Director Sam Raimi calmed Boston College students’ nerves about pursuing a career in the film industry. Raimi assured them that, with dedication, a career in filmmaking is possible.
In a special event held for aspiring film students on Oct. 20, the director talked openly with students about his rise to fame and what made his path unique.
Raimi is a world-famous director, writer, and producer known best for his work on the Evil Dead series and Spider-Man franchise. Most recently, Raimi took the helm of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which made nearly $1 billion at the box office this year.
During the question-and-answer forum, Raimi spoke about all aspects of the film industry—from the artistic side to the business deals.
Raimi walked into Gasson Hall and loosened the crowd up right away with a joke. Once the shock and awe of being in his presence died down, students saw that a life of fame doesn’t always result in madness.
Raimi seemed to be a down-to-earth, quirky, and grateful person that everyone felt comfortable listening to and taking advice from. He constantly praised the crowd for insightful questions while also finding a way to make everyone laugh with each of his responses.
Professor Celeste Wells moderated the conversation, asking Raimi a few questions of her own before opening the floor for students to talk.
Although the director was adamant that filmmaking is fueled by passion, Raimi let students in on a secret: The industry is still a business. Raimi advised students that they should write about what they’re passionate about and what will make money.
“It’s a business first, an artform second,” Raimi said.
Raimi then launched into the tale of his humble beginnings at Michigan State University, where he began making comedy films on Super 8, a type of low-cost film reel popular in the late ’60s and ’70s. He showed his films to audiences across campus and soon realized he could make money from them. He once sunk $700 into one of his shorts, but he made back around $600 selling $1 tickets to students around campus.
“Okay, I can make money doing this,” Raimi said he realized after that project.
The success of this first film led Raimi to spend his whole summer, and his entire bank account, making his next film: an hour-and-a-half-long comedy. When it came time to show the film at MSU the next year, he put out an ad in the school paper as he had done previously and rented out a lecture hall for the Michigan State University Society of Creative Filmmaking, the one-man club he had created.
On the night of the screening, hardly anyone showed up. The people who did show up walked out of the theater, demanding their money back. The clanking of theater chairs still rings in his head today, Raimi said. But, after he let the failure wash over him, he found himself rewriting the film in the empty theater, down about $2,000.
“Why didn’t you give up right then and there?” asked Celeste Wells, associate professor of communications at BC, at the event.
Raimi said that it was his passion for filmmaking that kept him going. He left students with the message that following your passions will lead you to great places, but it’ll always be the money that will guide you toward success.
The director left students with inspiring messages and encouragement, suggesting that if they start now, it will be one step in the right direction.