Horror Film Director

LIFE LESSONS PART 2


Posted on April 8th, by Darren Lynn Bousman in blog, What They Don't Teach You in Film School. 22 comments

WHAT THEY DON’T TEACH YOU IN FILM SCHOOL – part 2 / 4

If you are just joining in – Catch up and read PART 1.

Ok, so lets recap.

Dropped out of college – went to film school…

Graduated film school – moved to Los Angeles destined for greatness.

Did some short films… They kind of sucked. Did some music videos – they were pretty terrible as well…

Within a year of moving to Los Angeles I was broke. I got fired from every job I had… I drained my parents’ bank account… Took a job at J Crew.

Got an ultimatum from my parents… Got angry – got motivated… Sent some singing telegrams to some people…

Let’s pick up where we left off, shall we?

Getting a job in Hollywood is easy. Getting a job YOU WANT in Hollywood is not.

Los Angeles is a tourist hot spot. There are restaurants on every corner of every street, coffee shops out numbering restaurants, malls and clothing stores outnumbering coffee shops. ALL of them hiring…

The irony is – the majority of the work force employed there are industry people waiting for their‘big break’.

Trust me when I say there is a reason why your wait staff or baristas are HOT… There is a better than good chance that they are actors or actresses.

The guy who is bagging your groceries: there is a better than good chance he is a screenwriter by night…

The guy who is folding the clothes at J Crew will most likely go on to direct a couple of horror movies…

WELCOME TO HOLLYWOOD.

While this seems to be the way the world works, there is a fundamental problem: ‘settling’.

While I hated working at J CREW, I settled for working at J Crew. I made a nice wage, had decent hours, became good friends with my fellow co-workers.

I became a creature of habit.

I had moved to LA to create – and the only thing I was creating was a BALL OF RAGE building inside me…

Quitting J CREW was one of the best things I did.

The biggest advice I can give you my fellow readers is KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO DO – AND DO NOT ACCEPT, OR SETTLE FOR ANY JOB NOT HELPING YOU REACH YOUR GOAL.

So you can’t get a job? No one is calling you back, responding to your resume…

CHANGE YOUR FUCKING APPROACH.

I wanted to be a director. A writer. And here I was faxing out my resume like 10,000 knuckleheads. I was a piece of paper amongst a printing press.

I had to stand out. Thus the pizza box, the singing telegram, and various other stupid stunts I pulled off in hopes of being noticed…

But even with my insanity in full gear – THAT was not enough.

FACT – Resumes don’t really mean SHIT! I spent countless hours, days, weeks, maybe months, tweaking my resume to be perfect!!! And NO ONE was reading it. No one really cared… It’s not about what school I went to, what computer programs I knew, or how much experience I had.

Here I was doing insane stunts to get my resume read. No one commented on the resume; they commented on the stunt.

So I threw away my resume, stopped adding, tweaking, or perfecting it.

I finished my script – THE DESPERATE. I was pretty happy with it. And while I got my foot in the door at a couple of great INDUSTRY jobs I wasn’t getting traction on my ART…

Yes, I got PA jobs. Yes, I got assistant jobs with big name producers. But I could not comprehend having to pay my dues for the next five years driving BIG SHOT producers around…

I had a script – but couldn’t get anyone to read it.

I had no manager, I had no agent, I had no lawyer.

So I did what any sensible thinking person would do… I LIEEEEEDDDDDDD, I CHEATED, I CREATED A WORLD OF MAKE BELIEVE.

Let me explain.

The big catch 22 in the industry is this. No one will read your shit without proper representatives. You can’t get good representatives without a produced work, or a great reel.

FUUUUUUCCCCCCCCKKKKKKK!

At this time, I was an assistant at a pretty big talent firm. Sitting on the desk of a pretty big directors agent. I learned a lot. More importantly, I learned how to navigate around the bullshit.

I partnered up with another assistant – we schemed a near perfect plan!!!!

We created a fake talent management company – got a PO BOX. Made business cards, and set up a voicemail, and changed the title page of THE DESPERATE to say written by JAMES LUTHER. Not Darren Bousman.

I used my power at the agency I worked at to say I just read this AMAZING screenplay by this unknown writer. When the agents asked who submitted it – I would give them the name of our FAKE management company.

I called other assistants at other agencies and gushed about this new script I just read called “THE DESPERATE”.

As an assistant – you want to be on the pulse of what is HOT, and what is NOT.

I used friends strategically placed in various aspects of the biz to help me build hype on this screenplay.

WIthin a couple of days the phone calls started coming in.  People wanted to read THE DESPERATE!

Shady… I know, I know… But also CREATIVE!!!!!

Suddenly I had TRACTION!!!

I was out there fishing, and I started getting a couple of bites.

People would call the number we set up… It ALWAYS went to voice mail so we wouldn’t mess up our stories, or have to explain things.

We would only answer by email – never return calls…

We started sending the THE DESPERATE out under UTOPIAN PICTURES AND MANAGEMENT, our made up company.

Then it happened.  Coverage started coming in from various industry places, and it was good… really good!

It was through this voyage that I was able to find a lawyer. My first REAL rep…

I had circumvented the catch 22.

With my lawyer in place… I dissolved the fake management company, changed the title page back to say written by Darren Lynn Bousman – and started off into the REAL hard stuff… Convincing anyone that a guy with no real experience, should direct this feature film…

Stay tuned, and check back for part 3.





  • Jenae

    Wow, Darren…

    I’ve wanted to be an actress for as long as I can remember. As I get older, I find that I want to act/sing, or maybe just sing (in Vegas, though, not LA).

    Reading your story makes me think a lot about myself. Reading it, you give me the inspiration to change myself and work hard to get where I want.

    Thanks for being so awesome, Mr. Booze-man ;P

    Jenae

  • Matteo

    As if you weren’t already up there, you’re now officially on my list of personal heroes. Seriously.

  • emily

    wow! my dream is to be an actor but it all seems like it would be very difficult to get going. but u are my new hero cause u did what ever it took to be a director and writer. and ur just really awsome!! :)

  • http://www.everythingsfineproductions.com Max Kasperek

    So no one questioned that the name of the screenwriter changed? Or did you come clean about it?

  • Stuart Linver

    dude i fucking love you even more

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  • EJT501

    Thank you!
    I’m going to college next year and I “dream” to go out to LA and do what you do. I’ve dreamt of becomig a director for ever but i hear horror stories and everyday I get less and less excited about the possibility of getting a job, to the point where I’m almost comfortable settling for a job a in tv production.
    I LOVE your insights. The inside of how it works from a guy who has been through it.

    THANK YOU
    (I hope you throw in some of directing Repo! The stage play)
    again THANK YOU

  • http://www.myspace.com/julio_sancho Rey W

    Brilliant Darren! I would have done the exact same. ^_^

  • Connor

    This is an incredible blog you are doing. Super inspiring stuff. Thanks.

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

    You, sir, are amazing.

  • Elisabeth

    Thank you, I recently graduated from said Film School, you know the one. They spend endless amounts of time on resume, resume, resume, and it means absolutely nothing. Seven months of looking and nothing worthy. Either they want you to work for free, which sometimes I admit, I do just for the experience. Or it’s very little pay, almost undignified. Won’t give up though, thanks!

  • rammmses

    Incredible what you had to do to get a script known. Honesty doesn’t count too much. haha

  • http://www.youtube.com/nosemint05 JonCraigFilms

    Really inspiring stuff! Resumes are bull-shit, your story reminds kind of the movie “airheads”. . .gotta do some crazy stuff I guess to get noticed!

  • Connie

    Hi Darren! I would like to share with you my small success story as a result of being inspired by your blog (sorry for the long post. i didn’t know what to cut):

    So, I graduated from UCSD with two BA’s in visual art media and economics, had three internships, and did a few volunteer gigs (like with Balls Without Borders…look ‘em up). What does that mean to employers? Pretty much nothing. Now, you can only get a job if you have years of experience. Even entry level jobs would demand that you have 5+ years and be an expert to be considered. I thought entry level was for those who were fresh out of college with little experience, hence it being called “entry level.” The reality is that with so many people unemployed, businesses can be choosy and pick the “cream of the crop” and pay them entry level wages. I had been applying to different jobs during the past few months, mostly to ones that appealed to me in production, post production, and marketing. After many rejections, I expanded to other jobs so that I can at least make some money. I would also hit up all my connections, but they usually led to nowhere because they either can’t help or won’t. (My own cousin doesn’t even care to help me and she works in the entertainment biz.) When I got rejected for a teller position, I hit my all time low. I’m not good enough to be a teller? What’s next? Will I not be qualified to pick up dog poo? (No offense to tellers.) I just kept trying, applying to job after job. I was starting to feel the pressure. My parents’ business is closing and I’m going to be competing with a whole crap load of new graduates in a few months! I need to find something now. Anything.

    Then I found a posting for an internship that was looking for recent graduates for a tv commercial editing internship. I’m a recent graduate! (Well, maybe not so recent anymore.) I read on. It’s an unpaid internship (sucks…) for 6 + months with no vacations (double sucks…) and the hours are weekdays from 9-6 but will likely be past that and weekends if necessary (sucks sucks sucks…). It’s located an hour away from my home and it would be difficult to hold a part time job on the side with their hours, but they do emphasize that they train which they say is why they don’t pay and that they could possibly hire me in the end of the process. I told my dad about it and this was what he basically told me:

    It’s related to what you want to do. If you get it, take it even though they don’t pay you. Look, you can be a cashier while you’re in college to get some money, but if you are doing that now as your job, you’ll be stuck. Would you want to be stuck being a cashier forever? With the internship, they might hire you. If not, you’ll have a leg up. Do it.

    Becoming an editor is one of my main aspirations. So, I sent in my resume, made a very convincing cover letter, and submitted online. The very next day, I got a reply back to come in for an interview. I made it past the first stage!

    The interview only went ok. He didn’t seem too invested in me. Was he tired? Was it me? Also, I stuttered quite a bit from nerves and didn’t feel like I was able to sell myself. He said he would let me know at the end of the week of his decision. That might have just been a nice way of saying, “we’re not interested.” I really wanted this internship. It seemed like another opportunity like this wouldn’t come again for a while. Then, I was introduced to your blog and I read about your struggles breaking into the entertainment business. The part about not settling for a “whatever” job was exactly what my dad had told me. Then when I read about how you delivered your resume in pizza and refrigerator boxes, it gave me an idea. I was worried that I was going to lose my chance of getting the internship. The interviewer had said he gets 100 applications and I’m sure my polite follow up e-mail was lost in his inbox among others who did the same. I needed to do something active this time and give an extra push to be noticed rather than wait around for that possible 100th rejection. I decided to make a giant fortune cookie with a message inside saying, “You will choose CONNIE as your new intern!” After baking for hours and had many failed attempts, I made a fortune cookie that looked pretty damn good, I must say. And tasty too.

    On Friday morning, I was ready to drive all the way over to drop it off, but was having second thoughts. People were telling me not to go through with it. I thought for their business, it was appropriate. I wouldn’t give it to a financial agency or something. It was a business of creative people. They also themselves have to constantly make themselves stand out and sell themselves to clients. Of all people, they should get my gift, right? Then I talked with Laura and she gave me that support I needed to go for it. Not completely knowing how they would take it, she suggested I change my message to “Thanks for meeting with me” as not to appear too pushy or desperate. I reached the office, dropped the package at the door, and bolted the hell out of there. I got to my car and thought, “Oh my god, what have I done?” It’s too late now. What’s done is done. (Plus, it’s a secure door and I was lucky enough to get in the first time with another building employee.)

    After running a few errands, I got home and checked my e-mail, and there it was. It was a response from the internship. I opened it and this is what was read:

    hi connie,

    thank you very much for the unique gift. while i don’t want to feel like i was bribed :-)… that’s exactly the kind of thinking we’re looking for.
    would you be available to start monday?

    see you soon,
    ryan

    I can’t believe it worked! I couldn’t stop smiling. It was supposed to be more of a “hey, notice me” gesture rather than a bribe, but…who cares? It worked. So, I just wanted to say thanks Darren for your inspiring story and Laura for that extra push I needed. ^_^

    -Connie

  • http://anarchicq.com Q

    I want to be a published author, and I’m not arrogant enough to call myself a ‘writer’, I am merely a storyteller.

    I’m doing the whole finding an agent thing now since one of my manuscripts is more or less complete. You’ve given me a lot to consider. Thank you.

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

    Darren, your amazing. Thanks for posting this. I also want to become a director. But I live in fucking Holland.. Im doing so my best, still I don’t feel that anything succeeds. I did some short films etc..

    I will keep fighting for the dream. And thanks SO much for this story. You are helping people!

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  • Heather Zack

    LMAO.. So that’s what I gotta do.. ok.. but I’m gonna use emails to represent myself and not any business cards, because I can’t afford any business cards.

    I’ve been wanting to be an actor since I was 4.. Tobin Bell has been my inspiration and now with the info you just gave, that gave me even more inspiration.
    But another question arrives.. How do I come off as being an Actor AND a screenwriter?
    I just had to laugh when you told that story.. except I can’t get out to LA so I’ll have to do it from here, unless they have a way to find out my IP address.
    I could always call a casting director and see where that gets me by representing myself as someone else! lol.

    Thanks Darren! I as we all greatly appreciate you taking the time out of your busy life to help those of who are still struggling and can’t get anywhere.

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  • http://www.alphatreeproductions.com Christopher Birk

    Damn inspiring! And amazing that I am in exactly the same place you were. Thanks for a brutally honest story that makes so much more sense than what I hear from countless ‘professionals’ and self proclamed ‘experts’.

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