Marc Rossman

This article was originally part of the Insider Cinema guide to Hollywood, a website from the mid-2000s. We are reposting it here as both a writing sample and a guide for those seeking to get their foot in the door in Hollywood.

Why did you get into the entertainment industry?

Well, I always wanted to tell stories visually.  I started with still photography as a young kid.  I took pictures in a way that told a story, and I quickly got into making super 8 movies, and kind of knew from the time I was in middle school that I wanted to get into the business and be a director.  I just really enjoyed the process and enjoyed telling stories in a movie medium.  And I did grow up in Los Angeles and was around movie companies shooting all over the place.  Whenever an opportunity came up to hang out on a movie set I would do that.  None of my family was in the movie business, but I always had a fascination with it, and made more and more complicated projects in high school, started to make some 16mm with sound movies.  I decided to become a film major and went to UCLA, and there you apply to become a film major in your junior year, and so I took my general courses, and then applied, and did not get into the department which I was upset about, and ended up going to NYU for my last year of college, and it turned out to be a great experience.  Then I got out of school and worked on a movie called “Home Movies” that Brian DePalma directed.  I was his first assistant director because it was a very low-budget film that he wanted to have students fresh out of school in the key crew positions, and it was great working with him, and seeing how a film is put together.

How did you find out about Home Movies?

At the time I was finishing up my last year at NYU, and my girlfriend at the time was working for Frank Yablans as an intern.  Frank Yablans had just finished being an executive at Paramount, and was now a producer, and produced Brian DePalma’s last film, The Fury, and he and Frank were going to make this little low-budget movie.  He and Frank were meeting at Frank’s, and my girlfriend said to me, ‘Why don’t you just drop in?  There are like 13 film students Sarah Lawrence Colleg.’  And even though nobody knew me, I was the only kid from NYU, I quickly fell into this groove and became First Assistant Director. 

What were your goals?

I think I always wanted to be just a working feature film director.  I never saw myself as an academy award-winning director, I just wanted to be kind of a journeyman feature film director.  I wanted to make very accessible movies that would entertain and move people, and just keep working.

Film School?

I found film school very rewarding.  I had already made some short films in high school, but being in film school allowed me to have exposure to some good teachers that really opened my eyes to techniques with camera and editing, and you get to be in every different position, which in the film business, you end up doing one thing, you enter as a P.A., but in film school, you get to do sound and lighting, so when you do move on to directing and writing, you have a better understanding of all the pieces of filmmaking, and you also get a better understanding of the craft, and making films for a community of students and teachers makes you better.  And lastly, the people at film school are really going to be the people you come up with in the industry.  I’ve met a number of great people at film school, a few of which are still my very closest friends, and we’ve hired each other, and helped each other in our careers.  We’ve certainly been there both emotionally and creatively for each other.     

Common mistakes?

Well, film school is a place to try things.  People need to take some chances and make as many movies as they can as opposed to those who didn’t try directing, or kind of stuck to one position.  That’s the biggest mistake I saw, which is kind of quickly choosing one thing and losing the exposure, and not taking advantage of what film school has to offer.

Came back to L.A.?

How did you come up with the idea for HOSR?
Well, I was always interested in the idea of thrillers, Hitchcockian suspense stories, Twilight Zone, and that was kind of the area I wanted to get into.  At the time of the early eighties, there was a horror craze with Friday the 13th, and all the horror movies that are being remade now, and I wanted to get into that area, and it would be commercial, I’d have a good shot at directing it, so I tried to come up with an idea that would combine the horror genre (which I wasn’t a big horror fan) and also combine the suspense elements.  I had been in a fraternity for two years at UCLA, so I kind of knew something about that area, and wrote the script, and wrote a bunch of drafts.  It was the first screenplay I’d ever written, so I wrote a bunch of drafts and got a lot of really good books on screenwriting.  Syd Field’s book in particular was really helpful.  Then, when the script was done, I took a long approach to get the financing.  I put together a few budgets, a high budget was around $1.5 million, a medium budget was $800,000, and a low budget was around $50,000.  I put a packet together of what other successful horror films were, and I found a veteran director, a guy named Jack Arnold, who had directed Creature from The Black Lagoon, and The Incredible Shrinking Man, and found him through a friend of a friend of a friend, and I got together with him, and asked him to write a letter recommending me, and that he would back me up as a producer, and he agreed, so I had that as part of my packet.  And I went around to various studios, but that didn’t get me anywhere, and I met with various people that I heard wanted to invest in movies.  Finally, after about 6 months to a year, I decided to just go and make a short version of the movie, sort of like a trailer as a showpiece for the movie.  So, I wrote ten pages for that and then financed that myself, and suddenly, a friend of mine whom I had gone to high school with, was part of a company in Washington D.C. that made industrial short films, and he called me, and said, ‘This company is trying to get into movies, do you have anything?’ So, I sent them the script, and they liked it.

Do you have your own thoughts?

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