Dave Neustadter, a Hollywood executive producer, visited his hometown and spoke at the Olive DeLuce Fine Arts Building from 7:30-9 p.m. Feb. 13. He was invited by Kenton Wilcox, an old friend and professor at Northwest, to be one of the speakers for the Distinguished Lecture Series.
The Distinguished Lecture Series is put together by faculty members who are involved in different departments to bring in a variety of lecturers. Wilcox said that it’s a lot of hard work but the audience can benefit from each person’s story.
“We bring in people with experiences that can relate to campus,” Wilcox said.
Neustadter has produced horror movies such as “The Conjuring” series, “IT” and “IT Chapter Two” and many other movies.
Neustadter, the latest guest speaker in the series, and his family moved to Maryville in 1992. He met Wilcox and some of his other friends when he was around 11 or 12 years old.
“Wilcox used to come over and have intellectual conversations with my parents,” Neustadter said, smiling.
Before moving to Maryville, Neustadter had not been to the Midwest. He confessed to the crowd that he imagined it would be like the movie “Footloose.”
“I wanted to be the cool, new guy who brought back dancing and music,” Neustadter said.
Neustadter realized that Maryville was not as conservative as he initially thought, since it was a college town. He eventually managed to find an “island of misfit toys” group of friends of his own.
When Neustadter graduated from Maryville High School, he decided to go to Indiana University and did not declare a major until his junior year.
“I declared a major in theater,” Neustadter said. “My dad asked me, ‘What are you going to do?’ and I didn’t know what to say.”
After graduating from IU, Neustadter continued with graduate school. He said that he was so miserable, he created an incentive in order to finish his projects. He would promise himself he could watch a movie if he wrote a paper or finished a project.
One day, Neustadter recalled driving into the university’s parking lot, listening to “Rocky” theme music, while punching his steering wheel out of frustration. His professor saw him and called him to his office.
“He asked me what I wanted to do, and that’s when I realized I wanted to go into movies,” Neustadter said.
Neustadter dropped out of graduate school and moved to Los Angeles. There, he enrolled in Loyola Marymount University for screenplay.
Neustadter started working in a restaurant where he met Luke Ryan, a story editor at New Line Cinema.
“Ryan gave me his business card and told me if I found myself in LA, he would take me to lunch and possibly give me an internship,” Neustadter said.
Neustadter called MLU and dropped out of grad school, again. He moved in with one of his friends from college, where they lived in a two-bedroom apartment with three other guys.
“I slept on the loveseat for two months,” Neustadter said. “with my legs hangin’ off the edge.”
Neustadter emailed Ryan, and they met up for lunch at a local sandwich shop. Ryan offered him an internship at New Line Cinema.
While interning at New Line Cinema, Neustadter copied a lot of scripts and made a lot of coffee.
After four months, Neustadter was offered an on-call temp job for $10 an hour. After another four months, he moved on to be a paid intern for 48 hours a week for a whole year. Neustadter then became an assistant and worked his way into a role as an executive producer.
“It was worth it; it brought me where I am today,” Neustadter said, “I've been at New Line Cinema for 16 years now.”
Neustadter wished the best to all the young people who are planning to be in the entertainment industry.