In Part Five, C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson continue with their insight on how to break into the mainstream entertainment business (by somebody being the gatekeeper and holding the door for you) and why certain films and books are greenlit and some are not.
I'm of the school of thought that if somebody has something artistically strong there is enough room for anybody at that house party. My problem is that too many people who don't do things correctly or really have little to offer get into the same party. Who held the window for you?
DERRICKSON - That's a good question. The first person of note who did it was Bryan Singer. I had come out of film school and he was the first person to read, right after Usual Suspects and he was making X-Men, and he read a script I had written and watched a short film I'd made from USC. He liked them both and brought them into Sony. That was my first real studio deal.
I owned an original theater program from Citizen Kane and I gave that to him as my Thank You gift because he had opened that door to me. I think everybody needs somebody who is in front of you who is established to hold the window open.
Everybody who is in there understands that they are their own gatekeeper. There's the bouncer at the door but, man, hardly anybody gets in the front door.
I remember an interview I did with Clive Barker and I asked him his greatest fear. He said that somebody will come up and tap him on the shoulder and say that they'd figured him out and it was over.
DERRICKSON - (laughs) That's Clive Barker!
CARGILL - That's everyone's fear. We had that conversation a couple of months back where we were talking about how sad it was that Blockbusters were gone and I said, Yeah I'm really bummed because that's my fall back career. (laughs) I have got 6-1/2 years of experience. I could get hired at a video store but they're gone now. Scott, you told me I didn't need to be worried about that anymore. I was just being safe. I'll bet you right now that Tom Cruise and Will Smith are sitting up at night trying to figure out how to save their career.
James Stewart said that he always worried about that.
CARGILL - Everybody I talk to, everybody thinks they're a fraud. I guess it's because so much of the industry is built upon creating an image that you begin to believe that people only see the image and don't see what you've actually done and don't value what you've done. Because you as a creator don't really value what you've done.
Because you are just you.
CARGILL - When you hear a song on the radio or you see a movie or you read a book you're like "Wow!" It connects with you. You think it is amazing and you don't know where this came from but wherever it came from it is amazing. But when you look at the stuff that you make, you're like, "I made that in my office." Or, "I made that in my garage. I just typed for several hours a day and suddenly there were words on a page and that's a book." You know what went into making it and that's how you look at it. You don't look at it like somebody who just picked it up and goes, "Where the hell did all of these ideas come from? How did he get all of this to work together?"
So you tend to undervalue and underplay your own art. A lot of people start to believe that the image that gets crafted for them is more of who they are then what the art is because they think the art is just something they made in their living room. So everybody gets this feeling that they are a fraud. Everybody's terrified that they are going to be found out at any moment and it's going to be the thumb over the shoulder, "Sorry Mr. Cargill. It's time to go. You really do need to find a video store that is still open."
Isn't it also that those of us in the business believe that there is a large chunk of luck involved in getting us to wherever we are? Even with all the training, since that is what luck is – being prepared for when the moment happens. But we still have that word "luck" hanging around because, like you said, very few people go in through the front door.
DERRICKSON - I think the best advice I ever heard from anybody about the Hollywood industry and being within the business of Art and Entertainment on this global level was a producer I worked with one time who said to me that Hollywood is an industry built to cycle you out. That's what it does. It is organized to cycle you out of that party. It's always throwing people out. What you've got to do is get up and work hard at it every single day to give that machinery a reason to not cycle you out.
You're fighting to get your ass back toward that front door the entire time so that you aren't pushed out the back.
DERRICKSON - That's the work ethic part. I had the experience of feeling for a minute that I had been found out after making The Day The Earth Stood Still. I thought that maybe I would never make another movie again because that movie wasn't received so well. I think that was a really good experience for me because I think the creative answer that drove me to was that I just needed to make every movie like it was my last movie. It might be! Someday it will be. I got rid of the idea, completely abandoned the idea, of thinking too strategically about what I'm going to make. Instead my attitude is that every movie I make I'm going to assume I won't get to make another one afterwards. I won't make it unless I feel that way about it.
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Both Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill can be found on their Facebook sites
Del Howison is a journalist, writer and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. He is also the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies “The Home of Horror” in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at Del@darkdel.com.