Horror Film Director

LIFE LESSONS IN LA LA LAND


Posted on April 7th, by Darren Lynn Bousman in blog, What They Don't Teach You in Film School. 28 comments

WHAT THEY DON’T TEACH YOU IN FILM SCHOOL – part 1 / 4

At least once a day I receive a message from a fan asking if I have any advice on how to make it in the film business…

Part of me wants to respond like Rob Zombie did in one of his interviews.  During said interview they asked Rob Zombie if he had advice for independent filmmakers.  Rob basically said, “QUIT NOW, if you are asking me for advice, you probably can’t hack it…”   Rob Zombies advice for filmmakers

I kid… I kid… but not really…

Listen, I don’t claim to have all the answers… In fact, I have very few answers… I am just a dude from Kansas who got lucky and made some movies that people happened to see…

But, was it really luck?  I don’t think so.  Was it because of talent?  I don’t think so.

For all you sending me facebook messages asking for advice, here goes…

I have a cold hard fact – talent is important – but not as important as not being scared to fail.

The reality is I meet so many people that are more talented than I am, that are out of work… can’t get a job… or are doing something beneath them…

In my film school class alone there were fucking amazing aspiring directors – fucking geniuses.  Now, the only thing they are aspiring to be is the manager at the local Applebee’s.

I speak to some of them from time to time.

“No one’s hiring…”

“Couldn’t find the budget for my script”

“No one gets my art.”

Blah, blah, blah SHIT…

Before being hired to direct SAW II I had made a couple of REALLY bad short films, and even worse music videos.

I moved to LA – like so many others with lofty dreams of being the next auteur director.

I was slapped in the face with the sudden awareness that I was a tadpole in the FUCKING OCEAN.

Every single person out here was trying to push their ‘art’, I was just a face in the crowd, and not a memorable face at that.

For the next three years I bounced from job to job.  Barely making rent… sometimes not paying rent at all.

In 2000 I came to LA to be a director, by 2003 I had turned into a Zombie.

I had a laundry list of jobs, some in the entertainment industry, some not… Some I had been fired from.  Some I had just given up on…

I was well on my way to becoming a statistic.

If it wasn’t for my parents, and their constant sending of money and support I would have left YEARS prior.

And then – the letter came…

What letter you ask?

My parents had had enough… And rightfully so.  For the last 21 years they have paid for my every whim.  My every want.  Here I was a grown man, still draining their bank account.  I was pathetic.

For as long as I could remember I knew I wanted to be a director – then what the hell was I doing NOT directing.

That is when everything changed…  That is when I changed…

I got depressed…  I got mad… I got motivated…

I came to LA to be filmmaker.  A writer… A director…

So why in fuck’s sake was I working at J Crew?  Yes, J Crew…

The next day I quit J Crew… My only source of income.

Suddenly, I go from being almost penniless to completely broke.

I didn’t go to film school, move to Los Angeles, so I could fold preppy clothes, wait tables, get coffee.

From that day forward I REFUSED to take a job if it 100% was furthering my career as a filmmaker… No matter HOW easy the money was.

I forced myself to sit down a write a script, I picked a title that reflected how I felt… THE DESPERATE…

Getting a job in Los Angeles can be near impossible.  I can’t tell you HOW many times I sent my resume out.  How many times I applied for jobs and was rejected…

Why?

Then I changed my approach… Fuck sending resumes… Everyone sends resumes… I am trying to enter into a profession BASED in creative thought.  I needed to be more creative.

From that day forward I NEVER faxed my resume again, nor did I mail it.  If I wanted a job… I made sure I made a splash…

I would go out and find a REFRIGERATOR  BOX, I would fill them full of styrofome peanuts and in the middle put my RESUME inside a black envelope.  I would take the box to a store and have them professionally wrap it in bright colored wrapping paper – I would then drop the box off at the job I wanted.

Suddenly I became reinvigorated.  I was broke, had no connections, and knew within the year I was on my way back to Kansas… so screw it… lets go balls out – and see how far I can push the system…

After the ol’resume in the refrigerator box got old – I moved on to sending pizzas with my resume attached, which of course naturally led to the ‘singing telegrams’.

But that part will have to wait until my next blog… Check back soon for parts II, and III

READ PART II right now…






  • Devina

    Darren, you’re awesome. I think everybody who’s not making it right now has a lot to learn from you. The fact that you stuck to what you wanted to do is amazing.

  • Peaches

    Good lord, when Smitty and TZ said you were persistent, they weren’t kidding.
    Will you forgive me for saying that this increased my respect for you twofold?
    it’s really cool getting to see the way your mind works, behind the — OOH TOAST!
    XD
    Looking forward to parts 2 and 3
    ~’Peaches

  • Matteo

    Darren–I’ve been AVOIDING bringing this subject up with you. For a lot of reasons, some obvious, some not. But you have no idea how much this was EXACTLY what I needed to read/hear/see/whatever at EXACTLY the right time. I owe you one, brother, seriously. And I hope to talk soon. :)

  • http://www.drewcampbell.ws Drew Campbell

    Funny enough – I’m in the midst of reading “Make Your Own Damn Movie” by Lloyd Kaufman… I’m on a “how to make it” kick. I’m getting tired of community theatre and YouTube sketches. Can’t wait for the next installment.

  • Lauree’

    Words can’t describe how great a message that is. As a high school student about to step out into the “real world” advice like that couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m glad you didn’t go back to Kansas. :)

  • Shion

    I respect you even more now.
    I think Devina is right, so many people can learn from you.

    When you see movies, everyone things the director has a prefect life full of money and party… but somehow you forget they are indeed still only human.
    For it is really admirable that you share such personal experiences with us to say “Hey, I am just human as you.”

    I think you show us that everyone can do accomplish something.And that gives me hope that I can find my way as an artist (:

    Thank you for this.
    Shion

  • James

    Hey buddy,

    I really appreciate the insight. I am paralyzed from the waist down and I remember an instructor at Fullsail saying to me”at least you can be an editor…” that has been my motivation ever since. I look forward to reading your next blog.

  • http://www.lotkavolterra.com Masato Funahashi

    As an aspired filmmaker to someone who “made those couple movies that people saw” This is a really helpful post and it motivates me even more to always try my best as a student filmmaker. I still have 17 more months here at Full Sail, but I am determined to never stop believing in myself. I can’t wait to read your next upcoming blog as your adventure as an aspired filmmaker.

  • http://myspace.com/afterlifepicture James

    Great story but at the same time it makes me feel like i have no chance of making it

  • NinaNitemare

    It’s always good to see, that there are still people out there, who are not only willing to fight for their dreams, but also actually achieve their goal and therefore show others that it’s worth the fight!

  • The Dolly

    This is great, I love hearin stuff like this. Helps me know all the things that do and don’t work.
    Also, my uncle’s a stage director… and I’m starting to get the feeling that the two of you would have gotten along well.

  • John Humphrey

    This is amazing.

    I’ve spent the better part of this afternoon pouring over my computer, just buckling down and cultivating an idea I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. No bullshit, no excuses, just writing. Not thinking about doing it, or worrying about doing it, wondering if I’m good enough to start doing it, just doing it.

    Then, as I was saving and closing my file, I turned the internet back on and saw you’d written this.

    Very inspiring, very motivating stuff, man. A lot of these things have been on my mind recently and this added fuel to my tank. I woke up today and just decided to be motivated and to DO the stuff I want to do. Fortunately for me, once I had finished the first part of that, I read the first part of this. This reinforced my drive.

    Thanks for the words and insight, and, as always, keep up the excellent work!

  • Fernando

    I’ve been a fan of yours since Saw II and you have now become one of my favorite and most inspiring directors. I’ve been wanting to become a director for about 6 years now and reading this just inspired me so much. I already have one short film under my belt (a pretty bad one) and am going to film my second in June, which I can promise you will be 20x better. I read a piece of advice from another director saying that the best way to get closer to becoming a director is to have experience and talent and to go out there and film as much as you possibly can. I’m still fairly young (18), but I feel like I’ve learned a lot about film over the past couple of years, especially when I was filming my first short, and I am very excited to film the next short. I only wish I will someday be as lucky as you. If you do read this, you are a huge inspiration to me and I wish you the best of luck with Mother’s Day.

  • http://www.myspace.com Rey W

    Wow Darren. That’s quite an interesting blog you have there. You made me realize that I need to do more with my life then just go to college. One day I shall become a writer. Maybe one day you’ll direct one of my movies. Lol. Awesome blog. ^_^

  • http://www.facebook.com/thelittlemoo Lindsey C. G. “Little Moo”

    Thank you for posting this.
    It’s like a breathe of fresh air from all the negative I’ve been getting from family members.
    You’re awesome.
    Take care.

  • http://myspace.com/alexiestar Alexie Star

    Darren… This is simply amazing! I love it! You have inspired me to think outside the box with this.

    I don’t want to be a director. But I am with you when you say you are a tadpole in an ocean.

    I want to act… Don’t laugh! I know, everyone wants to be an actor. I am actually quite terrified. If you were a tadpole, than I am plankton!

    I only hope that I grow some balls and man up enough to get out there and just do it!

    Here’s to balls to the walls! Can’t wait for your next blog!

    Alexie Star

  • http://www.kimhurter.com Kim

    I’m currently in the same boat as what you described in your entry… that person who wants to make it in the film business (I’m an aspiring production designer), spent four years and thousands of dollars going to film school, graduated at the most inopportune time since the crappy economy slowed down the industry significantly, found no work right away and since then got stuck working a completely unrelated day job to make ends meet because the “big break” hasn’t quite come as hoped.

    I’ve made it a point that this summer is going to be my summer to just go for it, and I mean REALLY go for it. I’ve been fortunate enough to make some connections (actually, thanks to Repo! and other various communities I’ve been active in) that are willing to help me out. Ultimately though, I know it’s up to me to really make it happen. I’ve spent the last couple of years post-film school being scared shitless about making the big move. Will I be good enough to make it? What will I do if I don’t make enough money to eat and pay rent? But then, how will I ever achieve my career goals if I play it safe? I have to do something otherwise I’ll be stuck at a dead-end job forever.

    Anyway, thank you for posting this. It really does give hope to many aspiring filmmakers who are feeling particularly discouraged because things haven’t quite happened for them yet. Look forward to reading the rest of your story!

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  • http://www.twitter.com/thatpj PJ

    That’s tough not accepting money unless it furthers your career. I had the same thought in mind, but now I will definitely take action with it.

  • http://anightmareonsamityvillestreet.blogspot.com/ Sam Bowron

    Being the 20th comment in a range of comments from people with virtually the same feelings in response to your post is tricky, I know. But if I can say one thing to peer above the crowd it wold be this:

    “YOU’VE OPENED MY FUCKING EYES, MAN”.

    I picture my own parents being in the same mindset right now, as yours once were. I’m 26 years old and I’ve been struggling to get my foot in the industry door since I was a kid. I’ve been to university, moved cities numerous times and knocked on more doors than I care to remember. I know I deserve better than to be working at a goddamn office supplies company and that my creative ideas are too good to remain hidden..

    Reading your posts has been awesome, Darren. Your words have really given me something not just to think about but to ACT upon. Like so many people who’ve commented here thus far have said, I also have dreams for filmmaking but for so long have been but a mere needle in a gigantic haystack.

    Let’s see if I can think outside the box from now on and start using my IMAGINATION, not my ACCREDITATION to make an impression.

    – Sam

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  • Heather Zack

    LOL.. Pizza boxes.. Man that’s just too funny, but different.. I know this darn thing won’t be easy without an agent, a manager and or a Representative.. So I might as well fake to be my own representative!
    I’ve had many plans to get noticed, but no plan of how to get there.. now I’ve got a plan.. Thanks so much again for taking the time out of your busy life to give us advice.. it is advice because it’s inspired most of those who’ve read it each one of your Life Lessons’ blogs.

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  • Mark Sanderson

    I very much enjoy reading your series and I completely relate to the journey. You give sound advice for anyone who will never give up on their dream.