But it wasn’t too long ago when the filmmaker had no idea how Hollywood worked. His enrollment in Emerson’s Los Angeles Program his senior year changed all that.
“If it wasn’t for Emerson’s LA Program, I don’t know how I could have possibly gone to Los Angeles,” to begin a film career, Ryder said.
Now, he’s giving advice to students beginning a semester at the new Emerson College Los Angeles, which opens in less than 13 days, on January 12.
“I had some pretty fantastic teachers in the LA Program who helped me learn how to make films,” he said. “And then I realized how invaluable it was to just jump into the work force. The proverbial ‘Emerson Mafia’ was instrumental in helping me figure that out.”
Before arriving in Hollywood, Ryder remembers shooting films in Boston’s Back Bay for his Emerson classes with a Bolex camera.
“It was the first time I learned how to tell a story with a camera,” he said.
Ryder called himself an overachiever while studying in Los Angeles—balancing three internships during the same semester. He jumped from the American Film Institute to Panasonic to Working Title Films, a production company.
“You have to either be an overachiever or incredibly lucky, or incredibly talented,” he said. “I wasn’t incredibly smart or talented, so I had to go for the first two.”
His work paid off because Working Title Films offered him a job as a receptionist. From there, he worked up the ranks to an assistant and then a production coordinator.
“I had never been to LA. I didn’t know a single person out here. So I had to find a job in order for me to stay,” Ryder said.
Ryder says students at Emerson College Los Angeles—particularly Visual and Media Arts majors interested in film—ought to use their youth as an advantage.
“It’s only gotten harder to make movies,” Ryder said. “If you’re young…you have a really good idea of the films people are seeing and watching. That’s a huge help.”
“You better have an understanding of the classics of films and the language of films,” he continued. “But if you have a really good idea of what people are interested in and what works at a commercial level, then you have a really good shot at getting a foothold out here.”
Ryder is currently producing the film Transcendence starring Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman, which is scheduled for release April 18, 2014.