The Daily Times: Maryville High School alumni chart varied paths to careers in the arts

A career in the arts isn’t out of reach, three Maryville High School alumni told today’s students, encouraging them to say yes to opportunities.

When Steve Stanley graduated in 1990 and headed to Rhodes College in Memphis, he studied mathematics and religion before settling on French.

“I was going to be a French teacher,” he told Maryville students gathered in the high school theater Wednesday morning, Nov. 20.

But first he wrote “one fairly mediocre novel” with a friend before they decided their style was better suited for screenplays and began making their own movies.

A master’s degree in film and television from Savannah (Georgia) College of Art and Design (SCAD) led to an internship at a Los Angeles talent agency that Stanley said changed his life.

He intended to write and direct films but ended up working on financing projects for clients such as David Schwimmer. Then he ran a distribution company and started producing films and directing documentaries.

“A career in the arts is fantastic,” Stanley told the teens. But he encouraged them to figure out whether their passion will be a hobby or a job.

“There’s something beautiful about doing it as a hobby and just doing it for the love of it,” he said. “Doing it as a job changes your relationship with it. For me, it was worth doing full time, but I kind of had to constantly renew my joy about it, because sometimes you become jaded.”

Currently he’s a professor at the SCAD, which also gives him time to write and direct films, such as the documentary short “Conway Pride.”


Werner Herzog at UCA

I was thrilled to sponsor and arrange Werner Herzog’s trip to Arkansas, Memphis, and Hot Springs.  I first got to meet Werner while working as an assistant to his agent David Gersh and then later as part of the agency’s finance and sales division.  This was his first trip to the Mid-South and he was a fantastic guest and mentor.

Master Class with Jean-Pierre Jeunet

While working as a Visiting Professor in SCAD Lacoste’s summer program, I had the opportunity to moderate a Master Class/Q&A with renowned filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet.  He’s been a personal hero of mine since I first saw Delicatessen at a midnight screening in Paris in the 90’s, and his insight was incredible for the students (and for me!).


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