S3 E4: RUBEN FLEISCHER – DIRECTOR
If you’ve seen Zombieland, Venom, Gangster Squad, or 30 Minutes Or Less, you’ve seen Ruben Fleischer’s work. That’s an intimidating resume if you’re someone who wants to be a director someday. But it’s not as intimidating when you hear Ruben’s origin story.
He graduated college as a History major. Then, of course, he became a coder and made websites for ad agencies in California. He wasn’t a good writer and didn’t know much about making movies, but he wanted to. A friend of his got him a job as a PA on a very low-budget indie movie, which included tasks like getting coffee, printing out scripts, and doing the director’s laundry. The movie did well, Ruben cultivated a great relationship with the director, and he got to work on the director’s next movie. He kept learning, kept grinding.
In the meantime, he was making friends in LA, going to comedy shows constantly, and getting some ideas of his own. He started making music videos and shorts, getting experience, sending things out, and trying to make a name for himself. And then, he exploded!
That’s actually not true. He didn’t explode. So, he did more work, created his own website (remember, this is back when not everyone had a website), and refined his style. He sent out link after link to people, and the traffic DID start coming. He got some attention for a particular music video, and the next thing he knew, he was shooting a McDonald’s commercial.
From there, things did start happening. The days of relentlessly trying new things failing and trying more were paying off. He got his first feature film, Zombieland, and ended up making a beloved classic that arguably contains the best cameo in the history of movies. If you haven’t seen it, come on!
Here are Three Big How’s from a guy who has stayed humble, honest, and, yes, nice in the cutthroat world of Hollywood:
THREE BIG HOW’S
You want to be a director? Prove you’re worthy of it. That’s Ruben’s advice. You’re going to have to go out there and make stuff. If you don’t write, find a writer. If you don’t edit, learn the software that probably came with your computer. Not that there ever really were excuses, but not more excuses exist today. Steven Soderbergh—who can certainly get the funding for some pretty good cameras—made an film on his iPhone. (Nobody’s saying you should default to your iPhone; Ruben’s just saying there are accessible tools out there that will enable YOU to make stuff.)
TRANSPARENCY & HONESTY
Ruben’s persona exudes collaborative spirit. He is not a credit taker, nor is he trying to appear as something different than he is. His transparent, honest approach has enabled him to truly connect with other people…through his work and in his day-to-day life. It means a lot to share a compliment or a kind words to people at any level (in person, in an email, or in a DM). Yes, even in Hollywood.
Ruben said he always considers himself the least talented person on the set. He values everyone’s contributions equally, and he expects everyone to pull his/her own weight. Like several of our guests, he started at the bottom…as a PA. And he did a great job as a PA. Without displaying that attitude all the way up the ladder, there would have been no ladder.