Alumni Profile - Gary Dauberman '99
Community colleges are unique in that they consider those who have not graduated with a diploma, but completed a certain number of credits, to be full privilege alumni of the institution. One such alumnus is Gary Dauberman ‘99, who grew up in Delaware County and parlayed his love of watching horror movies into a career in Hollywood. He recently wrote the script for the hit film Annabelle, which is currently in theaters around the world and has earned more than $160 million to date. Here is his story and advice for those looking to turn their passions into future profession.
What year did you graduate from Delaware County Community College and with what degree?
“I grew up in Glen Mills and graduated from Penncrest High School in 1995. After studying for a year at West Virginia University, I came back home as it wasn't the right fit for what I wanted to do, which is to write and make movies. So I came back to the area, and had some friends who were taking classes at the College. Eventually, I enrolled to study Communications starting in the fall of 1997. My friends and I all say that attending the College was the smartest academic decision we ever made. It provided the direction we needed to help us follow our future career paths.”
Did you pursue further academic goals?
“I transferred to Temple University to continue my course work in Film and Media Studies and graduated in 2001. This helped me solidify my goals and go all in on making a career out of what I really loved doing, which was writing and making movies.”
Where are you now?
“While I was at school at both the College and Temple, I worked for Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, which allowed me to save money for moving out to Los Angeles. However, I had no job and only knew a few people at the time. Temple had a great summer internship program which allowed me to work as a student. I was placed at DreamWorks Studios and I interned for the TV show Malcolm in the Middle, which was an eye opening experience about how the business works. This helped me realize that if I worked hard enough, there was the potential for a successful career.
For the last 12 years, I've been a screenwriter, which is creating the characters and dialogue and story and putting all of that into a screenplay that is then used by the director and producers to plan the production, cast actors, and block scenes which will eventually be in the movie you seen on the screen.”
What can you tell us about the film?
"Annabelle is a period piece in that it takes place in 1970, right after the Manson Family killings in August 1969 which I feel, was a huge time of transition in our country. The film’s story is also about our main characters transitioning from a child-free marriage to becoming new parents and all that entails – new focus, new routines, new things to argue about.
But as if that wasn't enough stress already, they also become the target of a demonic presence that seems tied to a certain doll in their possession.
The Conjuring is based on the experiences of Ed and Lorraine Warren and I see Ed and Lorraine as sort of super heroes of the supernatural. But since Annabelle is a prequel story and tells a tale before their involvement, it allowed me to have creative license, so to speak, on what was the story about the doll seen briefly in The Conjuring. This helped me craft the story that you see on screen.
My involvement in the movie began when I was approached by the producers at New Line Cinema whom I've worked closely with on several projects over the last six years or so. They knew I was a fan of The Conjuring and its director, James Wan, who is really one of the best there is and best there ever will be in this genre. So they asked me if I wanted to do a film about the doll named Annabelle, and it was a quick yes and they shared their ideas with me to help with the creative process.
After pitching my take on the story, my ideas about where the script and characters should go over the course of the film, and breaking it down by acts, the process was a little over a year from writing to being out in theaters. This is almost unheard of in Hollywood terms. I was fortunate that the director of Annabelle, John Leonetti, had me on set and was a fantastic collaborator. John certainly steered the ship, but if he had a question about a piece of dialog or why this sentence was being said in this part of the movie, I was there to answer.”
What were your influences to help you find your career?
“Well, I've always been a fan of this type of stuff. Horror movies like Halloween, Poltergeist, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Shining are great because there’s a community around them. People love watching them together and being scared with your friends. But my influences aren't just from movies or books. I remember going to Glen Providence Park when they’d do their Halloween Haunt, or haunted mazes and hayrides like the Bates Motel and Arasapha Farms, which were great places to see how much people enjoyed these things. We don’t have Blockbuster or West Coast Video anymore, but going there when I was a kid, you would always see people checking out the horror movies. The genre is its own brand.”
What advice would you give to current students and Alumni to make the most of the education they received from the College?
“Make time to explore. Sure, we all know there are classes we need to take. Those classes that are required. But make sure you also take classes you want. The College has so many things to offer and so many great teachers with these amazing life experiences that it really pays off to dig a little deeper and make time for discovery…
Generally speaking I've learned that work begets work. You can’t control how talented the next person will be or how talented you are, but you can control how hard you are going to work. I think that’s really, really important. There is no overnight success. I've been making a living working in the industry for ten years, Annabelle is my first feature film credit. It takes a lot of work but it is certainly possible.”
Where do you see your career going from here?
“I will keep doing what I love to do. That was another thing I learned when I was at the College, that I didn't want to do something that I didn't love. The success of the movie means that I get to keep writing genre movies and that’s more than I could ask for.”
You can also view Gary Dauberman's profile on the Internet Movie Data Base.