Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Experience

If you can just get your mind together
then come across to me.
We'll hold hands and then we'll watch the sun rise from the bottom of
the sea.
But first
Are you experienced?
Have you ever been experienced?
Well I have.
-- Jimi Hendrix

Towards the end of the first class I ever taught a student commented on what we had been doing for the last 15 weeks and said that it was pretty cool. And I flippantly responded, "Yes, that's The Peter Hawley Experience." Of course I was just playing off of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and how was I to know he had know idea what I was referencing.

Anyway, a few days later other students were saying they were glad they had the Peter Hawley Experience. I thought they were joking, maybe even making fun of me, but no. Soon it caught on and I was even calling my own classes "the Peter Hawley experience (lower case of course.) But it stuck and even as recently as a week ago I heard from a former student who said they were glad to have the "experience."

That word- experience- is funny. It says a lot. It is active not passive. A while ago we were sitting around a faculty meeting and my colleague John Murray commented on how much he hated using the word "exercise" when giving assignments. He added that it always made him want to pull on sweat pants an do push ups- not the image you want to give to students. (Push ups, not John in sweats, a striking figure.)

I couldn't agree more and since then we have made a conscious choice to call all of our in class work- experiences rather than exercises. So my screenwriting students now have the experience of writing and presenting a logline and a pitch rather than the "exercise" of writing one.

This in short is part of what makes up The Peter Hawley Experience. I am so glad I didn't reference another song on Are You Experienced, or all my students would be suffering from "Manic Depression touching their soul."


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