“Appreciate anything and everything that is out there…”
Doug Aarniokoski has done it all. From Universal Studios tour guide, to working director on critically acclaimed and popular films like Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Doug has become one of television's most in-demand directors. No star-trip here, he's all about the business of show, and has an effusive love for storytelling. Here's what he had to say in an extremely pleasant and informative phone interview yesterday:
TJ: To begin, can you tell us where you hail from? Where were you born and how did you end up living in Los Angeles? What originally appealed to you about directing and how did you get your start?
DA: Originally from San Francisco and now down in LA full time. And well, I was one of those kids who grew up being dropped off at the Cineplex, and I would spend my Saturdays and Sundays watching movies! I was just a lover of film, grew up watching Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Spielberg, love the experience of being in a dark room with strangers and being told a story. I fell in love with it, and when I graduated high school, I packed up my car, drove down to LA, and I was gonna try and figure out how to work in the movie business. I didn't know anybody, didn't have any contacts, I enrolled at UCLA so I'd have a place to live and somewhere to eat every day. I started poking around Universal Studios and got a job as a tour guide. On my days off, I would pass out resumes with nothing on it just looking for someone to give me a shot. Someone gave me a shot – my first film was Rambo III, I was a PA. From that day on, never worked a day in my life, became an AD for many years, became Robert Rodriguez's 2nd unit director, and worked on and AD'd all his films since Four Rooms.
TJ: In going about my research, I discovered that you pretty much have done it all! Production assistant, actor, you've written screenplays, assistant directed, now director in your own right. Do you feel as though it makes you a better director, having done all those other jobs previously?
DA: You know, it does. having an understanding of how a film set or TV set works, it all works, the crew works and what their jobs are, one thing to be good storyteller which is first and foremost, still the functioning aspect of the set – understanding the parameters, what it takes and the time that you have… And it's not always just about...
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