American Horror Story Season 4, Production Headshots, Photo Credit: Michael Becker/FX

When MovieMaker asked a range of successful indie filmmakers to participate in our Film School Roundtable article for our Summer 2015 issue, we received a wide range of insightful, hilarious, and diverse answers.

The three questions we asked each alum: What did you do right in film school, what did you do wrong, and what advice would you have for 2015’s incoming class of budding auteurs? Like the cool upperclassmen whose brains you always wanted to pick, but were too shy to vocalize, we’re happy to step in as your moderator and fraternal big brother.

This week, James Wong (Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television, Class of ’83) shares his wisdom. Amongst his many credits, Wong has served as writer and executive producer of television hits American Horror Story and The X-Files, writer of Final Destination, and writer-producer of Final Destination 3.


1. What did you do right when you were in film school?

James Wong (JW): I was obsessed with movies when I was in college—still am. I immersed myself with films and filmmaking in school. That meant going to all the screenings at school, whether I was in the class or not. It meant (in those days) going to the revival houses and watching old movies. The ability to watch classic films is easier done today, with streaming and DVDs providing access to almost every title.

And most importantly, I was surrounded by a group of like-minded friends. We worked on, talked about and went to movies all the time. And those friends are the ones who have helped me in the business. Networking, finding people who you can collaborate with, opening yourself to work with different types of creative people—those are the right things to do in film school.

2. What did you do wrong when you were in film school?

JW: Authority and creativity are two different things. The mistake I regret the most is listening blindly to an authoritative opinion, changing my project without understanding why, and later realizing my initial instinct was right. Professors are there to guide and teach, but the project you create will have your name on it. Make sure it’s the one you want to make.

3. What’s the one best piece of advice you’d give to an incoming film student, so that they can make the most of their time at film school?

JW: Do not spend an entire semester stoned. It will not make you more creative. MM