Dear LMU School of Film and Television,
It’s a recent alumnus, Brandon Valencia, screenwriting, Class of 2017, and I wanted to share a bit about what’s happened in my career after graduating from LMU. It took some patience, and dealing with some disappointment before success found me.
After our department’s Pitchfest event, seven execs asked me to send them all of my scripts, including my pilots. Of those seven, only four responded back. Of those four, three flat-out rejected my material and one kindly said, “Great stuff, but I can’t do anything with it now.” So, maybe that was half a rejection?
Out in the real world, I was rejected for every industry-related position I applied for. The closest I had come to was an assistant position in the development department for Calico – a production company that had signed a deal with Red Bull TV. I made it to the second interview, but I was passed up for that, as well. In my growing frustration, my brother, Byron, and I, had a lightbulb moment, in which we decided that if no one would hire me, then we would just have to produce our own content.
And so we did.
For the past year, I raised $20,000 from local and personal investors to make my own feature film, which had always been a dream of mine.
In June 2018, I hired a skeleton crew and a small team of wonderful actors, and together, we spent 11 days, over the course of five weekends, directing my feature film, “The Onymous.” It’s an 85-minute thriller about the criminal underbelly of the dark web.
Filming this movie was easily the most exciting and agonizing experience I’ve ever had. From time and budget issues, to on-set meltdowns, I suffered a period of anxiety throughout the production, but seeing the final product was well worth it. PRO TIP: never make a horror movie during the summer where 90 percent of it takes place at night.
Fast forward to October, where “The Onymous” was selected for the first HAUS Film Festival in downtown L.A., just in time for Halloween. Seeing guests pay for tickets to see my film at the box office, and seeing them watch it on the big screen while eating popcorn, was a euphoric feeling. And I’m happy to announce that the film won “Best Horror Film” and I received a neat-looking plaque to commemorate it. I had never won anything before so I was completely over the moon.
For my day job, I work as a content creator for John Shin, the famous millionaire entrepreneur and motivational speaker, under his production banner, Think Rich Films. Please Google him; he’s quite inspiring. I’m tasked with filming his weekly events and editing them for his social media. It’s a full-time job and lunch is provided every day, which is one of the best job benefits ever.
So, in the end, everything worked out, and I still hang out with my classmates from time to time (Val Taylor and Jane Campbell were the set photographers on my film, and I cast David Techman in a supporting role).
What I’ve learned from this experience is to never to take your professors for granted. I wouldn’t have earned these recent accomplishments without them. Their teachings and philosophies on the craft of screenwriting has completely re-programmed the way I approach storytelling. After my film’s screening, there was a Q&A and a guest said he was “blown away” by it. I took it with a grain of salt but if his reaction was genuine, then it’s because I had the world’s greatest teachers and I thank them for being so wise and awesome.