Horror Film Director


Posted on July 16th, by Darren Lynn Bousman in blog, What They Don't Teach You in Film School. 17 comments

STOP READING: First catch up on the previous blogs:

My short film ZOMBIE was met with a cold, to lukewarm response… To me that was EXCITING as hell, as all my previous short films where UNWATCHABLE – the mere fact that ANYBODY was able to sit through THIS short film was nothing short of a success on my part…

It was also exciting to me… On a Thursday, I had no short film… On a Sunday I had produced, written, directed, and edited MY OWN short film.

I had accomplished something… Was it GREAT?  No… Was it the best short film ever?  No… But it was mine… I had FINALLY done something… I didn’t just TALK about it.  I DID it!  For a moment, I was important.  I set a goal, and followed through with it – and here it was; I was holding a DVD in my hands of ART that I created.

When I went in for my second meeting with Lionsgate the tension in the room was palpable.  I shudder to think what Gregg Hoffman had to do to get me a second meeting…

By this point SAW was still in theaters – and over-performing ALL expectations.

LGF and Twisted knew they had a hit – and yet here I sat, some dude from Kansas who made a moderately watchable short film ZOMBIE surrounded by suits and scowling faces…

I remember Peter Block sitting there, running the meeting.   At the time he was the scariest person I had ever met, as he held my future in his hands…

“So, Darren, why don’t you tell us why you think you should direct SAW 2?”

I didn’t miss a beat… I started talking… I said everything I thought they wanted to hear.  I talked, and talked, and talked and talked…

Then I saw it… They began to shift uncomfortably, eyes flicked to their blackberries, others looked at watches… I WAS LOSING THEM…  I looked to Gregg Hoffman, who once again looked ashamed… I was blowing it…

Then, like some Shaw Brothers Kung Fu movie – I felt the KICK to my groin…

I stopped mid-sentence…

“Peter, why should you hire me? You shouldn’t….”

What the FUCK was I saying?!?  Everyone looked up surprised…

“I am the complete WRONG guy for this.  And THAT, is exactly why you should hire me…”

Peter leaned forward, a slight smile on his face… “What do you mean?” he asked…

And for the first time in this whole process, I stopped telling them what I THOUGHT they wanted to hear, and told them what I FELT…

“James Wan had never directed a movie before SAW; he was a nobody living in Australia. YOU GUYS gave him a chance, HE HAD something to prove, and now you have a hit on your hands…  You took a risk, and it worked…   I am another risk… I could sit here all day, and talk to you in flowery adjectives about why you should hire me, but the reality is at the end of the day you have to decide if you want to take ANOTHER risk… You hit a blackjack – are you going to double down?”

That is when the entire meeting changed… Peter Block stopped being this scary force who could crush me… I saw him for who he was, a HORROR FAN wearing a suit.

I remember Jason Constantine  (one of the nicest execs in the business) asking my opinion on how SAW 2 should begin…

“Capture Jigsaw.”

“Why would you capture Jigsaw?  He is our villain, people want to see him doing terrible things.”

“And that’s exactly why you need to capture him in the first TWO minutes of the movie…  As an audience member – I NEED to see how you continue the movie when you captured the killer at the beginning…”  We talked for about an hour… I stopped talking as a director – and talked to the room as a fan of horror… What I wanted to see…

Two weeks later – I was on a plane to Toronto – to begin preproduction on SAW 2…

People say talent can unlock unimaginable doors.   Know what else can unlock doors?  KICKING THEM IN!!!!

My thesis for these series of blogs is the following:   talent has only a small part to do with your success in Hollywood.  The majority of successful people I know are cocky, self absorbed, and SELF CONFIDENT.  In short… They don’t care if they fail… Don’t care if they make an ass out of themselves.  Why?  Because THEY ARE AWESOME!!!!

It’s like THE SECRET… You attract what you put out there…

Who is going to hire a director who is shy and second guesses his art?   Who is going to hire you to write their script when you are constantly teetering on “is this good?”  “is this not good?”

My biggest gift… I think I am awesome… Am I awesome?  No, not really… But I THINK IT…

Cocky, arrogant, self absorbed… These are all just words – labels that the unsuccessful throw at those who have made it…

If I am a producer and I am going to give a director MONEY, in the case of Saw 2, MILLIONS of dollars, I need to know without a shadow of a doubt that this person is confident, has a vision, and knows how to get it…

You are entering one of the most  competitive businesses in the WORLD.    What are YOU going to do to set  yourself apart from EVERY wanna be director / writer / actress who has moved to Hollywood to make it?

What is your pizza box idea?  How are you going to stand apart from the crowd?

It has been five years since I directed SAW 2.

The harsh reality is that it doesn’t get any easier.  The majority of my days are still filled with failures.  Movies that drop me.  Producers who lose money.  Scripts that cannot attract actors…

For every ONE movie that I get made, there are 99 that collapse and implode.

So for those of you that have followed this SIX part Blog series and are hoping to find the answer of WHAT THEY DON’T TEACH YOU IN FILM SCHOOL: grab your pencils, take note – as this is the best advice I can offer you…


Everyone’s journey is completely different.  Talent will only get you so far… Passion, confidence, and not being scared to fail will take you the rest of the way…

I am a director… it’s my job… I get paid to direct movies… However, the majority of my day is not spent planning shot lists, choosing lenses, or talking to actors – it’s spent POLITICKING.  In the first blog I stated I know 1,000 people more talented than me that CANNOT get a job.  Why is this?

In film school you are led to believe that a great short film and an amazing script can get you the keys to Hollywood…

NOT TRUE:  it might get you the keys to a studio apartment in North Hollywood, IF you are lucky.

I, however, am an example that ANYONE can make it… I didn’t have connections when I moved here, NOR did I come from money…

Years passed as I floated from job to job, until one day I got a letter from my pops… and I became DESPERATE.

So this is my letter to you, my dear readers…

You have ONE YEAR… Write a script, or Produce One… Direct a film, or Act in one…  Just do SOMETHING… Don’t talk about it… DO IT…

You might fail… That’s okay, embrace it…  I have failed many more times than I have succeeded.

There are two types of people in Hollywood… Those that wait for the knock on their door, and those who go KICK IN the mutha’fuckin door…

I would love to write some more, but I have to put my steel toe boots on and kick in some balsa wood…

Until next time,


  • http://www.latinofilmchatter.com casper martinez

    I commend you brother. I’ve been reading all your blogs and this shit feels like I’m reading my diary lol. Thanks for sharing your story it makes this adventure a little more human. Cheers

  • http://www.eibonfilms.co.uk/blog/ Lee

    Great. Thanks! Be good to learn more about the making of ZOMBIE – your short

  • http://jimendecott.blogspot.com Jim Endecott

    Main that was painful having to wait for each installment. Great stuff man, thank you for sharing.


  • Dan Horne

    Darren thanks so much for this blog series, its been very inspiring. Most directors give very vague answers as to how to set yourself apart and the proper ways to make it out in Hollywood, and you’re the first (that i’ve heard or been aware of) to really go into detail, and tell your story. I appreciate this and will definitely be taking your advice, and making something. No more waiting around.

  • Matt Webber

    Bousman…that was awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.twitter.com/refuseliam Refuse Liam

    Your words continue to inspire me dude, I’m planning my first feature script as I write this.

  • Kasch

    Fuckin’ A! Words of widsom!

    That was a great read!

  • http://www.checkoutfilm.com Ruwan Heggelman

    Thank you so much man. I really love it. I am currently putting my sweat and tears into a short film. Hoping it will bring me to a good company. And I am really scared of failing. Still, I am really doing my best to make it the best out of it!

    Thanks again Darren!

  • Masato Funahashi

    Words of inspiration and especially telling your story helps me tons. Go and kick those door downs as I will in the near future.

  • Haley McBryde

    Darren, I am a 17 year old girl with a 15 month old son and i have been with the same guy for 2 and a half years and yes, he is the father of my son and the whole time i have known him, all he does is talk about movies, movie news, who directs em, actors, EVERYTHING. I am one high school student who prolly knows almost every single thing a director knows bc my future husband wants to go to film school after we graduate and move to LA to become a film director. He is the PERFECT person for this job and i know this without a shawdow of a doubt and we come from MISSISSIPPI. Yes, MS. We are country but u couldnt tell it if you met us and my BF told me to read this and honestly at first, it scared the hell out of me! but i am going to MAKE SURE he takes ur advice and i hope we get as lucky as u. u are only lucky bastard. Thanks for the advice. ur advice is what is gonna make my future family. Hopefully my BF will b able to meet you and you can help him cuz he LOVES ur work and wants to movies like SAW II….rite back plz u lucky son of a bitch! :)

  • kelly

    I was close to Darren in high school, back in good ole’ kansas, where I still reside. During our high school “romance”, Darren and his passion for theater and movies literally came out of his pores. Darren, obviously you had quite a journey in LA, but you never gave up. I always knew you would make it. When I heard you had written and directed Saw 2, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Your drive, and talent were evident in the hallways at sm north. Passion and drive are amazing attributes, and yours truly made your dreams come true, as I always knew they would.

  • Robert Sanchez

    What a great read seriously. Loved the blogs and loved how Saw II ended up, I still remember leaving the theater really satisfied. I am set to attend film school at the Los Angeles Film School in that fall and this is great advice you have given. I am currently working out a blue print for my first script and though it is not a horror movie I know it’ll still be a challenge.

    I do plan to venture into horror one of these days since it is one of my favorite Genres. Thanks again to awesome advice and keep up thegood work.

  • Cody

    I read this on August 24th. Judgment Day is in exactly one year.

  • Jerry

    Thank you, Darren.

  • ALK

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’ll be kickin those doors in from now on, no more knockin.

  • Jim Cook

    Don’t mean to get all metaphysical (shit, yeah I do!) but the universe led me to here. The conclusion to your blogs is fucking brilliant. It reminded me of several pieces of advice that I’ve seemed to have neglected over the years. My situation right now is worse than the beginning of your tale but my dream is still alive.

    Tired of dreaming. Tired of saying that I’m tired of dreaming. Believe in yourself and fucking do something about it. Got it. Some good writing here. Your journey was entertaining and worth the read. I plan on revisiting your site again.

    BTW, SAW II was far superior in several ways than the original SAW. Congrats on your success and your continued persistence in keeping your career afloat. – Jim Cook (a.k.a. L.I. FILM GUY)

  • http://www.jessicacha.com Jessica Cha

    Darren, I wish I had read this blog before I got the chance to meet you in OH. You’re such an awesome guy, and I am glad that you took the time to write this out, openly and honestly.

    I’m glad you included your rage, too. I feel like a crazy person when I get to that point, but knowing that it’s part of the process makes things a little easier.

    I’ve tried to start up quite a few projects myself and I’ve failed at all of them.. working on one now because you said to back in August.. I’m giving myself a year to start filming and hopefully it’ll be worth watching, if not, at least I’ll know I finished.

    Shit man, I am so glad I read this. Thanks dlb.