Take that, Dad!
What's the scariest monster to you? I remember watching the classic Hollywood monster movies with my dad when I was a kid and hiding behind the couch. It turns out that another father/son relationship is why those movies happened, but that one was way more damaged and unhealthy.
Julian David Stone’s novel It’s Alive! tracks the birth of the monster movie industry at Universal. It tells the story of Junior Laemmle. He was 23 years old and seen as a wunderkind in Hollywood. Someone who really understood movies. He was the head of all movie production for Universal Pictures, and under his reign, the studio was making a ton of money.
Carl Laemmle, his father and founder of the studio, hated what his son was doing. He hated the monster movies and was ready to stop him from making another one after Dracula, even though that movie was a huge hit!
This push and pull between son and father wound up being the crux behind Universal's monster movie boom of the 1930s. It changed the studio and movie history, creating some of the first crowd-pleasing blockbusters and bringing horror to the mainstream.
“I would never claim that Junior created the horror film, but I think there’s a pretty strong argument to be made that he’s the single person most responsible for horror becoming a genre,” Stone told the Los Angeles Times.
What does this mean for today's filmmakers?
This is a really interesting tidbit of Hollywood cinema history. And I think it speaks to a larger thing we all wonder about—how do we mine our personal relationships for inspiration?
When Junior heard his father didn't approve, he set out to find more monsters to bring to the screen. This obsession led to a fruitful box office and a legacy that stands the test of time. But it also led to him finding stories about torment, about proving doubters wrong, and about becoming the monster of your own story.
So what are some relationships you have to mine? Maybe you don't have the power to greenlight a bunch of movies, but you do have the power to put your ideas down on paper or collaborate with storytellers to get these emotions out into the open.
This all comes back to the thing we talk about so often—what do you have to say that's personal to you? Because, oftentimes, personal stories are universal. They have the specific details that people realize they're also going through and dealing with... so you might not be alone.
There are monsters everywhere. Get yours on the page and to the screen.
Let me know what you think in the comments.