People are trying to help you. We have all heard directors complain about the studio, the producers, investors, etc. They are trying to help you. They may not have the best solution, they may not get what you are trying to do, but they are trying to help you and help the movie. Listen to them. Collaborate. Try to understand where their note is coming from. Really listen to their perspective and hear them out. You can always push back and disagree, but try try try try try to see it from their perspective. They ARE trying to help you.
As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing David Yarovesky.
From action thrillers to horror flicks, and fantasy adventures, multi-hyphenate Director/Producer/Writer David Yarovesky has quickly become one of the most-watched talents to break into entertainment over the last few years, and is positioned to take the film industry by storm.
This year, Yarovesky will direct the highly anticipated Netflix feature film “Nightbooks.” Based on the beloved J.A. White young adult book series, the horror-fantasy film follows Alex (Winslow Fegley), a boy obsessed with scary stories, who is imprisoned by an evil young witch (Krysten Ritter) in her contemporary New York City apartment. Alex eventually learns he must tell a new scary story every night in order to stay alive. “Nightbooks” will debut globally on Netflix in September 2021.
Yarovesky recently made waves directing Sony Picture’s thriller-horror feature film “Brightburn,” which debuted nationwide on over 3,000 screens on Memorial Day weekend 2019. The film, produced by Yarovesky’s longtime friend and mentor James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”), stars Elizabeth Banks and presents a startling, subversive take on a radical new genre: superhero horror. Yarovesky made his feature film directorial debut in 2014 with the cult horror hit “The Hive” (Nerdist Industries, Legendary Pictures) starring Gabriel Basso (“Super 8”), Sean Gunn (“Avengers: Endgame”) and Kathryn Prescott (“Skins”). The film, which Yarovesky also penned, follows a young man suffering from amnesia that must reach back into his mind for memories that will help him save the love of his life before a virus completely takes over.
Yarovesky is also well known for his work with Marvel, directing “Guardians of the Galaxy: Inferno” (2017) which was released as a bonus feature on the digital and Blu-ray release for the film “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” The 1970’s style short stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and features the rest of the “Guardians” cast including David Hasselhoff.
A consummate creative, Yarovesky has also designed multiple virtual reality experiences, including the hit “Belko VR” escape room for Blumhouse and MGM Pictures. His award-winning commercials, music videos and short films have generated hundreds of millions of views for his clients, which include Jeep, Korn, Red Bull and Steve Aoki, to name a few.
Born and raised in Calabasas, CA Yarovesky knew he wanted to be a filmmaker from the moment he was old enough to hold his father’s VHS camera. He currently resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up? Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I believe this career path chooses you, you don’t choose it. In some ways, it’s the most incredible path because your work can touch people’s lives. Your stories can inspire them, or make them think differently about something. You have the power to make millions of people laugh or cry or sh*t their pants and that is just incredible.
At the same time, it can be a tough path. There is no financial security, no guarantee that you will ever make a movie. It can be a constant emotional roller coaster watching audiences love or hate your movie. I wish I had a moment I could pick out that I could say “THAT WAS THE MOMENT!” But I don’t. Some of my oldest memories are of me trying to lift my dad’s old VHS camera. The need to tell stories was just born into me. There were so many easier ways to make money, easier paths to live a full life — but I just wouldn’t have ever been happy. I needed to do this.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
Working on “Nightbooks” with Sam Raimi was a dream come true. He was a god to me when I was a teenager. “Evil Dead,” “Army Of Darkness,” “Darkman” — I mean he was a legend.
During filming Sam and I would Zoom to watch the footage and discuss. By the second week, he spent most of the time gushing and being incredibly complimentary. I was overwhelmed with how happy he was with the footage I was shooting. When the Zoom call ended my wife asked me, “could your 14-year-old self ever imagine Sam Raimi would say that to you?” I thought for a minute and then realized, “Yeah! That’s actually exactly what I thought when I was 14.” See, when you are a kid, you can dream big. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I started saying “yeah right” or “that will never happen.” There is a lesson there, maybe a few.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Well Sam Raimi obviously, and James Gunn. I’ve been very fortunate to work under such geniuses. I learned so much from working with both of them. I just wanted to suck up all the knowledge I could from these guys. Two very different filmmakers with very different personalities, but both have had a ton of success and are driven by story first. They are so so so so so focused on making a personal story. Everything serves that. The visuals, the sounds, the effects, the style, the tone — it’s all second to the story.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s a funny question because I don’t feel like I’ve achieved success. I’m not sure how I define my success, but I know I still have a lot of work to do. But I certainly am on my way. I wouldn’t be without a whole lot of people. Obviously, James Gunn has been a mentor to me. Sam Raimi, who, hired me on this movie and believed in me.
I spent years curating a circle of friends who are so supportive. I believe that is one of the secrets of my supposed success. Create real relationships with people. Be a good friend to them — show up when they need you and count on them when you need them. Rise together or be buried alone.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Wow. I don’t know, but it would be something about never giving up. I knew I wanted to make movies for as long as I can remember, but I sold the first script that I thought I was going to direct in 2004. I made my first movie in 2015….think about that!
The reason I’m answering these questions while promoting my new film is that I just refused to give up. I kicked on every wall. I had no plan B.
I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Storytelling is all about sharing a true experience. Regardless of it being fiction or not, there is truth to every story. Diversity reflects the real world we live in and those viewpoints and experiences are needed for good storytelling.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m writing something very fun right now. I’m a bit secretive about the things I’m working on because I like to reveal them when they are ready to share.
Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?
Being able to share my work with others who can relate to it, learn from it or feel something different because of it.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Work creates work. The energy around you when you are working pulls in more work. So, start working on something right now and work on it like your life depends on it.
- Finish what you start. If it’s not an enjoyable film (or short) you did not fail. If you didn’t finish it, then YOU FAILED. FINISH WHAT YOU START! Go start something, and then finish it.
- Stop using the words GOOD or COOL. “Is it good?” means nothing. How do you judge good? Say is it scary? Is it fun? Did the laugh work? Was it believable? GOOD and COOL will lead you in all the wrong directions. Never use those words.
- People are trying to help you. We have all heard directors complain about the studio, the producers, investors, etc. They are trying to help you. They may not have the best solution, they may not get what you are trying to do, but they are trying to help you and help the movie. Listen to them. Collaborate. Try to understand where their note is coming from. Really listen to their perspective and hear them out. You can always push back and disagree, but try try try try try to see it from their perspective. They ARE trying to help you.
- Be available. The director is constantly needed on set. Actors may have a question about a scene, the props department may want your feedback on something, and your crew may need approval on a lighting change. It can feel overwhelming but they all depend on you.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It’s weird to ask a filmmaker this question because in a way our movies are the movement. I made this movie to send a message to the next generation of kids to stay weird. The thing that makes you weird makes you special. Don’t let the world stomp out your magic. Embrace it. Grow it. The future is counting on you to make that movie, or that song, solve that problem, cure that disease, write that code, whatever it is that you love to do, do it.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Anyone involved in Robotics, AI, VR, AR — all things future tech. I’m super into it!
How can our readers further follow you online?
Follow me on Instagram @davidyarovesky !
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!