“I would never be someone who would grow up and forget their dreams,” Georgetown alumnus Steve Wolsh (MSB ’03) said.
Most people would not expect being a director of a low-budget horror film starring a former Playboy playmate of the year to be a step in an artist’s inspirational journey. But with the release of Wolsh’s directorial debut “Muck,” the gradually rising film director is ready to prove them wrong.
Wolsh began college with aspirations similar to those of many Georgetown students; he was looking to pursue lucrative careers right after school. However, he never lost sight of his more artistic dreams, and his recent directorial debut with the horror film “Muck” shows just how far this Georgetown graduate has come.
Set on a planned-out academic and career track, Wolsh didn’t foresee filmmaking as a viable career option. “I had this idea that I had this path that I was going to go Georgetown, then Harvard Law School,” Wolsh said.
Wolsh had talked with his grandfather about going to Georgetown since the age of six and was determined to make this goal a reality. Georgetown was Wolsh’s dream school, yet he began his college experience at Sacramento State on a track scholarship. After two years, he decided to transfer, having been accepted to Stanford University, Harvard University and Georgetown. He turned down Stanford and Harvard because he believed Georgetown was the right path for his future.
At Georgetown, Steve thrived in many aspects of student life. While making friends and enjoying the college atmosphere, Steve rowed for the crew team, served as Georgetown University Student Association treasurer and worked part-time jobs, such as a bouncer at Rhino, to pay for the tuition that his scholarship did not cover.
While some may fall victim to the stress of Georgetown’s competitive atmosphere and the intimidating academic strength of their peers, Wolsh relished being in a position where he was surrounded by talented and driven people. He viewed it as a positive force in his development that helped motivate him to want to be the best he could be. In fact, it was this environment that helped him realize that he did not want to settle down and have the monotonous, though stable, life as a lawyer that he had planned.
Instead, he longed for a life doing what he loved and continuing to push himself. Wolsh came to the realization that he wanted to change his carefully laid out career plan on his own. “I realized that some of the things I wanted were not the path I wanted to do. What I always wanted to do is what I am doing now,” Wolsh said.
After graduating, Wolsh’s dreams were put on hold due to numerous financial commitments. He worked for seven years at a “regular” job in order to help his siblings pay their own tuitions, including law school tuition at Georgetown for his brother and undergraduate tuition at UCLA for his sister. Afterwards, Wolsh quit his job and sold everything he owned in order to follow his dream of making movies.
At age 29, Wolsh took an incredible risk leaving behind a stable job in finance with a six-figure salary. This was not the only major risk he took to launch his filmmaking career. Rather than make movies for a company that would supply its own vision for the product, Steve started his own production company, giving himself the creative freedom to produce movies not censored or controlled by a large corporate production conglomerate.
While he emphasized the power of such artistic freedom, noting that the decision will allow him to be the director he wants to be, it also means he has to generate all the funding for his movies. As a result, Steve has integrated his knowledge of business to make sure he stays on track. His films are low-budget and have to be made to profit heavily off of his target audience.
Wolsh has started with horror films both because they interest him and because, as an aspiring filmmaker, horror movies make sense as a career starting point.
“Doing horror, you have a better shot. Horror fans are more forgiving — there are fans that like terrible movies and the chances of somebody seeing it and making some money go up if you make a horror film,” Wolsh said. “‘Muck’ is a business model for what we can do as a production company in making a low-budget film that is technologically sound.”
While Wolsh is proud of “Muck” as a product, he acknowledges that it is a mere stepping stone in making sure he gets the chance to make more movies in the future.
Despite the fact that “Muck” is only a small part of the bigger picture, difficult artistic work still went into the seemingly cliched horror film. Wolsh’s work ethic back at Georgetown and in his early career has certainly translated into his movie-making, having shot the entire movie over a 25-day period.
“Muck” is also a movie that uses no computer-generated imagery. Wolsh commented that this was a strategic decision, allowing for real stunts that are integral to his creative process.
“To me, it is one of the greatest challenges of being a filmmaker: how do I make it look real without actually doing it?” Wolsh said. In making actors participate in the process, they are put in a position where they can feel the genuine emotion of the situation of the stunt.
Speaking of the gratuitous shots of women throughout the movie, Wolsh believes it comes with the territory. “It is part of our industry and part of every industry,” Wolsh said.
In addition to scantily clad females being a reality of the genre that is necessary to sell a movie, many non-horror films are also as guilty but not held to the same standard. Yet, Wolsh does not believe that this necessarily objectifies women. “The girls were super intelligent and completely knew what they were doing. That’s how they make their living. They don’t look at it like, ‘Oh I’m being taken advantage of,’” Wolsh said. “A lot of them see it as a blessing that they can use that to get ahead.”
While “Muck” itself may not be a masterpiece that will be enshrined next to the works of Kubrick and Coppola, Steve Wolsh’s journey is a tale of hard work and dedication without the sugar coating. In addition to valuing work ethic, having chosen to follow his passions rather than be financially sound, he has learned to value what he took for granted in his youth.
“Your ability to live cheap and try new things, your endurance for being humbled and challenged is a commodity that people do not realize they have, and diminishes as you get older,” Wolsh said.
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