Sixteen million viewers around the world binged on Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 2 within the first three days of the science fiction-horror series’ Oct. 27, 2017 season release. Of those 16 million, 361,000 viewers binged, watching all nine episodes one right after the other.
I was sure one of them: holed up in my apartment for nine hours straight, checking for flickering lights out of the corner of my eye and doing double-takes in every corner to make sure demogorgons weren’t lurching at me through the walls. Naturally. Did you do the same?
“It’s safe to say Stranger Things has become an instant classic,” said Akin Ceylan ’90, COO of home entertainment at Lionsgate and president of Chapman University’s Alumni Association, as he introduced Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer ’07 for the master class they gave in Dodge’s Folino Theater Nov. 3.
The Duffer Brothers returned to their alma mater to be honored with the Alumni Achievement Award at Chapman Celebrates Gala Night on Nov. 4. Sarah Ann Fowler and Dale E. Fowler ’58 were also honored at the event with the Citizens of the Year Award.
The Duffer Brothers kicked off their two-day homecoming by giving back to Chapman University and its students by presenting their master class. In class, they shared 11—punny guys, aren’t they?—tips on how to find success by following your dreams after college.
1. “Learn from the masters.”
“Watch a lot of stuff,” Ross said. “Consume comedy, horror, romance—everything.” The Duffer Brothers explained how watching a variety of television and film, and lots of it, will help you pick up on what works and what doesn’t.
Not into filmmaking? Apply their tip to your field. Interested in writing, teaching, science, psychology, running a business? Become a regular consumer of what the leaders in your industry produce.
Eventually you’ll become an expert at getting what you want in life. Speak your truth like Joyce Byers.
2. “Work hard in college—really hard.”
The Duffer Brothers said that part of what made college fun was dedicating themselves to all aspects of filmmaking—24/7. They explained how the classrooms of the film school (then located in DeMille Hall) were constantly filled to the wee hours of the morning with students who, today, have achieved major success, such as Dear White People writer and director Justin Simien ’05.
“You saw these guys and just knew—that guy (or woman) is going to make it big time,” Matt said, emphasizing that this dedicated group of students’ tireless, never-ending efforts would surely pay off.
They also said they realized they wouldn’t accomplish their dream of becoming directors solely by directing lots of short films in college. They directed some, but they realized the key to success in the film industry is to know how to write because production companies are always looking for worthy content. So the Duffer Brothers seized the opportunity to learn how to write scripts in film school—on top of simultaneously learning to direct, produce, design sound and more.
If you’re prone to working so hard your nose bleeds, keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
3. “Intern, intern, intern!”
Sometimes you might feel like Mike here at the thought of another internship, but take it from the Duffer Brothers—it’s worth it.
4. “Write what you want.”
Did you know that the Duffer Brothers were turned down the first few times they made their pitch for Stranger Things?
“No one wanted the ’80s and no one wanted kids as leads,” they explained. But the Duffer Brothers wanted their show to be set in the ’80s and for kids to star in it. Turns out these are two of the top reasons the show has become and instant classic.
This applies outside of filmmaking as well. Do what you want. Follow your passion.
TRUTH from Jonathan Byers:
5. “Always return to what inspired you in the first place.”
The Duffer Brothers explained that they went through a period before Stranger Things where they felt almost dejected enough to leave Hollywood. They said that during this time, they were writing what production companies wanted. They decided they’d stop writing about these things, but then they were stuck: what would they write now?
They soon realized that the problem was that they’d stopped writing about what had inspired them to make films in their earliest filmmaking days during childhood. Paranormal, coming-of-age stories originally fueled their passion for making films. They started writing this genre again and Stranger Things was born.
Whether fighting demogorgons or hitting the arcade, these guys know how to keep enthusiasm and inspiration alive.
6. “Find your purpose.”
What do you live for? Would you take on the Upside-Down for it?
Find your passion and fight for it with the same gusto Joyce Byers has when fighting for Will.
7. “Don’t over-analyze why something works. Just go with it.”
So many people want to talk about why Stranger Things works, the Duffer Brothers said.
“Deconstructing why Stranger Things works is the wrong thing to do,” Ross said. “Don’t pay attention to what’s hot in the marketplace. Just do what makes sense to you.”
Eleven does not question why she likes Eggos. She just devours them…by the box.
8. “Find what works for you and stick with that.”
Barb knew Nancy better than Nancy knows herself. Know yourself. Be your own Barb.
9. “Be opportunistic. Don’t give up.”
You might get some doors slammed in your face like our friend Dustin here. But—Season 2 spoiler alert!—his persistence with the ladies pays off.
10. “Learn to say no.”
The Duffer Brothers had a few early offers on Stranger Things from production companies. But these companies would not let the brothers direct the show they created. The Duffers’ response? They took advice from Eleven and said no to the offers.
Sometimes we all need to take Eleven’s lead.
11. “Super cheesily, we were going to give 11 tips, but we lost one on the car ride over here,” Matt explained at the master class.
“Oh, reeeally?” says Barb.
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