Director inspires students at lecture

Film director Brett Ratner knew he wanted to be involved in the movie industry when he was 10 years old.

Ratner, who is now a mainstay in the directing world, said he was inspired by “Raging Bull,” the story of an emotionally charged boxer played by Robert De Niro, and its director, Martin Scorsese, so much that he watched it “over and over again” when he was a young boy.

Ratner encouraged about 110 students Thursday night in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom at the University Lecture Series to pursue and do what they love – as he did.

“I feel that so many kids are kind of lost and it’s disconcerting,” he said. “Like, what do I do after this? I have an interest in storytelling and I thought I could inspire people.”

Ratner is probably best known for directing the three “Rush Hour” movies starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. But he also directed “The Family Man,” “X-Men 3: The Last Stand” and “New York, I Love you,” as well as music videos for artists like Madonna, Mariah Carey and Miley Cyrus.

Ratner emphasized values throughout the lecture, including the importance of choices made in life, finding a good mentor, showing respect to those you admire and performing simple acts of kindness to those around you.

“Sometimes, there are certain choices that you make that really affect your life,” he said. “If I had not chosen to go see the dean at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, I probably would’ve gone to Miami-Dade Community College and my life would’ve taken a completely different path.”

Ratner grew up in Miami Beach, where he made some of his earliest short films. At 16 years old, he became the youngest person to get accepted into NYU’s Tisch School to study film.

While living in New York during the 1990s, Ratner met hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, who helped give Ratner his first start directing music videos for artists on Simmons’ Def Jam music label. He didn’t direct his first feature film until the 1997 comedy, “Money Talks,” also starring Tucker.

Ratner was chosen from a list of potential speakers to attract students majoring in film or the arts, said Nicole Kummer, a sophomore majoring in education and the director of guest relations for ULS.

Jean Lestage, a senior majoring in mass communications, said he identified with Ratner’s message about modeling yourself after someone you admire.

“I model myself after some of the great comedians because I have a knack for comedy,” he said. “So I kind of model myself after people like Eddie Murphy and Mike Epps.”

Torran Wakefield, a senior majoring in mass communications, said he was encouraged by Ratner saying never give up on goals.

“I liked how he said that no matter what you do, you still have your family and friends,” he said. “(Don’t) be afraid to go out there and do what you have to do.”