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Masthead header


This wasn’t a Kon-Tiki thing.

We weren’t castaways on Treasure Island.

And I wasn’t adrift in the Indian Ocean with Steven and George.

Women with vintage canera


But it’s a great story and here’s how it all began.

I am not a photographer. All that mechanical stuff makes me weep. But I needed to learn how to shoot slides to use as guides for my paintings. You see, I was using vintage batik fabrics as inspiration for my backgrounds. They’re hand-made, very complex and detailed.  I loved painting them. By projecting a slide onto the canvas, it would be easier to render these patterns. So I decided to get into photography. I wasn’t going after a Master’s, I just wanted to learn the basics so I could get the shots I needed. My husband, who is a director, knew it cold. So he suggested I begin by using some of the basic settings: F.8 at a 60th of a second and shoot in the open shade.

One of my sisters is a world-class decorator whose work has appeared on the cover of Architectural Digest. So I raided her vast collection of vintage batiks and launched myself into the world of pattern and decoration. Here is one of my early paintings that resulted from my first efforts in photography.

Alorstar Painting by Sandra Sallin

My obsession with pattern and decoration led me to want more, more, more. What could that be? GOLD! I would learn gold leafing and add it to my paintings. They would become contemporary interpretations of medieval illuminated manuscripts. All I had to learn was how to do it. Little did I know how hard this was going to be. But, if it’s hard, I want to do it. I’m surprised I haven’t tried to climb Mt. Everest.

But back to photography. I wanted to shoot tree branches without leaves and I finally found the perfect location on Motor Drive, near 20th Century Fox studios. I got some great shots and they worked well for my paintings.


So I’m feeling pretty confident and start carrying around my camera where ever I go, just like the paparazzi.

About this same time, my husband was producing “Star Trek II- The Wrath of Khan.”

Robert Sallin, Star Trek Ii The Wrath of Khan, and the Ceti eel

He was working on the visual effects for the film at Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas’s special effects company in San Rafael, California. At the same time they were working on Star Trek, ILM was creating the effects for two of Steven Speilberg’s films, Poltergeist and E.T.

You’ll get a kick out of this. To keep the location secret, ILM was situated in a bland strip mall and the name on the door was Kerney Optical. But behind that door was a wonderland of creativity. I saw the cloud tank where they created the poltergeist. It looked like a huge aquarium filled with oil or water. They would add a milky white substance that would move around like a wispy apparition. Pretty cool.

Then they showed me the model room where all the space ships and fighter planes for Star Wars were created. A lot of really young men were fiddling with plastic model airplane parts. They would trash anything that looked like the airplane itself and keep all the pieces that joined the parts of the models together. They were using these tiny plastic bits to give texture and dimension to  the space vehicles like the X-Wing fighters and the Death Star space station. I felt like it was a visit to Alibaba’s cave.

ILM completed all the visual effects for Star Trek, Poltergeist and E.T. at the same time. They decided to have a big celebration for everyone who had worked on the films. It began with a very private morning screening of E.T. to be followed by a party on a ship cruising around San Francisco Bay.

Industrial Light and Magic_Party_invitation

Of course, seeing E.T. was an extraordinarily moving experience. The theater was filled with movie pros all looking for more Kleenex. Afterwards, outside the theater, I noticed Steven Spielberg talking with George Lucas. I pointed them out to my husband who replied, “No, that isn’t them.” I insisted that it was! He looked again and said, “ You’re right.” He walked up to Steven and congratulated him on E.T and then thanked George Lucas for the groundbreaking effects produced by ILM.

After many congratulations all around, we went down to the harbor to board the ship for our party. Great fun, food and music.

San_Francisco_Harbor_Queen Cruise Ship

I was told that no photographers were allowed, but here I was with my camera on my shoulder, feeling very uncomfortable and trying to be inconspicuous. Suddenly, an assistant to Steven Spielberg approached me and said that he was wondering if I would take his picture along with George Lucas? They said they had never had their picture taken together in all their years of friendship. I immediately said, “Of course, I’d be happy to take any photos that they would like.“ So, I asked them to stand together, looking this way and that. Get this – I’m directing Steven Spielberg and George Lucas! I finish and I’m given their cards so I can send them the photos. I had just taken photos of two of the most famous filmmakers in the world. Forget batiks, flowers and branches! Forget gold!

When the party ended, my husband and I drove back to our hotel in San Francisco . We went up to our room and I started to rewind the film in the camera. I heard nothing. Nothing. I froze. I opened the back of the camera and discovered I had forgotten to put film in my camera! No film. NO FILM!

I couldn’t believe it. I’d just blown the biggest photographic opportunity of my life. Blown it. The good news was that Star Trek II was a huge success and so were E.T. and Poltergeist. The bad news was that I had forgotten to put film in my camera.


If I’d had film in my camera, if I’d been in Morocco, if I’d known what I was doing,

then this is the photograph I would have taken.

Mea culpa, George and Steven.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas On  location shooting the movie Indiana Jones

All images appearing on AT SEA WITH STEVEN SPIELBERG & GEORGE LUCAS are the expressed property of Sandra Sallin. All rights reserved. In other words, don’t steal it!

Facebook Comments
  • Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs - Oh, no!! My heart truly dropped at your revelation. Oh, my. Yet you continue to smile… and make me smile.

    I absolutely love reading of your adventures (and mishaps), Sandra. xoxoReplyCancel

    • sandra - Hi Lisa, to this day I cannot belive it. Sometimes I amaze myself. How could I have done it?????ReplyCancel

  • Randy - Love this story! Did you know of my great love of and obsession with Poltergeist? I had no idea you had behind the scenes stories! Really great writing, and I want to know more!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Randy, i had no idea. We must talk.Bob may know more. I know it was a feat getting the Poltergeist to appear the way it did.ReplyCancel

  • A Pleasant House - Great story Sandra. I love hearing them!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Cheryl, I’m gald you can hear my voice.ReplyCancel

  • Cathy Chester - My heart was in my throat, Sandra. Oh, my! I love your stories and I’m so glad you’re writing about them. I also LOVE your art – when are you having an exhibit? I would come and purchased them!

    P.S. I think your husband is adorable!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Cathy, my husband is adorable ( at least the two of us feel that way) and loved your compliment. I’m not planing any shows these days I’ve been selling my prints instead.ReplyCancel

  • Barbara - What a great, serendipitous boat ride. And I did enjoy the optical shop front – an optical illusion indeed. It’s always a treat to read your posts!ReplyCancel

  • Helene Cohen Bludman - Sandra, I love this story! You really need to write a book of these memories.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Helene, I think some day I’ll just bind these blogs all together and give them to my family. Nice memories for the grandkids and actually our kids.ReplyCancel

  • Steve Pokress - Sandy,
    Beautifully designed site. Another great moment in the life of “Our Gal Sandy”.
    Steve PReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Steve, I guess I’ll start a podcast, Our Gal Sandy! Ha!ReplyCancel

  • Natalie - The Cat Lady Sings - Oh my gosh oh my gosh OH MY GOSH! Fan girl moment – Poltergeist was my favorite movie in high school. This is an insanely good story. 😉 Too bad about the film in the camera – sounds like the kind of thing I’d do. I also like how you incorporate the story of how you got into photography – those prints are gorgeous! It’s the kind of patterns I’d paint too.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Natalie, my first “fan girl” moment. I adore painting patterns. I Really get into it.ReplyCancel

  • Beverly Diehl - O.M.G. All that work, stress, and NO FILM in your camera?! It’s so funny, and yet, it’s not.

    But how cool that you got to look behind the scenes at ILM – truly magic, to those of us watching those films.

    Liking those paintings/mixed media projects. Very striking.ReplyCancel

  • Roshni - Such exquisite work! Did I tell you that my mom used to dabble in batik as well. She had several exhibitions of her work in India but this was about 30 odd years ago.ReplyCancel

  • Susan Cooper - Beautiful paintings!!! I love all the color. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • AlexandraFunFit - Nooooooooo. Luckily you had your sense of humor along! Wonder how you explained that to them in your follow up email. As to your paintings, lovely. Like you.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - I know Alexandra. I still can’t believe it. In those days they didn’t have email so no trail. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Terrye - LMAO! I am SO glad I’m not the only one that used to forget to put the film in the camera. Now, I forget to put the memory stick in it. Drives my hubby nuts since I usually figure it out when we’re too far away from home to run back and get one.

    Great story! Love your adventures! 😀ReplyCancel

  • Neosha Gardner - lol. Great post! Love your writing in this. Beautiful work as well!!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Neosha. Great compliment coming from a designer.ReplyCancel

  • Adela - Ahhh… So funny, I’m laughing while typing. Love you!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Adela. Glad you had a good laugh.ReplyCancel

  • Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) - Now THERE’S a story! Sigh! But what a fabulous adventure and there is a lot of joy in the re-telling, yes? And the paintings are drop-dead gorgeous!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Hi Jacquie, Yes, it is a really funny story and is very much a me kinda thing.ReplyCancel

  • DarleneMAM - Holy cow! What a great experience! Did anyone from the party ever contact you asking for copies of the photos? That would be another great blog post, I bet.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Darlene, I had their cards but they didn’t have mine. So I could slip ignominiously into the night.ReplyCancel

  • Niekka McDonald - Can I first say how perfectly gorgeous these pictures are! I am not an artist by any means. But I love art. It tells a story and the fact that you like to do things that are hard says great things about you. You are a conqueror. I grew up off of Motor and remember the area before 20th Century Fox was there lol.ReplyCancel

  • Patricia Weber - Love the early batik photo! Wow. That must have been an awful feeling when you opened your camera. What did Steven or George say when you told them?

    BTW, I once shook Steve Jobs hand too! WAY back, when the first Mac was introduced, around 1984.

    Over here from LinkedIn group BHB.ReplyCancel

  • Sandra - Oh NOOOOOOO ;-). . . But it didn’t hurt your career. No, not one little bit :-). I hope they see this story!! ;-). Love your blog and reading about your life!! XOXOReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Sandra. I hope they see this also. But who knows?ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Scott - I love art and photography though I will admit I am not a very artistic person. I love bright contrasting colors in paintings and I adore nature photography. Ansel Adams is my favorite.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Well, Elizabeth, you’ve got excellent taste. Who can resist Ansel Adams. Breathtaking!ReplyCancel

  • Catarina - Sounds like great fun, Sandra.

    Love the fact that you were suddenly directing Steven Spielberg and George Lucas:-) Will a painting see the light of day?:-)ReplyCancel

  • Becc - Oh no! I can’t believe after all that excitement that you didn’t walk away with the photo. Maybe these two are just not meant to be photographed together and there are bigger things at play….ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Nope Becc, I think it was just me being clueless!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - OMG – that is hilarious! (and explains why we wear house-keys around out neck). 😉ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Kim, you know I really do keep a set of keys around my neck at home. Have you seen them? Emaressing.ReplyCancel

  • Charles - What a charming – and moving – story! Thank you so much for sharing it!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thank you Charles. I’ve been enjoying your photographs. Loved that golden one that reminded me of a Vermeer.ReplyCancel

  • Manal The Go Go Girl - OMG! How could you forget to put film in the camera? LOL..Really enyoyed the post and gorgeous art.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - How did I forget? Shows you what a newbie I was. Of course, now I forget to bring the camera or the iPhone.ReplyCancel

  • Piper George - Oh my goodness – I can’t believe it. I would have been gutted, but what a cool story. Seeing all the Star Wars models being made – amazing.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Trust me I felt like I was a witness to a creative secret society. So cool Loved it.ReplyCancel

  • Lillian Plummer - Oh that would have been such a huge disappointment. This also happened to my hubby at my sisters wedding years ago. Unbelievable oversight. Thank goodness the professional photographers were on hand. Bet you didn’t get any sleep that night. Some of the best movies made, wonderful world of acting and directing. Love lillian xxReplyCancel

    • sandra - Oh, I’m still bemoaning the fact I didn’t get those photos!!! What a coup it would have been!ReplyCancel

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