Hollywood director and writer Mark Neveldine ’95 has returned to his alma mater a number of times to share his knowledge and passion with students. Most recently, he and personal assistant Daniel Webb ’13 spent a Tuesday evening with students in Professor of English Grant Holly’s course, “The Art of the Screenplay.”
Neveldine has directed and filmed commercials and produced, acted in, written and directed films including “CRANK I,” “CRANK II” and “Gamer.” Because of his range of experience, he was able to provide insight into many different aspects of the industry. Among the things he discussed was the difficulty of getting projects off the ground, the importance of being passionate about one’s work, and the necessity of hard work.
“I worked every Saturday and Sunday of my life until I made it in this business,” Neveldine said. “The can-do people are the ones that make it.”
Holly reiterated Neveldine’s points about the dedication necessary to be successful in the film industry. “I think the cautionary remarks are very important. It’s a place for people who want to work in that world,” he said.
However, Holly and Neveldine both agreed that the unique curriculum at HWS prepares students for careers in film.
“Students ask what should I major in to get into this world. Major in something that brings something to the table. Even media and society here is a very liberal arts major…Hobart and William Smith students know how to think critically. You anticipate what the task is and get it done. You’re literate and you write well,” Holly said.
The students began class by viewing the 1940’s film “Casablanca” with Neveldine. Each week, the students read screenplays and study the films that have been made from them. They pay special attention to elements of story, structure, character development and techniques for turning written text into moving images.
Neveldine and Webb engaged in the discussion of the film with Holly and Webb recounted his experiences as a recent graduate. He moved to Los Angeles immediately after graduation and, through connections in the HWS community, began interning with Neveldine and ultimately was hired as his assistant.
“Hobart is such an amazing community of people, where you have immediate access to all of your friends and so many things happening all the time, and then I moved to a city that I’d never been to before, that was a rough adjustment,” said Webb.
“You have to be persistent. You have to keep working at it-whatever you’re trying to do. And just never give up. It progressively gets better. It happens quicker than you think. I’m in a great situation now thanks to these two guys,” he added, referring to Neveldine and Holly.
Webb also emphasized the importance of reaching out to HWS alums, both before and after graduation. “It’s pretty amazing when you meet someone and you immediately have a bond with them, rather than going to a giant university that has 50,000 new students every year. People are very willing to help you.”
Evidence of alums’ willingness to help could be found in that Tuesday night’s visit. Neveldine, who lives in Cooperstown, N.Y., was not asked by Holly to come speak on campus – he called Holly to tell him he was back in the area and able to come to campus. He has also participated in the Los Angeles winter break program, meeting with students interested in film careers.
Neveldine earned his B.A. in psychology from Hobart College. While a student, he was a member of the football and lacrosse teams and made Dean’s List.
Webb graduated from Hobart with a B.A. in media and society and minored in philosophy and law and society. He was a member of the club hockey and club soccer teams as a student and was also named to Dean’s List.