May 8, 2018

Tim Story Gives Advice to Future Filmmakers

By Phenia Hovsepyan

Tim Story, USC School of Cinematic Arts alum and director of  box office hits including BarbershopThink Like a Man, Ride Along, and Fantastic Four, sat down with SCA students on April 30th for a question and answer session as part of the Our Voices series of events held by the School’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion. Story, who has directed six number one box office debuts shared his experiences and gave advice to the next generation of filmmakers. Story said he knew he wanted to make movies since he was twelve-years-old, when his brother gave him his first camera. From that early passion sparked a decades long career, and Story looked back on the lessons he learned along the way with a theater full of eager cinema students. 

Students asked questions related to cultivating and staying true to one’s perspective and experiences as they entered the industry. “You have to find the story you’re telling. You have to figure out how to tell it in every scene, every character,” Story said. He added that, “The more specific I make the story, the more universal it is.” He also reassured students that they will find their unique voice and form of expression as long as they keep looking for it: “You’d be surprised what your voice ends up being!” Looking back at his time as a student at the USC Story said the lasting thing he learned and took with him into the film business was the ability to collaborate: “You can’t make a movie by yourself. You have to work with people who are better at the things you aren’t good at,” he said. 

The evening was moderated by Christine Acham, professor in the Cinema & Media Studies Division who chairs the Diversity Council. Acham shared an interesting anecdote: That Story is known to make delicious cheesecakes. Story said he took up baking during a time in his life when his independent movies were not doing well and he was questioning his career as a director. Eventually, people were calling him to order cheesecakes. While he didn’t open a bakery he said the pressure-free endeavor (he could make a cake and throw it out if it didn’t turn out right) gave him the space he needed to make adjustments in his film career. “You have to step back after failure, figure it out, and adjust,” Story said as he thought back on his success as a baker. “Sometimes you have to figure out how to reinvent yourself and find what made you love movies in the first place. It doesn’t have to be something drastic,” he advised.  He added that the re-adjustment period gave him “the confidence to walk into the room for Think Like A Man and know ‘I’m your guy!’”

Speaking to a room of young artists Tim Story assured them that, “Now is the time to be off balance and design your life to make the art you want to make.” For women and minority filmmakers, he added, “There has never been a better time to say ‘hey, check out my stuff!’ You just have to have the stuff.” Story closed the inspiring evening with one piece of overarching advice: “Just keep telling your story!”

Above from left to right: Student Affairs Manager Benjamin Pola, Christine Acham, Tim Story.