It took a little luck and some big risks, but Florida State University School of Communication alumnus Jamie Linden successfully found his passion as a movie screenwriter.
Linden, who graduated in 2001 with a double major in media production and marketing, will be a commencement speaker at Florida State University’s spring graduation on May 2. At 7:30 p.m., he will address graduates at the ceremony for the colleges of Arts and Sciences; Human Sciences; and Motion Picture Arts. Bobby Bowden and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management head John W. Thiel will speak at the university’s two other ceremonies this spring.
Following his own graduation, Linden decided to enjoy some vacation time in Los Angeles because one friend had “Price is Right” tickets and another friend had landed a job in the area. The group of friends headed out to the West Coast right before the 9/11 attacks, which immobilized the whole nation.
“We ended up making it out here late because of the delays and missed our Price is Right show,” Linden said. “But because no one was flying at the time, they needed people for another show so they invited us back and I ended up getting on the show and winning.”
Linden’s winnings on the game show – a custom wine cart (which he still owns) and $5,000 – allowed him to stay in L.A. long enough to find a job as an assistant as a production company, where he worked on the film Cold Mountain starring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman.
“I learned how the ‘sausage was made,’” Linden said.
At a second production company, Linden was fired from an assistant position, but that prompted him to try his hand at screenwriting.
It wasn’t long before he sold his first script to Warner Brothers in a blind deal in 2004, meaning he would write another script to be named later.
“I went from being unemployed to being a working screenwriter literally overnight,” Linden said.
While the first script – a comedy — never materialized into a movie, Linden’s second screenplay hit pay dirt and “We Are Marshall” starring Matthew McConaughey debuted in theaters in 2006. The film, which Linden also co-produced, is based on a true story about the 1970 plane crash involving members of the Marshall University football team, the team’s new coach and his surviving players who try to keep the football program alive.
Linden’s idea for the drama actually came about while he was a student at Florida State, sitting in class and reading the newspaper.
“I remember it very vividly,” Linden said. “There was a syndicated article in the FSView about the 30th anniversary of the Marshall plane crash. “I was in a marketing class, not paying attention and I remember thinking that would make a good movie. But I was in Tallahassee and didn’t have the connections to do that, so when we got this blind deal it was something I brought up.”
Warner Brothers executives had to be talked into making the movie, but Linden said, “They quickly saw how cinematic the story was and quickly jumped on board.”
Since breaking into the business a decade ago, Linden has steadily worked on a variety of different projects. He wrote and co-produced “Dear John” (2010) and wrote and directed “10 Years” (2012).
Currently, Linden is writing and anticipated to direct “The Flight Before Christmas” for Paramount Pictures as well as an adaptation of the novel “Noggin” for LionsGate Films. He also is working on the script for “Money Monster” for director Jodie Foster, and an animated movie for Walt Disney Animation Studios.
“Projects are always in various stages of development,” Linden said. “It makes it fun because you’re never quite sure what will get made or not.”
Linden said the most important thing he learned at Florida State was how important collaboration is.
“That’s what movie making is all about,” Linden said. “As an art form, movies are the definition of collaboration. Even a small movie like “10 Years” was, there were 80 people on the crew and another 20 in post-production. And that’s how all of our projects were in media production. We never really did anything on our own. We had to work together and figure it out.”
Despite not attending his own graduation from FSU in 2001, at this spring’s commencement Linden will share the importance of finding your passion and risk-taking after college.
“I know it is an opportunity to pass on some wisdom or knowledge and I’m not so sure I’m equipped to do that but I think I’m equipped to talk about how it is never too late to find a vocation or an interest that motivates you,” Linden said. “It’s not too late to swing for the fences and see what happens.”