Wednesday, July 7, 2021

These Horror Filmmakers All Graduated from Full Sail University in Florida

The recent announcement of The Requin, an aquatic horror movie starring Alicia Silverstone and James Tupper, included a detail that it was filmed at Universal Studios Orlando. However, producer and filmmaker Aaron B. Koontz’s production company Paper Street Pictures also turned to Florida-based Full Sail University for help, putting Full Sail’s soundstages, equipment, students, and alumni to work on the shoot. For Koontz, Full Sail is more than just a convenient location to shoot a shark feature; he’s an alumnus of the university.

While film school is by no means the only path forward for filmmaking, Full Sail’s creative approach to education provides an immersive, fast-paced, and relevant learning experience that mirrors the workflow and collaboration found throughout today’s rapidly evolving industries. The university offers associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees designed for the world of entertainment, media, arts, and technology. From a genre perspective, the school boasts an impressive roster of graduates who have delivered memorable horror features.

Full Sail University’s horror hall of fame includes…

Steven C. Miller

Film director, writer, and editor Steven C. Miller has worked with some of the biggest action stars on the planet, including Sylvester Stallone, Dave Bautista, Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, and Bruce Willis. While that means that his output favors action, with titles like First Kill and Escape Plan 2, the filmmaker marries that high-octane style with horror, too. Most notably, Miller helmed the bloody killer Santa horror movie Silent Night.

“Full Sail was a fantastic 24-hour a day learning environment,” Miller explained to us when we asked about his experience at the school. “The amount of gear you are allowed to play with at any given time is staggering. I specifically honed in on the editorial and camera departments. Late-night hours with tools like Avid, Final cut, 16mm & 35mm Cameras, Digital Cameras, and an array of Lenses would prove to be invaluable.

“Full Sail encouraged students to be creative full time. Ultimately, that encouragement played a major role in helping me put my feature film debut together. Without their education and support, my career would not be where it is.”

Aaron B. Koontz

Koontz, as mentioned above, wears many hats when it comes to creating horror. He most recently caught attention for directing last year’s The Pale Door and segments of horror anthology Scare Package, of which he also wrote. Aside from the upcoming shark attack feature, The Requin, Koontz keeps busy as a producer, too. He served as executive producer on Starry Eyes and as a production consultant for The Stylist.

“Full Sail was one of those interesting places where you truly get what you put into it. The more you’re willing to invest, the more they will, in turn, invest in you,” Koontz tells us. “I remember going back and auditing old classes and re-taking labs at 1 am just to get more hands-on time with the Camera or with the SMFX.

“So much of Full Sail is just surrounding you with all these wonderful toys and super passionate people to play them with. I can’t tell you how many times I’d go back to an SMFX lecture or audit a camera class with a friend to squeeze in every minute we could. I ate this up then and still down almost 20 years later.”

E.L. Katz

Katz spent a decade as a genre screenwriter in Los Angeles after graduating Full Sail in 2002. He’s since carved out an impressive career producing, writing, and directing, with his directorial feature debut, Cheap Thrills, drawing massive attention during its festival run. In the past few years, Katz has written, produced, and directed episodes of Swamp ThingChannel Zero: The Dream Door, and Netflix’s popular The Haunting of Bly Manor.

“What was amazing about my Full Sail experience was that I become friends with fellow classmate Adam Wingard which led to lots of marathon movie viewings of early bootlegs of J-horror movies, Scandinavian crime films (most notably the Pusher franchise, Anders Thomas Jensen, Lasse Spang Olson), HK action, weirdo art films, and literally every VHS horror film that we could dig up at the wonderful nearby Stardust Video … there was so much time invested in WATCHING movies, living and breathing them.

“After graduating I crashed on Adam’s couch in Alabama where we went on to do two indie horror movies on our own, Home Sick and Pop Skull. Both shoots were incredibly educational experiences that helped push me on the path to become the filmmaker I am today.

“It’s priceless to get to bond with other artists during such a young and impressionable time and just dive into as much cinema as you can before you even think about the sometime sobering realities of the film business.”

Adam Wingard

Like Katz, Wingard is another 2002 graduate that continues to develop an impressive career. Wingard impressed audiences with home invasion subversion You’re Next, collaborated on V/H/S and V/H/S/2, and delivered Halloween cult favorite The Guest. In addition, the filmmaker helmed more prominent features Blair Witch, Netflix’s Death Note, and this year’s blockbuster extravaganza, Godzilla vs. Kong. Like many Full Sail graduates, Wingard is a jack of all trades in filmmaking, composing, producing, writing, editing credits, and directing.

Darren Lynn Bousman

Post-graduation, Bousman worked as a production assistant while writing his own scripts. One of them, The Desperate, was sold and turned into Saw II, which Bousman also directed. The sequel’s massive success at the box office led to Saw III and Saw IV, and the director returned to the popular franchise with this year’s Spiral: From the Book of Saw. Outside of Saw, Bousman has also helmed Repo! The Genetic OperaSt. AgathaThe Devil’s Carnival, and more. The filmmaker creates immersive horror experiences regularly, beginning with 2016’s The Tension Experience. His commitment to horror isn’t slowing down anytime soon, either, as he was just announced to direct the new horror franchise The LaLaurie Mansion.

“Full Sail has been the single most supportive consistent (outside of my parents and wife) in my career,” Bousman tells Bloody. “It’s hard to explain to someone who is unaware of the school or their relationships with graduates.  It surpasses being ‘just’ an educational facility.  The grads and the instructors become family.  I return to school as much as I can and I am constantly blown away by the technology and programs they are offering.

“So many times young filmmakers will come up and ask me about Full Sail and my time there.  I’ll share with you what I tell them.  Full Sail is ALL about what you make of it.  You can go to class, read the books, and walk out and never work a day in the industry.  OR, you can show up early, stay late, and mine every resource that school has and quickly have the tools and resources needed to walk onto any set and know what’s what. I spent every waking hour that I attended Full Sail at Full Sail.  You get out what you put in.  For me… there is no place better than Full Sail.”

To learn more about the opportunities that await you at Full Sail University, visit


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