by Jake Watford

What do people want when they watch a film? To some, they want to be entertained. For others, they want to feel something; they want to have an experience. One of my favorite films of all time is E.T. the Extra Terrestrial. This movie is not only entertaining to a general audience, but has a wonderful amount of love and emotion behind it. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg and brilliantly scored by John Williams. I have been watching this film ever since I was a little kid, and it’s always been one of my favorites. Nearly every time I watch this, I end up crying by the time it’s over. Granted, I cry a lot during movies–I have a weak heart and I get emotionally invested pretty easily. But in the same vein as that, this movie surpasses others by far.


I’m from southeast Georgia in a city called Woodbine. A great benefit of my location is that I’m only about thirty minutes away from the big city of Jacksonville, Florida. This city is home of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, an elite group of musicians that put on incredible performances. One of the many different performances is a very unique experience in which they show a classic film and play the score live along with it. When I heard that they were doing this for E.T. in April of 2016, I knew I had to be there. My mother got tickets for me and my girlfriend, Keyla, and off we went.


We dressed up very nice; I had casual tuxedo wear and Keyla wore a gorgeous dress. We waited in anticipation, then the doors open and we filed into our seats. After the band set up their equipment, the conductor came out and said the following incredible quote: “John Williams was the voice of Jaws. He was the spirit of the mothership in Close Encounters. He was the heartbeat of Raiders of the Lost Ark. But John Williams IS E.T.”

That’s when the film started.


To put it in simple terms, I was mindblown. It was breathtaking how seamless their performance was. Being familiar with the music of the film, I could tell how perfectly the orchestra was playing the music along with the film. This heightened the enjoyment of watching this film like nothing else. Not only did I get to experience one of my favorite films of all time on the big screen for the first time, but I got to see it with a live band playing the music as well. It was so refreshing to hear an audience laugh, applaud, and invest themselves in the film rather than watching it at home on a television screen. This made me enjoy the film more than I ever had before, and of course I cried like a baby–twice. I wouldn’t even use the word “cry,” it was more like sobbing. Having the love of my life next to me through it all made it that much more enjoyable as well. I don’t believe I’ve ever felt as many emotions as I did that night.


Every time a comedic scene happened, the audience would roar with laughter. Every time something was adorable, the audience would simultaneously “aw.” Having this energy around me made me laugh and cry harder than I usually would, and made me appreciate the film much more. I finally saw an audience reacting to one of my favorite films in full effect like never before, and it made me very emotional. It’s incredible to see the range of emotions a film can convey and the changes it can make to an audience. This truly inspires me as an aspiring actor and filmmaker.


Driving home afterwards was a struggle. The film hit me so hard that I actually felt like I was put into a state of depression. I found myself reflecting on my life; I was thinking about how wonderful simple things can be. Watching one of my favorite movies with a live band, a live audience, and the girl I love was so wonderful and emotional for me that I pretty much just shut down. It wasn’t unpleasant, it was really just overwhelming. Overall, it was an incredible experience, and it’s a night that I will never forget.