“If you ask a thousand people in Hollywood how they got where they are, you’ll get a thousand different stories,” author, screenwriter, and producer Seth Grahame-Smith ’98 told students when he visited campus this week. But the true key to success in the entertainment industry, he said, is persistence.
Grahame-Smith spoke to more than 170 students from varied majors in the Bright Family Screening Room and showed clips from his upcoming films. He also visited a Writing the Short Subject class to speak with aspiring writers.
Among his accomplishments, Grahame-Smith is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He has also written for and produced television and film. He has recently worked with legendary director Tim Burton on several films, including the adaptation of his Lincoln book, which comes out in June.
Grahame-Smith told students he didn’t “make it big” until he’d been in Los Angeles for nearly 11 years. In that time, he saw many of his peers give up on their film and TV dreams, and saw others find success faster than he did. There were times he felt down about his career but he stuck with it, and he encouraged Emerson students to do the same. “Everyone asks me what my advice is,” he said. “Here it is: persist.”
He also said students should expect to fail before they succeed. He cited one of his favorite quotes from Winston Churchill: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
Besides recommending persistence, Grahame-Smith also discussed the value of building relationships. “I always remind myself…it’s only been four years since I mattered to anyone in the industry and it could go away just as fast. What are you going to do to hedge your bets? A lot of that is partnering with people and making friendships,” he said.
Grahame-Smith has done just that with film production company partner David Katzenberg. Their company, KatzSmith Productions, is currently working on several projects, including some written by Emerson alumni.
Grahame-Smith's upcoming novel Unholy Night will be released next month.
Photos by Aja Neahring '13