Horror Film Director


Posted on July 14th, by Darren Lynn Bousman in blog, SAW, What They Don't Teach You in Film School. 5 comments

We are winding down here folks, only one more blog to round out the story! Make sure to catch up on what you have missed!


The phone rang in my shitty studio apartment early in the morning. I saw the caller ID was coming from Twisted Pictures – my immediate reaction was here we go… they are going to back out…

I had been peddling my script for over a year at this point – and I don’t care to remember how many douche bags had attached themselves with PROMISES of making it, and me famous…

When I answered the phone, I was met with an excited Gregg Hoffman…

“What if we turned THE DESPERATE into SAW 2?!”

NOTE: The first Saw had not been released. Nor had I seen the film.


“Bousman, it makes sense, come to LGF – we want to screen the first SAW for you.”

Hours later I was in the car, and on my way to LGF.

As I sat in the theater watching the film, my stomach was in knots… NOT only because the film was intense, but because it was so strikingly similar to The Desperate. The tone of the film, the twists, the character arcs… EVERYTHING.

The credits rolled, and I sat in silence…

Gregg Hoffman came to me…”So, what do you think? Wanna turn The Desperate into SAW 2?”

One thing I have learned to do VERY well living in Hollywood, is bullshit. I can talk for an hour, and not really say a fucking thing… It’s a gift… (or a curse) So, feeling pressure to make a decision I talked in a circle… I didn’t commit – nor did I turn my back on the idea…

As I drove home, I was flooded with feelings… MOSTLY RAGE.

I had worked for YEARS to make something I was proud of, I wrote a script about MY desperation, MY blood, MY sweat, MY tears, and NOW someone wanted to take it, shit on it, and relabel it a SEQUEL to another movie?!

There was about a whole week that I refused to so much as entertain the idea of ‘selling out’ my project…

Not a chance in hell…

Luckily I had some good friends around me, that smacked me back down to reality…

I was broke… I had been peddling myself for YEARS trying to get a break, and thus far had failed each and every time…

I wasn’t SELLING OUT… I was BUYING IN – there is a big difference… This wasn’t a CURSE, it was a BLESSING!


“Direct Saw 2?” Gregg Hoffman asks me…  “I didn’t say DIRECT Saw 2, I said REWRITE your script to be Saw 2. Saw hasn’t been released, we don’t have a greenlight yet.”

And there it was my dear friends… The OTHER SHOE had dropped…

There I was… once again, DESPERATE…

A couple of days passed before my Desperation turned to Motivation.

I went into the Twisted Pictures offices.

“I want to turn THE DESPERATE into SAW 2 – BUT I want to direct it!”

At first, Gregg Hoffman was reluctant to respond… Then, after what seemed like forever he goes:

“Do you have a take on how to take what you wrote, and bring it into the Saw Universe?”

“YES, 100%” (side note – I had no idea how to adapt it – or what the fuck I was gonna do)

“All right, Bousman, let’s do this…”

And it was that simple… or so I thought…

For the next two months I chained myself to my desk, and began to rewrite The Desperate…

During this time, ads for the First SAW film were popping up. A buzz starting forming around town about this little Sundance gem.

SAW was about to blow up.

And then it happened… SAW opened around the country, and made a LOT of noise in the horror community…

EVERYONE was talking about this movie… Everyone…

At first I was excited, then I became scared.

I was a nobody… A dude who had been fired from almost EVERY job he had.. I had no demo reel, no track record, and some really terrible short films… WHY in world, would anyone trust me with the franchise… On top of that, I was not a green lighted director. Just a guy Gregg Hoffman, Mark Burg, and Oren Koules found. LGF could blow me out of the water if they so chose.

I can only imagine the phone call to Lionsgate…

“Hey, Lionsgate, yes, good stuff with the SAW film opening so huge! Hey, we have a great idea, lets green light a sequel right away, and hire a NO NAME, NOBODY!”

I remember the weekend after SAW opened my phone stopped ringing. I was terrified… How do I read that? Was Twisted Pictures so busy due to the success of SAW that they hadn’t had time? Was there second guessing going on? Was I about to be fired, and James Wan brought back?

I was a nervous basket case. It was hell…

One afternoon my phone did ring… Gregg said he wanted to set up a meeting for me to go in and pitch my script to the heads of Lionsgate. This would be the deciding factor on my future with the SAW family.

As I sat there in the waiting room with Gregg Hoffman I couldn’t decide if I wanted to vomit or punch someone in the throat. I was so wound up and nervous, and more importantly, I knew I was about to fight a massive uphill battle.

They called me into an office. In this office, five ‘suits’ sat in a circle. I took a chair, and sweat started pouring down my face almost immediately.

They asked me questions – and I blubbered through the answers…

It was one of the most surreal meetings I have ever had… I was sitting there, watching myself sound like an ignorant ass…

I was sitting there, watching them lose interest in what I was saying… I was CRASHING, and BURNING… no – EXPLODING.

Eventually, I think they were embarrassed for me… A producer by the name of Pete Block stands up, and goes,

” Darren, do you have any short films we can see? Something horror based?”  (side note – this would be the first of five projects the Great Peter Block and I would collaborate on”

“YES! Of course!” Wait! Who said that?

“Great – can you drop it off at our offices say Monday morning?”


Then I realize I am saying this… First off I had NO short films to show them… On top of that I really didn’t have any HORROR short films to show them…

As Gregg and I walked to our cars , I saw the disappointment on his face. I had sounded like a nervous douche.

“Well, guess you better go home and find that short,” Gregg said as he opened the door to his car.

As I drove home, back to my shitty studio apartment in the valley, I pulled out my cell phone…

I called my good friend Joe who was a DP (REPO! and Mother’s Day). “Joe, we need to shoot a horror short film”

“Ok, when?”


“Tomorrow? Darren, it’s Thursday night – all the rental houses are closed.”

“Tomorrow, Joe! We gotta figure this out!”

Every favor in the book was called in!  We pulled strings, offered reach arounds, and black mailed…

24 hours later we had a film camera and lighting package and began shooting the short film that would land me SAW 2.

I left LGF late in the afternoon on Thursday.

I was shooting my short on Friday.

Got the film developed on Saturday.

Edited it on Sunday.

Monday morning I drove my horror opus to LGF.

Two days later – Gregg got me a second meeting…

THIS time I would be prepared… It was time to harken back to the pizza boxes and singing telegram. I needed to stop selling my ideas – and START selling me…

Check back next week for the conclusion of WHAT THEY DON’T TEACH YOU IN FILMSCHOOL.”  And please help me spread the word of this blog to your friends!

Until next time,


5 thoughts on “LIFE LESSONS PART 5

  1. Hey Darren,
    I’m a graduate of Fullsail, and I recently hooked up with a veteran Hollywood actor with the intention of shooting a feature. We are 50% partners in our production company. He recently was suppose to have a meeting with a producer he just shot a horror film called Stake-Land with. A few days before this meeting where we were trying to get him to invest in, the producer jumped on board a different project and put ours on the back burner. We decided to shoot our film as a short and bring it to some people’s he has at SpyGlass,and A&E. I was hesitant to go that route at first but after reading your blog I’m sure I am making the right choice. Casting is August 14th at Fullsail. Thanks for the wise words bro.

  2. What an interesting read! I just started with Part 5 – I’ll have to check out the other four. Great read, glad you ended up doing Saw 2 – it was the best of the bunch!

  3. Arg! I just called a talent agency and they don’t take script writers anymore 🙁 SO now my question is “What the f*** do I do now?!” Continue writing my one script, finish it and then continue working on the other script I was supposed to start writing in April?

    What if the director/the guy who wanted me to write it doesn’t get to shoot the damn thing right away? Then I have to wait another year while Saw 8 is being filmed..

    ARG! I’m feeling just like you are.. er.. were..

    So hard to get anywhere in the film industry.. BUT I must not give up.. I can’t give up.. The dream isn’t fulfilled.. I Must get it fulfilled and get the hell out of my parents house before I go around killing them in their sleep 😉 lol.

    Maybe then I could collect the life insurance on them.. Oh wait.. I just put down my name and email.. oh crap, they know where I live. Oops.. rambling again.

    Too bad you don’t take script submissions.. perhaps you would like the script I’ve written.. I wish there was some way I could get the script to some producer to read it.. but I have to go through an agency who will then send the script to someone and I don’t even have the synopsis on the film to sell it.

    What the hell do I do accept wait for three months for an agent to read the darn thing?

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