From Burroughs to Sundance: Cory Finley '07

From Burroughs to Sundance: Cory Finley '07

Cory Finley '07 spoke to students, faculty, and staff during assembly on Friday, April 28, about his work as a New York-based playwright and filmmaker. He also spoke to approximately 100 members of the Burroughs community on Thursday, April 27.

Cory returned to campus in conjunction with this year's upper-school spring play, The Feast, which he wrote. The production is being directed by John Pierson (Theatre, Speech & Dance), who directed Cory in numerous productions during his time at Burroughs.

Although Cory initially left Burroughs with dreams of becoming a professional actor, he quickly discovered a passion for playwriting when he arrived at Yale. Later, that passion for playwriting morphed into a passion for filmmaking when a play he wrote piqued the interest of some young Hollywood execs. With no prior filmmaking experience, Cory was brought in to write the screenplay and direct what would become his first movie, Thoroughbreds, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017. 

His follow-up, Bad Education, starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney, premiered on HBO and won an Emmy in 2020. His third film, Landscape With Invisible Hand, based on the acclaimed novel by M.T. Anderson and featuring Tiffany Haddish and Asante Blackk, will be released by MGM in August.

Throughout his assembly speech, Cory encouraged students to take their time in choosing a career and to embrace the unexpected turns that life will present to them.

"You truly have to try and love the process," Cory said. "To love the winding path of your career, to find joy in every strange side road and cul-de-sac.

"That's not to say you should expect simple fun every time you sit down to work — often, it will be a grind. But try to detach yourself from the outcome, which you will never be able to control. Worry instead about rising to your own standards, about impressing and amusing and energizing yourself first. Because your instincts are your power."

Before the bell rang, Cory fielded questions from students and faculty about his favorite directors, lessons he's learned about rejection, and which genres of movies he's most excited to explore in the future.

Cory's full assembly remarks are posted below. He also spoke to audience members following Friday night's sold-out performance of The Feast in the Black Box Theater.