Hanging out with Bill Murray the night before George Clooney’s wedding is, one presumes, exactly what Matt Dearborn ’82 (Communication Studies) had in mind when, as a kid, he would stay up late to watch The Tonight Show, listen to celebrities tell Johnny Carson about their lives, and think about how they seemed like the kind of people he wanted to be around.
Today, the Davis native is a Hollywood vet, the kind who gets the exclusive invite to Venice to witness Clooney finally settling down. But this weekend, the longtime film and television producer, writer and director is bringing his latest project home to Sacramento. Bubble, a short film that Dearborn wrote, directed and describes as “an absurdist love story,” will screen at this weekend’s Sacramento International Film Festival.
At Sacramento State, where he initially came to study broadcast journalism, Dearborn appreciated the diversity of opinions and styles of his professors, calling them “disruptive to my mind.”
“What I learned at Sac State was how to organize my day, stay resilient, and approach each day as if it mattered,” he says. “I learned a lot of life lessons and I remember the faculty being agreeable and encouraging to everything I was trying to accomplish.”
Precisely when Dearborn became interested in film and television is unclear even to him. After graduation, he got work driving a grip truck for film productions, thinking it would be an easy job for him to leave once he found his passion. That led to him working in various production jobs and, eventually, television writing.
“I sold the first thing I ever wrote, and that encouraged me to write more,” he says.
Over his 30-year career, Dearborn has written more than 100 television episodes and produced or directed dozens more. He is the creator of the children’s show Even Stevens, set in Sacramento and starring a then-unknown Shia LaBeouf. Other credits include dramas like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well as a host of children’s shows, including The Secret Life of Alex Mack and Zeke and Luther.
“Lee Nichols, one of my Sac State professors, once told me, ‘You don’t discover your path, you uncover your path,’” Dearborn says. “My path just got uncovered. I was traveling in the right direction and I ended up in the right place.”
His advice for students hoping to follow his path to Hollywood success? “Learn story structure. Don’t worry about dialogue. And write for five minutes every day.”