few years ago, I was honored to contribute to one of Professor Prince’s many movie books. He was a sweet man and an immensely talented cinema buff who enriched the appreciation of the art and craft for many.
I first met Stephen on ‘Amity Island,’ also known as Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where we were guests of the island’s Chamber of Commerce as part of the celebrations for ‘Jawsfest 05.’ It was the 25th anniversary of the release of Jaws. In 1974, Steven Spielberg had shot most of his classic film on the island, or in the waters off the Vineyard coast. Being there with members of the cast and crew was the realization of a dream, visiting locations of the film that had changed everything for me – Jaws had been a traumatic and impactful experience for me as a boy, and remains a favorite.
Stephen and I were speakers on a panel discussing the cultural impact of Jaws, seated with the film’s executive producer Bill Gilmore and actor/screenwriter Carl Gottlieb before a packed congregation of film worshipers in the island’s octagonal-shaped Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs. You can see me doing an off-the-cuff and slightly cheeky interview with Stephen in my Jawsfest documentary below:
Amity or Bust
(run-time: 26 minutes | Professor Prince at 10:16)
Stephen and I instantly bonded over our mutual love of Spielberg’s film, as well as the films of Akira Kurosawa and Sam Peckinpah, which were subjects of some of Stephen’s earlier books. And I could not resist referring to Stephen as ‘Professor’ on-camera, despite Stephen’s gentle protests. I was excited to meet a fellow cineaste who I considered to be in the same league as Indiana Jones – professor of cinematic archeology, expert in the occult, and obtainer of rare antiquities. Stephen had a wonderful, wry sense of humor, he knew his stuff about the movies, and he was fighting the good fight in sharing his perspective and deep knowledge with generations of students and up-and-coming filmmakers, through his 17 books and more than three decades teaching at Virginia Tech.
I was flattered when Stephen declared he had not only read my articles in Cinefex, but he used the magazine as a teaching tool in his classes as a way to attract new generations of film students weaned on modern-day blockbusters. I regret that I was unable to attend when Stephen invited me to join him as a guest speaker in his cinema class at Virginia Tech (due, mainly, to my relentless writing schedule). But I was honored when Stephen invited me to review the manuscript of his fascinating book, Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality, which explored James Cameron’s title quote in a thoughtful and nuanced exploration of how digital technology has revolutionized cinema.
I greatly valued my friendship with Stephen. It was far too brief. He was a kind and thoughtful man, with a deep intellect, and a witty, sometimes beautiful turn of phrase. My belated condolences to Stephen’s friends and family, especially to Susan and Tess.
I’ll drink to your leg, Stephen.
Virginia Tech memorial to Stephen here.
The Seduction of Reality review here.
Stephen's Amazon author page here.