New York Film Academy students enthusiastically lined up at the Warner Bros. lot doors to participate in a Q&A with one of Hollywood’s most successful filmmakers. His diverse films resonate with audiences worldwide and have grossed over $2 billion at the global box office. He’s known all over for his infectious positivity, tenacity for his work and intense passion for films and filmmaking. The man we are referring to, of course, is director and producer Brett Ratner. The discussion followed a screening of X-Men: The Last Stand and was moderated by producer Tova Laiter and Dean of Students Eric Conner.
Brett Ratner eagerly took the stage and immediately began dispersing meaningful advice to the students. The first point he made was regarding the importance of a mentor. Brett recounted how founder of the New York Film Academy Jerry Sherlock was a vital mentor to him as he was just starting out in his career. He has remained a close friend of Mr. Sherlock and NYFA ever since, regularly visiting and reconnecting with students at the school’s various campuses.
In addition to his undeniable talent, the trait that becomes apparent within seconds of meeting him is his unending confidence. In regards to this, Brett relayed a very entertaining and downright baffling story about something that happened to him as a young man. While attending college in New York, Brett sent his short film and a letter to 40 of the biggest filmmakers in Hollywood and received 39 rejection letters. Later he was called into the Dean of his college’s office, and was informed that Steven Spielberg called the school and would like talk to him. Brett assumed it was a prank being played on him by his mother or fellow classmates. However, Kathleen Kennedy, the producer of all of Spielberg’s films, later called him on behalf of the legendary director. Brett went on-and-on over the phone to Kathleen about how he was going to be a big director just like Steven Spielberg. Later, Ratner received a check in the mail from Spielberg for his next student film. He took the check to Kinkos and made a gigantic copy of it that he posted in the halls of his dormitory.
Ratner told a fascinating story to students that conveyed the importance of a film school education. A filmmaking professor, who Brett perceived as obstinate and overly hard on him while he was in school, once made him stay up all night rewriting a comedy script that he felt wasn’t funny before shooting it at 6am the next day. Years later Brett was hired at the age of 26 to direct his first feature Money Talks. He was challenged with shooting the biggest and most important scene, the movie’s climax, on the first day of shooting. Ratner had set up the first shot and was ready for the film’s two stars, Chris Tucker and Charlie Sheen, however he was informed that both actors had refused to leave their trailer. Panicked, Brett visited Sheen and Tucker who explained to the newbie director that they would not shoot the scene because it wasn’t funny. Although he was under a huge time constraint, Ratner proceeded to rewrite the scene with Sheen and Tucker for the next two and a half hours while producers banged on the trailer door insisting they all come out. Brett Ratner understood that the story and his lead actors’ trust in him took precedent over everything else and if he hadn’t have stopped to address these things, he would have probably soon been fired from the movie. And it wasn’t until all those years later that Brett realized his stubborn filmmaking instructor was preparing him for that exact moment which allowed him to continue on a path to unimagined success.
Brett stayed late into the night answering all the students questions. Afterwards, he took pictures with students and his staff handed out trucker hats with his RatPac company logo. We sincerely thank Brett Ratner for visiting the New York Film Academy and being such a generous friend to the school’s students.
BIOGRAPHY: Brett Ratner began his career directing music videos before making his feature directorial debut with Money Talks, starring Charlie Sheen and Chris Tucker. He followed with the blockbuster Rush Hour and its successful sequels. Brett also directed The Family Man, Red Dragon, After the Sunset, X-Men: The Last Stand, Tower Heist and Hercules. Ratner has also enjoyed success as a producer. His recent films include the smash hit comedy Horrible Bosses and its sequel, and the re-imagined Snow White tale Mirror Mirror. He also served as an executive producer on Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp. Upcoming RatPac projects include Truth, starring Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett; I Saw the Light, starring Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen; an as-yet-untitled Howard Hughes project, written and to be directed and produced by Warren Beatty; and the much-anticipated drama The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. His additional producing credits include the documentaries Catfish, the Emmy-nominated Woody Allen – A Documentary, Helmut by June, and I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale. He also executive produced the Golden Globe-nominated FOX series Prison Break, and is currently executive producing the television series Rush Hour, based on his hit films. Brett, along with his business partner James Packer, formed RatPac Entertainment, a film finance production and media company, in 2013. RatPac has a first-look deal with Warner Bros. and joined with Dune Capital to co-finance over 75 films including Gravity, The Lego Movie, and American Sniper. Internationally, Warner Bros. and RatPac have formed a joint venture content fund with China’s Shanghai Media Group to finance local Chinese content. In partnership with New Regency, RatPac also finances the development and production of Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment.