Nobody teaches because of the money. I teach because I love my subject and I love my students. Seriously, my students are interesting people and I’m honored that I have the opportunity to meet them, and to teach them. Most of all, they keep me young. Periodically you find a student who you know is destined for something bigger than your little classroom. I recently had such a student and today he told me that he was leaving school to pursue his dream. Although I’m sad to see him go I also know that he needs to go.
Chris is a film student who is headed for the Seattle Film Institute. You wouldn’t think much of Chris when you first meet him. He is quiet, still and slight of build. However, he is singular in his purpose. He wants to make movies – he wants to tell stories and I admire his dream.
I wanted to share with Chris my meager advice about story-telling and to wish him well on his future. So, Chris, this one is for you buddy….
1.) Good movies are good stories. Good stories are about good characters. Good characters are a lovely combination of reality and perfection. We want to see the best version of ourselves mixed with our biggest weaknesses. As an audience we want to know that we could be those people, we are those people, or we care about those people.
2.) Remember the epic hero journey. Your characters need to grow, evolve and to have changed somehow at the end of their journey. It may not seem “epic” to anybody else but them, but it must be significant.
3.) Even if you have no desire to be a screenwriter — write. Practice and hone your storytelling now. Sketch – even if you aren’t going to be a cinematographer. Practice the art of telling your story.
4.) You’re only as good as the people around you. Making a film is a team effort — always strive to have the best people, the best talent you can either afford or is available. When you find somebody who is talented, easy to work with and you like them – KEEP THEIR NUMBER. Be nice to them and continue to give them work. Be loyal and supportive of your team and they will go to the end’s of the Earth for you.
5.) Work on communication – no matter what role you play you will need to be able to communicate your ideas and your vision. Work on being able to tell your story, sell your ideas and convince people that your vision is the right vision. Be passionate and don’t be embarrassed to show that passion – share it with whoever will listen.
Your aspirations are those that people often laugh at, belittle or think it isn’t possible. And perhaps you won’t end up at the Oscars like we always joke about, but let your talent and your aspirations lead you. Follow the bliss and the money will come. Good luck and when you do win that Oscar remember your English teacher from that tiny junior college in Texas.