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(CBS) Two-time Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg may be the most successful American filmmaker ever. Few others have had such a powerful influence on the way movies are made and seen.

After 35 years in the business, the genius that is Spielberg is one of this year’s Kennedy Center Honorees.

“It’s a very daunting honor,” Spielberg told Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen. “The Kennedy Center Honors, it’s like there are only 7,000 stars in the known universe and somebody came over to me and said, ‘You and four others are gonna have your name on one of those stars.’ ”

He says he made his first film as a 12-year-old, attempting to earn a Boy Scout photography merit badge.

“I was supposed to tell a story,” he recalled. “We had a still camera that was broken, and we had an 8 millimeter Kodak movie camera that was working, so I asked the scout master could I substitute film for still, and he said, ‘Yes.’ So, I made a little Western. I called it ‘Gun Smog,’ and I shot the Western. It was all cut in the camera, about three minutes long. That was the first time I really made a movie.”

To see photos from this year’s Kennedy Center ceremony, click here.

Spielberg’s first blockbuster also began with mechanical troubles when the shark made for “Jaws” malfunctioned.

“Without the shark,” Spielberg explained, “the decision was either to pack it in, go back to L.A. until they can perfect the technology of this mechanical monster, or sort of tough it out and figure out how to make the movie around the shark. And I found that the absence of the shark was actually making it, for me anyway, a scarier movie.

“Imagination is always much more frightening than what you can put before an audience. And the great collective imagination, which happens in the audience of 500 people in some way, you know, it’s a sort of conspiracy of the collective imagination. And they make an event out of it. And they create something that sometimes filmmakers don’t even intend.”

And, it turned out ” ‘Jaws’ was a living nightmare that turned into a golden opportunity,” Spielberg said. “The success of that picture gave me control of my films; gave me control of what movies I would be making for the rest of my life. And it sort of opened up just a treasure chest of opportunities for me.”

From there, even the sky wasn’t the limit. Movies such as “E.T,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Jurassic Park” followed.

But, said Spielberg: “After I had children, began having children in the 1980s, I changed, and I began making films that were important to me and films that I really cared to leave behind for my kids. And I think the paradigm somewhat shifted in myself, and I made fewer films like ‘E.T.,’ ‘Close Encounters (of the Third Kind)’ and ‘Indiana Jones,’ and more like ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan.’

“The thing I’m most proud of is that ‘Schindler’s List’ paved the way for the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation to come into existence. It collects the living witness testimonies of Holocaust survivors. That’s what I’m proudest of.

” ‘Schindler’s List,’ I’m very proud of as a motion picture, but I really realized that that picture had a sole purpose, which was to provide me and others with the opportunity to collect the testimonies of those who really experienced the Holocaust. Not those who recreated the experiences of the Holocaust through film.”

What has Spielberg yet to accomplish?

The answer, the father of seven said with a smile, is “Grandchildren.”