Friday, May 11, 2007


Yesterday I wrote about an entire class that came together to shoot Jerry Lewis. Today, as I have my last class of the semester, I am going to talk about a few individual students and their accomplishments. While I would like to say I have had students who have gone on to win Oscars and become important filmmakers, I can't because they haven't- neither has their teacher.

The most successful students to me are the ones that come away from school with a better understanding of who they are and where they fit into the world. I have written before about second acts in lives and I am sure many of my students who graduate this weekend will be doing something totally different in five or ten years time. I think this is all part of the process of growing and developing as a person.

So, this is a partial list of students who pop into my mind when I think about their accomplishments outside of the classroom. There are no favorites, and this list is chronological.

Yoon Chun. Yoon was a quiet, shy young woman who didn't like hearing criticism or watching her work in front of others. At the end of the semester the class voted on the two best films of the semester. Yoon's two films were selected best of the class - a first. She didn't attend the final screening and only later did she learn about what her peers thought of her. Yoon went to graduate school in New York and today is back in Korea where she is a filmmaker, graphic artist and college teacher.

Hyup Kim. He was the only other student to have both his films selected by his classmates as best in class. Coincidently, he is Yoon's cousin. Today, Hyup is ending his first year at the AFI graduate film program. I have seen the work he has done at AFI and it is outstanding. On a side note, I attending his wedding as one of perhaps four westerners in the room. It was one of my favorite wedding experiences ever, as if I was dropped into the middle of a film of a Korean wedding with no subtitles. It was a blast.

Andrew Hodges. Andrew is first and foremost an animator. I have hired him to do animation for Rainbow Soup, my program about arts and world culture for kids. Andrew created a 37 second long full cel animation of a character we call Lil' Will- based on Shakespeare- which we used as a transition. Will was voiced by the film director Stephen Frears (The Queen) and he takes us from The Globe Theater to Studs Terkel reading a children's book. Perhaps you saw Andrew's stop motion cartoon for Saturday Night Live's Christmas show where Darlene Love sings "Christmastime for the Jews." It's hysterical and brilliant. Andrew finished the piece just a few hours before air time. Track it down, I am sure it's on You Tube.

David McElroy. I don't know if I have ever had a student more driven to become a success in Hollywood than David. He eats, breathes and sleeps big budget Hollywood films. Of course he tried to make those films as a student and they weren't very good- no money, no gear, no stars. But David stuck with it. Today he is in Los Angeles where he works for a production company called Independent Media, which features big name directors such as Sydney Pollack. David just sent me his own TV commercial reel which features some very nice work- take a look.

Finally, a current student who is about to graduate, Cezil Reed. Like all the good students Cezil can be a real pain in the tuchus. We recently had an argument about why the school couldn't give him more money for his film. I won, I always win. Yet, I later found myself arguing on his behalf for more money. His previous film was a regional finalist for a student academy award. It's really beautiful, 3 minutes long and I would have been proud to have made it. When he screened it for the class everyone was amazed. His new film, which just finished shooting, will be done later this summer, and I am sure it will be just as terrific.

At the end of every semester I say the same thing, "It has been my pleasure to be your teacher." I mean this because, you do know, I learn more from my students than they could ever learn from me. The students mentioned above are just a few of the dozens who have taught me over the years.



Revellian said...

I've been teaching and playing guitar for over 20 years and I have learned much more from them then they from me
also. It doesn't matter who's famous though it would be nice. Maybe one day it'll happen. I appreciate this article because caring is part of teaching.

Cezil said...

Wow...I really felt teachers like U really make me learn more about myself and question more of who I am. Never heard someone say that about me. But thank you for caring. Thank you for your support and thank you for the wisdom.