Whenever Mark Neveldine ’95 had the chance to get behind a camera or in the director’s seat, he took it. At family reunions, he volunteered to shoot footage; in high school he directed plays such as “Brigadoon.” Even then, Neveldine knew he wanted to do it all – act, write, direct.
“I kept pushing until something clicked,” he explained. Today, Neveldine is a successful director, writer and producer in Hollywood, with such films as “Crank,” “Jonas Hex” and “The Gamer” under his belt.
Only months after wrapping shooting on “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” starring Nicholas Cage, the director – joined by his wife actress Alison Lohman (of “White Oleander” and “The Gamer”) and infant son, Billy – took the time to visit Professor of English Grant Holly’s The Art of the Screenplay class. During his guest appearance, Neveldine discussed his career path, Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” Hollywood’s current outlook on film production, and his time at Hobart and William Smith.
“It’s always exciting to have high-profile alumni and alumnae return to campus to share their stories and time with our students,” said Director of Alumni Relations Jared Weeden ’91, who was in attendance. “Mark really engaged the class and provided a glimpse into the life of a screenwriter and director. He’s a great example for our students.”
From the moment he arrived on campus as an undergraduate, Neveldine found ways to pursue his interests in film and acting despite spending much of this time on the field playing for the Statesmen football and lacrosse teams. Neveldine joined the acting troupe the Phoenix Players – serving as the group’s president in his senior year – and acting in numerous plays. He took courses with Professors Grant Holly and Robert Gross, learning about dramatic literature and screenwriting.
It wasn’t until 1998 when he bought his first camera that he gave film a try. “I read the manual and just started shooting. I didn’t go to film school,” explained Neveldine. “I played with the focus; I did what I thought looked like the movies that I saw.”
Neveldine explained to the class that while interning in New York City for a summer, he accidentally discovered a unique style of shooting – by donning a pair of rollerblades and holding a camera while hitching rides on the sides of busses and cabs. “I filmed on my way to and from work,” said Neveldine, who remembers the excitement he felt when reviewing his footage for the first time. “I had never seen anything like it.”
It was this technique, Neveldine explained, that leveraged him into a commercial with Nike, which in turn opened many more doors in the industry. Since that commercial, Neveldine has written, produced and directed a number of films.
“I am just loving it,” remarked Neveldine of his career and current path. “This isn’t a job where you wake up at 8 and think: ‘Ugh. I guess I need to go to work.’ You wake up with crazy ideas. When I wake up, I’m excited to do what I do.”
Neveldine encouraged the students to pursue their own passions, offering an important piece of advice: “Every day I do five things for my career. Whether I make five phone calls, write five pages of a script, or send out five e-mails, I put that energy out there. If I do that, it will come back. Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.”
However, when it comes down to it, Neveldine said that a career in the industry must be about the love of film. “There are a million people to the right of me and another million to my left who want to take my job,” posited Neveldine. “If you know what you want, what you love, do it. Stick to your guns – that’s the key to happiness.”