“There’s a short sightedness that comes with playing sports.”
“I don’t even know if college has a dean of discipline but my high school did. It’s like the dean of discipline at the school and it’s her, and I’m going for this horrible meeting.”
“I was shocked, I was angered, I was frustrated, scared.”
“There’s nothing like seeing a great movie and being a filmmaker yourself ’cause it’s inspiring.”
– Ryan Coogler
Evan: He’s an American film director and screen writer.
His first feature film, Fruitvale Station, won two awards at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
He also wrote and directed the seventh film in the Rocky saga, Creed.
He’s Ryan Coogler and here is my take on his top 10 rules of success.
Rule number one is my personal favorite and I’m really curious to figure out which one you guys like the best.
Also, as Ryan is talking, if he says something that’s really impactful to you that really means a lot to you, please leave it in the comments below and put quotes around it so other people can be inspired as well. Enjoy.
Rule #1: Create From The Heart
Interviewer: The last Rocky movie before Creed, the final scene. Was it your way of saying goodbye to the character, goodbye to that?
Sylvester: Yeah, goodbye to everything. Goodbye to the best chapters of my life, at least professional life, it really was. Then along comes this young guy out of Oakland. I’m going, “What?”
Interviewer: Ryan Coogler.
Sylvester: Ryan Coogler.
Narrator: When director Ryan Coogler first met with Stallone, he was untested as a feature filmmaker. But he had an intensely personal idea for reviving the Rocky franchise. Coogler’s father had fallen gravely ill a few years earlier. With Ryan by his side, there was only one thing the elder Coogler wanted to watch.
“If you really dug down deep and asked a real Rocky fan why he likes the movies, it’s usually because they watched them with somebody that they love. What’s so great about them is they’re so personal to people. People just associate it with their family.” – Ryan Coogler
Sylvester: The father’s a very soulful powerful man and now he’s being reduced to a shell of his former self. But oddly, he watches Rocky again, and again, and again. His son, who loves his father, sitting right beside him, he’s watching his father disintegrate before his very eyes. The traumatic impact was so imprinted on this young man that he never got over it. He comes to me, he goes, “Hey, well I got this great idea. “We’re going to revive Rocky.” I go, “How?” When he told me the story, I said, “This is insane, wrong. “You’re a young kid, you haven’t done anything yet. “But I appreciate the thought.” He goes, “Okay, see you around.” He goes out and he does a masterpiece, Fruitvale Station, wins the Cannes Film Festival. Every studio wants him. What’s he want to do? Creed. I went now either this guy here is just trying my patience or he reminds me of a guy I used to know.
Interviewer: I was going to say that was you 40 years ago.
Sylvester: Yeah, it was, absolutely. Then I realized this is not a movie for him. It’s for his father. This is all about a love letter to his father.
Ryan Coogler: If you really dug down deep and asked a real Rocky fan why he likes the movies, it’s usually because they watched them with somebody that they love. What’s so great about them is they’re so personal to people. People just associate it with their family.
Rule #2: Don’t Be Short-Sighted
The first time I told my dad that I was going to go to film school, and not continue to play football, he was heartbroken. He was really upset. He didn’t want me to do it. I thought that was going to be what I was. But there’s a short sightedness that comes with play sports for so long.
The shelf life on a career in athletics is much more compressed than a career in other things. I kind of thought about this idea. You’re playing football, if you’re fortunate enough to keep playing professionally, maybe until about 30, you’re considered a veteran. You know what I mean? I was very interested in getting into a space where I was flipped.
If you tell somebody you’re a 30 year old filmmaker, they’re like, “Aw, you’re a baby.” You got so much more time to grow, so much time to learn more about the craft and continue to stretch. You can do it until you’re a winner in your life. You know what I’m saying? That was what kind of attracted me to switching careers.
Rule #3: Get Talented Players
A college coach once said, “95% of college football is recruiting.” If you’re able to get talented players, a lot of you’re work is done for yourself. Same thing goes for directing. When you cast the right actors, you find talented actors that are generally great people to spend time with and be around. A lot of your work is done for yourself.
Rule #4: Have A Passion For Your Craft
I definitely got into this because I believe in the power of emotion, you know what I mean? I think that filmmaking is an incredible way to trigger empathy in other people and do tell stories to get people to relate to characters that they never met before. I think that that is something that I’ll always want to be in tune with, not just as an artist but as a human being. Putting passion in the things, into my craft, and putting emotion into my craft.
Rule #5: Find Your True Path
It’s kind of like this creature of two worlds. I went to private school but I lived in some of the more difficult neighborhoods in the Bay Area. So I didn’t really fit in anywhere except the football field. I really like math and science. I got a football scholarship to a liberal arts school called St. Mary’s College in the Bay Area.
I went in there and I wanted to major in chemistry ’cause I really like chemistry. I figured that if football didn’t work out, I could always go to med school and become a doctor. That school, ’cause it was a liberal arts school, they made you take these creative writing classes.
I took this creative writing class taught by this professor, who is also a novelist, named Rosemary Graham. On the first day of class, we sit down and she just talks about how much she hates football players.
Yeah and how football is like the most barbaric ridiculous sport, how it should be outlawed. I’m like in the front of the class, like I think I want to leave. But we talked, we had a little argument and we agreed to disagree at the time. She assigned us an assignment which was tell me about your most emotional experience you’ve ever had in your life. I want you to write about in prose and then turn it in. I wrote about mine. I didn’t think much about it.
I did it honestly. If I would’ve been thinking, I probably wouldn’t have written about what I wrote about. I turned it in and I was in my dorm, hanging out with a bunch of my football teammates, with my neighborhood, and I got a call from her on my dorm phone.
She’s like, “Hey, what are you doing?” I’m like, “I’m in my dorm.” She’s like, “I need you to come “down to my office immediately. “It’s about your assignment.” I’m like, Jesus Christ. I’m like why did I write about that?
I kicked everybody out of my dorm. I’m like, “You all got to go.” Then I walked down to her office and I’m just imagining like, I got an overactive imagination. I’m imagining opening up the door and there’s like police. I don’t even know if college has a dean of discipline but my high school did. It’s like the dean of discipline at the school and it’s her, and I’m going for this horrible meeting. I open up the door, and I go in, and it’s just her. She’s like, “Sit down.”
I go walk over and I sit down across from her, like I’m sitting down with Eugene right now. She’s like looking at me. You know those uncomfortable silences? She’s like looking at me, I’m looking back. You know what I mean? She says, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I’m like man, this is terrible. I tell her I want to be a doctor. She’s like, “Why?” Where I come from, if you tell somebody you want to be doctor when you grow up, nobody asks you why.
They’re like, “Great.” “That’s awesome.” She was like, “Why?” I was like, “Nobody ever asks me,” so I’m like, huh, why do I want to be a doctor? I was like, “Oh, I’m good at math and science, “and I figure you should use that if you’re good at it. “What better way to use it than to help people?” I figured doctors can make money honestly and help people while you’re doing it, be a good positive influence on the community. What’s wrong with being a doctor? She was like, “Hmm.” Then she grabbed my paper, and she looked it.
She was like, “Well I read your paper “and it was really visual. “While I was reading it, I felt like I was there.” She said, “That’s actually arguably rarer “than being good at math or science, “and you should consider being a writer. “You can do the same things you’re talking about “but maybe even on a bigger level. “You should maybe even consider going to Hollywood “and writing screenplays,” is what she said. I was completely weirded out at that moment, I was like-
Eugene: What did you think when she told you that?
I thought she was crazy. I didn’t even know what a screenplay was. You know what I mean? I remember looking at her and she had all these books behind her. She had this wall of books. I got ADD, so I remember being insanely jealous ’cause she had so many books. I’m like well I like books, why don’t I have any books? I’ll come back to that. But she said, “I think you should “think about even writing screenplays.”
“I started to write my first screenplay that night. I stayed up till really late in the morning. I started to do it every day. I’ll find myself leaving the weight room, like I got to go back and get on that script. I realized that I really loved to do it.” – Ryan Coogler
I was thinking she was crazy. So I’m like, “Wait, so I’m not in trouble?” She’s like, “No, why would be in trouble?” I was like, “Cool.” I’m like I got to get out of this crazy book lady’s office. You know what I mean? I’m like, “Are we all good here?” She’s like, “Yeah, that’s fine. “I just wanted to talk to you about that. “You should think about it.” I’m like, “Cool,” so I left and I went back to my dorm room. My dorm room was empty and I was like that was the weirdest conversation I ever had in my life. I didn’t even know what a screenplay was, I never seen one. But I remember thinking about how much I like movies.
I always liked movies. I always liked to read. Then I started looking around my dorm room and all I had was like rap posters. I had no books. I had no movies. I was like but I like books, I like movies. Maybe I’ll should start buying books and buying movies. Then I was thinking about what she said about a screenplay. I’m like maybe I should check out what one looks like. I had $20, I hopped in my car, drove to Circuit City.
I walked around the DVD section and I found this Pulp Fiction. I like Pulp Fiction, and I picked it up, and it was a special edition. It had a CD-ROM with the screenplay built into it. It was like $17.99 or something so I’m like this is perfect. I’d buy this, went back to the dorms, popped the CD-ROM in, and saw my first screenplay.
It was like, I don’t know man, it was like, I don’t know. It reminded me of the first time I stepped on the football field and hit somebody. I felt like was at home, you know what I mean? I looked at it and I opened up Microsoft Word, and I thought the formatting was kind of weird.
So I started trying to like ape the formatting in Microsoft Word. I started to write my first screenplay that night. I stayed up till really late in the morning. I started to do it every day. I’ll find myself leaving the weight room, like I got to go back and get on that script. I realized that I really loved to do it. That professor’s like one of my closest friends to this day.
Rule #6: Achieve Greatness
You got guys that are salt, you got guys that are good, you got guys that are great. It’s the same thing like in athletics. You know what I mean? It’s the difference between a good player and a great player. A great player makes those better around him. A great player is somebody who is incredibly has god given talent but also a naturally consistent work ethic, you know what I mean? When those two things meet, that’s when you get greatness.
Rule #7: Have A Backup Plan
I always had a backup plan, you know what I mean? It was never really a backup plan. I imagined in finance, because I liked it. But at the same time I was doing screenwriting. It’s like when I was in film school, I still had my job back in the Bay Area.
Interviewer: The doctor thing, you just decided not for me?
Yeah, I scrapped it. It was tough, like doing chemistry and playing football at the same time. It was like next to impossible. I knew I didn’t want to be an undergrad for a long time and on that track, because of football practice, and because of labs, I would’ve never graduated on time. It would’ve took me like six or seven years to graduate.
Rule #8: Express Your Emotions
I got the idea for doing this movie shortly after the incident itself happened. I was back home in the Bay Area when Oscar was shot. I heard about it around the same time everybody else did. You get a call from people who were riding the train. How the Bay Area works is, San Francisco is where everybody goes to see the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
Everybody from the East Bay going, “Hey, we’re going to Frisco tonight. “We’re going to see the fireworks burst off.” You go down to Embarcadero and you watch ’em behind the clock tower. So everybody in the Bay Area’s there and the only way to really get to San Francisco, to get to that spot, if you’re sane, is to catch the BART. People come from all different backgrounds and everybody’s on BART that night.
Everybody’s coming back. So when that incident happened, a lot of people heard about it. A lot of people called and said, “Somebody got shot.” The BART station, you couldn’t get back on. The train was delayed and people were saying they were on the train. I ended up hearing about it that night.
I was actually working as a bouncer at a rave in the city. I got off and I heard about it. Later on that morning, we found out that he passed away at a hospital. The Bay Area kind of was in an upheaval. It was shortly after that we saw the tape. We saw what happened to him on YouTube and on the news. For me, I was shocked, I was angered, I was frustrated, scared.
More than anything, filled with question as to how this could happen, and why stuff like this continues to happen, and how it could happen in the Bay Area where I’m from. We thought that this, you know what I mean? Thought we were past this kind of stuff. Fortunately, if I’m a filmmaker, and as an artist, I think it’s very natural for artists to get their fears, and their angers, and their frustrations out through their art.
So any time I see something that moves me, I think about it being in a movie, or putting it out in that format. Especially after I saw what happened immediately afterwards, and how the case was politicized, I thought that what if I was able to make a film about this character and maybe people who wouldn’t be able to come around characters like this, to see it, and have insight on what it is to be someone like this, and have insight on why, when these things happen, they’re a tragedy. It’s not just something that you should throw away as yesterday’s news. It’s something that we should really stop and think about.
Rule #9: Make Good Decisions
Interviewer: What was the one thing that Forest Whitaker said to you as you were shooting, that really stuck you, that was something?
Forest is one of those people who he doesn’t talk a whole lot. Everything he says is really important and really moving. I think that the number one thing he told me was to always make the best decision that you can make in the moment. That’s all you can ever do.
I think he was referring to the pressure that surrounds what we make in the film based on the true story. Making a film that’s at the area where it’s taken place. Making a film where you don’t have a lot of resources. Making a film on a short schedule. You just want to make the best decisions that you can that’s facing you and to move on.
Rule #10: Get Inspiration
I love movies, man. I watch ’em incessantly.
Interviewer: Does it inform your work or do you consider
Absolutely. No, absolutely it definitely informs my work. I think that it’s the best thing for a filmmaker to do, is to watch movies. I love doing it. When I see good movies, it reminds me of why I do this. There’s nothing like seeing a great movie and being a filmmaker yourself ’cause it’s inspiring. It’s like wow man, I did this. This is what the industry is capable of doing. This is the effect that it’s capable of having of people, and it makes you want to get back into the lab, and get to work.
Evan: Thank you guys so much for watching. I made this video because Jaime Martinez asked me to.
If there’s a famous entrepreneur that you want me to profile next, leave it down in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do.
I’d also love to know what did Ryan say that had the biggest impact on you?
What was the biggest less that you learned from watching this video?
Super curious to find out. Please leave in the comments below. I’m going to join in the discussion.
Finally, I wanted to give a quick shout out to Rose Tan. Rose, thank you so much for picking up a copy of my book. It really, really, really means a lot to me.
Thank you guys again for watching. I believe in you. I hope you continue to believe in yourself and whatever your own word is. Much love. I’ll see you soon.
Thanks so much for reading Ryan Coogler’s Top 10 Rules For Success 🙂
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