The twin brother creators of Netflix's Stranger Things, Matt and Ross Duffer, went from being Chapman University Film School grads struggling in menial industry assistant jobs to the creators of one of the biggest streaming shows on the planet in the span of a few short years.
Your childhood can be a goldmine for storytelling, so dig deep.
In this short, candid video interview, launching exclusively through No Film School, Matt and Ross discuss how they used their “weird” childhood to create something personal that launched their careers into the stratosphere. Check out the video and read our top takeaways below.
Your childhood is a storytelling goldmine
When Matt and Ross stopped writing what they thought the industry wanted and started writing what they themselves wanted to see, something clicked. They drew upon their experiences growing up in North Carolina and feeling “weird” about being twins, dealing with obnoxious finger pointing “Hey, look! Twins!”, and the resulting adventures they took with friends to escape into their imaginations.
The result was Stranger Things, a show set in the rural town of Hawkins, Indiana in the early 1980s that follows a group of “weird” childhood buds and the adventure they embark on to save their missing friend. There’s a theme here that extends beyond the Duffer brothers to a filmmaker whom they admire: Steven Spielberg. In the recent HBO documentary, Spielberg, the director shares that his first feature film, Duel, about a normal guy chased by a relentless malevolent trucker, was really about himself (the normal guy) and bullies (malevolent trucker) during his childhood. (Listen to our entire podcast episode about the documentary here.)
Bottom line is that your childhood can be a goldmine for storytelling, so dig deep. It might be painful if you’re honest with yourself, but treasures await.
Watch a great movie
If you’re feeling uninspired, watch one of your favorite movies—one that reminds you of why you fell in love with movies in the first place. Matt and Ross drew upon their love of classic '80s cinema—Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Terminator, Ghostbusters—to get excited about developing Stranger Things. Once again there’s a theme here that extends beyond the Duffer brothers to acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro has said that while directing he’d wake up super early and watch clips from one of his favorite films to get inspired for the day’s shoot.
What weird experiences have you had that might make for a great script? Let us know in the comments!
The interview was shot at Technicolor Los Angeles where Matt and Ross Duffer completed the SDR and HDR color grades and sound editorial and mix on 'Stranger Things 2'.