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Summer2007 by liwenting


									That’s a
                                                                                                                                     By Julie Chapman

         David “Muddy” Waters ’93 makes his mark in Hollywood

          TOm Cruise, Sandra BullOCk, JaCk NiChOlsOn
          and Matthew MCCOnaugheY. David “MuddY”
                                                                                    Breaking into the business
          Waters ’93 has wOrked with all thOse stars                                 Waters was born in Greensboro, N.C., and raised in Mansfield,
          withOut getting star-struCk.                                               Mass. After graduating from Elon with a degree in communications,
                                                                                     he moved to Wilmington, N.C., one of the region’s filmmaking
                After working in the movie business for more than a decade,          hotspots. After a year of unsuccessfully trying to break into the
           Waters is used to mingling with Hollywood’s elite. As an assistant        movie industry, he left Wilmington and moved to Greensboro,
           director, he has worked behind the scenes on films such as “Miss          where he worked as a videographer, filming homes for sale for a
           Congeniality,” “About Schmidt,” “Mission: Impossible III” and last        cable television show.
           year’s hit, “We Are Marshall.” He’s known as “Muddy” on the set,                Unfulfilled by that work, Waters returned to Wilmington to
           a nickname he acquired in middle school after famed jazz guitarist        give movies a second shot. In 1996, he began his career in feature
           Muddy Waters.                                                             films, working as a non-union prop assistant and set dresser. Next,
                Yet Waters never dreamed of making it big in Hollywood. In           he worked as a set production assistant on “The Jackal,” “Species II,”
           fact, it wasn’t until he discovered video editing in Elon’s commu-       “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Virus” and “The Insider.”
           nications program that he considered a career in films. Shooting,         In 1998, he headed to Los Angeles, where he has been ever since.
           editing and producing his own projects provided the perfect outlet              Waters logged the required 600 days working as an on-set
           for his creativity.                                                       production assistant before joining the Directors Guild of America in
               “David was probably one of the most talented people, if not           2000. Today, he is a second assistant director and recently qualified
           the most talented person, to come through our program at that             as a first assistant director, which is one step below director.
           time,” says Gerald Gibson, assistant professor of communications.               Waters produces a daily call sheet that is handed out at the end
          “He could do it all. He had a great eye for shooting, he knew how          of each day’s shooting, detailing the next day’s work for the cast and
           to edit, he had a strong on-camera presence and could write and           crew. He also helps the director and first assistant director run the set
           perform music for his productions.”                                       and is the liaison between actors and their agents and managers.
                Friends say Waters is successful because he is naturally friendly         “In prepping for a movie, when actors are hired, like Matthew
           and at ease with people.                                                  Fox, I would call him directly and introduce myself, tell him we’re
               “He can walk up to an actor or a guy selling papers on the street,    shooting, when it starts, bring him in for a fitting, and hair and
           and if it’s his job, convince them what they need to do and when          makeup tests,” says Waters. “Basically, every day I deal directly with
           they need to do it, and make sure they do it,” says Jeff Horn ’98, who    the actors, agents and managers.”
           worked as production assistant on a few films with Waters and now               For Waters, it’s the industry’s lack of convention that he finds
           owns a telecommunications company near Fort Lauderdale, Fla.              appealing.

     “It’s 15-hour days, and that can be grueling,” he says. “It’s not                  Honing his skills at Elon
glamorous at all, and you deal with a lot of tough people. But it’s                     Horn, who was a fellow Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity member with
also fun and rewarding at the end, after all that work, to sit in                       Waters, says the film industry is a perfect fit for Waters.
the theater and look up and see it all put together. That makes it                          “It’s a lot of people who are just like him,” Horn says. “They’re
worthwhile.”                                                                            creative, motivated and do not like the normal work grind. They
      One of his most memorable experiences occurred on the set                         couldn’t do a nine-to-five job if they were forced at gunpoint.”
of “Hidalgo” starring Viggo Mortensen. Working on such a vast,                               On campus, Waters was a founding member of Lambda Chi
complex epic was excellent training for Waters.                                         Alpha and was in charge of the organization’s philanthropic events.
     “We had to shoot in South Dakota when it was below zero                            One of the most memorable events was “Rent A Brother,” in which
with snowstorms, and then we shot when it was hot on the plains                         fraternity members were auctioned off to perform various services.
of California,” he says. “We had tons of animals in that movie, too.                        “Muddy and I were purchased by the Phi Mus,” recalls Horn
It taught me a lot because there was so much going on at once.”                         of the Elon sorority. “We had to dress up in long, white, flowing
      Waters enjoyed working with Mortensen, who he describes                           skirts and clean their houses. We had such a good time Elon made
as “a great actor and a nice guy.” He also enjoyed working with Al                      it policy never to have that happen again. It was good humiliation
Pacino while filming “The Insider.”                                                     for charity!”
     “It was fun to work with Al Pacino because he’s
such a professional,” Waters says. “It’s great to see
him just turn it on. He’ll be talking to somebody

                                                                                                                   photos Courtesy DaviD waters ’93
and then we’re rolling and he’ll just turn around and
be the character.”
      Waters has worked alongside many big-name
stars who instantly command attention and respect
of everyone on the set.
     “There are a couple of actors I’ve worked with
who walk into a room and everybody knows they’re
there without even looking, like Jack Nicholson or
Tom Cruise,” Waters says. “You know you’re working
with a big celebrity when they walk on the set and the
entire crew shuts up. Usually it’s pretty hard to keep
an entire film crew quiet.”

 Making ‘We Are Marshall’
 One of the most touching films Waters has worked on
                                                               (l-r) David “Muddy” Waters, and Waters with assistant director Rich Cowan, director Joseph Nichol, known as “McG,”
 was “We Are Marshall,” which chronicles the plane             and assistant director Hillary Schwartz on the set of the movie “We Are Marshall.”
 crash that killed 75 players and coaches on Marshall
 University’s 1970 football team. The film required years
 of preparation to ensure that the event was portrayed accurately.                     In addition to a sense of humor, Waters was known for his talents
     “Movies have two taglines,” explains Waters. “They can either              as a piano player. While editing video projects on campus, he would
 be a true story or they can be based on a true story. Most movies              set up his synthesizer and compose music to fit his productions.
 are based on a true story, but ‘Marshall’ actually says ‘a true story’                Elon opened its state-of-the-art School of Communications and
 in the opening credits. That means it has to be as factually correct           added a film concentration to the communications program after
 as possible, and the families involved usually have to approve it.”            Waters graduated. Yet Waters credits his alma mater with preparing
      Waters says that despite some initial apprehension, residents of          him to succeed in a challenging, constantly changing industry.
 the town of Huntington, W.Va., where Marshall is located, embraced                   “When I first went to Elon, I was kind of shy,” Waters says.
 the film, which was released last year.                                       “There were a lot of activities at Elon. There was a great Greek system,
     “Everybody in the town had some connection to the tragedy,                 and I did a lot of intramurals. It really helped bring me out socially
 and all the townspeople were in the movie at some point as extras,”            and helped me understand how to work with people.”
 Waters says. “We used real football players from Marshall. It was                     Personable, artistic and driven, Waters is humbled –– and
 great to incorporate real people in the movie.”                                surprised –– by his success.
      The most recent films released with Waters in the credits are                   “My film career has been such a whirlwind that I haven’t had
“Georgia Rule,” starring Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan and Felicity                 a chance to sit back and look at it,” he says. “It is pretty crazy that
 Huffman, and “Blonde Ambition,” starring Jessica Simpson, Luke                 someone who didn’t go to film school, knew nothing about movies
 Wilson and Willie Nelson.                                                      and had no real connections in the industry is now in Los Angeles
                                                                                working on studio feature films. The three things I know that helped
                                                                                me get where I am are luck, tenacity –– and my credit cards.”

                                                                                                                                                                 MAGAZINE OF ELON   15

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