Scott Derrickson, director of the new hit Marvel film Dr. Strange, shared his journey as a director, for the College of Entertainment and the Arts’ “An Awkward Evening with with Scott Derrickson” in Collins Alumni Auditorium on Friday night.

The well-known horror film director said he first heard the gospel in a church neighboring his father’s car dealership in Colorado. Steve Taylor, Filmmaker in Residence at Lipscomb, was also attending this church.

Derrickson and Taylor reminisced on the many films that came to the local theater and how that inspired each of their careers.

“I remember seeing Top Gun (1986), and it was probably the best use of surround sound up to that point,” Derrickson said. “I saw it with a friend of mine and walking out of the theater I said, ‘I think I know what I want to do for a living.’”

During his college years at Biola University, Derrickson became obsessed with reading and studying philosophy and discovering the purpose of faith (while dropping all film classes).

“I started taking so many philosophy classes because I was really doubting what I believed,” Derrickson noted. “I was lost, and it was really awful.”

Derrickson was on a downward path of disbelief when he read Orthodoxy (1908) by G. K. Chesterton. This book drastically changed Derrickson’s outlook on life and faith and influenced many of his films.

“I grew up making haunted houses in our basement for the neighborhood kids and always had a certain love for gothic art and entertainment,” Derrickson said. “I wasn’t necessarily bent on doing horror films, but when I saw Suspiria (1977), I recognized a deficiency in American horror.”

A clip from the Italian film Suspiria was then shown, allowing the audience to see the drama and suspense it’s known for in the first few scenes. Derrickson spoke on how this film impacted the way he made his horror films in an effort to grow the genre in America.

“When it comes to genre film making, whether I am writing a thriller, or a horror film or a superhero movie, I always take the action scenes or the horror scenes out of the script,” Derrickson said. “I read the script without those sequences in it to see if there is a strong enough drama to sustain a movie by itself.”

Using this technique of taking apart the script helped lead Derrickson’s film The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) to success. The film was a unique addition to the genre that marked the beginning of Derrickson’s career.

However, not long after The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Derrickson got caught in a legal situation, leaving him stuck directing The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008). Negative reactions and horrible reviews arose after this film, holding Derrickson’s career at a stand still.

“As I watched my career evaporate, I was immediately stunned by how painful that was to me personally and how much my identity had suddenly and rapidly become rooted in the success of my movies,” Derrickson said. “I felt fear and anxiety about my future, and I was depressed, and I knew that I shouldn’t be those things.”

Despite the bad experience, Derrickson believes that he learned the most about directing on the set of The Day the Earth Stood Still. After a few years of dead-end film offers, Derrickson was offered a job that greatly influenced his career.

While drawing on his experience of career failure and identity struggle, Derrickson wrote and directed Sinister (2012) which became an instant success.

“Filmmaking is so difficult; one must be aware of their strengths and weaknesses,” Derrickson said. “A lot of the qualities of the works I’ve done that made it popular is its freshness within the genre.”

At a pinnacle in his career, Derrickson auditioned and accepted a job as the director for Marvel’s newest movie Doctor Strange (2016).

“Working with Marvel was an incredibly enriching experience for me,” Derrickson said. “They are artists who care about one thing, and it’s the movie.”

To the audience’s delight, Derrickson hinted at a sequel to Doctor Strange and will continue to thrill the audience in horror films yet to come.

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

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