I will try to remain civil about this, and also explain the title (which may allude to a terrible film because it analogizes well to what I’m about to recount).
I have a
professor teacher that teaches the Evolution of Narrative Film. You would think by that course title, I would actually learn about how film has evolved since its first slate. However, since that first day of class, I found that notion to be terribly wrong.
His methodology is to show clips of movies instead of the entire film – because… I honestly don’t know why. He makes us stay the entire two hours and forty-five minutes for a night class, which wouldn’t be so bad if he was actually entertaining. He also throws up terminology that he made up and forces us to use – but are probably never used in the industry, and we never will either – to support his theories. Granted, an educator should have some opinion about some things, because everyone has different tastes. However, his opinions seem more like doctrine at this point (which is Week 11), and only he can lead the students into the promise land of “better filmmaking.”
Now, one of his course requirements is a midterm paper, which should be a walk in the park for a screenwriter. In the requirements, he wanted us to reiterate his fantastically fun terms and apply it to the film of his choosing. (I will say that he has incredible tenacity to pick a film for each one of the 50+ students in the class, or he’s just simply anal retentive.) He also wanted us to “Get Creative…” because “Your Original Thinking Will Get You Everywhere!!” (That is verbatim from the assignment printout.)
I got Under the Skin, which stars Scarlett Johannson… and that’s about it. Needless to say, I hated the film, but I still tried to defend it and play ball. I talked about the all the stuff he wanted to address, like what did I like, what could be improved, what changes I would make. And I added a little flavor to make it unique – since he wanted “Original Thinking.”
That was a week before it was due. Seriously, I turned it in a week early because I just wanted to be done with the class. As soon as I left, I felt a little better, knowing that I could get back to my usual hysteria of actual screenwriting – which is mostly just scouring YouTube videos – and trying to hustle to stay alive.
Then, tonight happened.
teacher guy started off with how he graded the midterms (which wasn’t anywhere on the important form that told us exactly what he wanted from the midterm). He expressed that he was impressed by the “Original Thinking” of most of the papers. Inside, I was like, “Oh, he probably got a good ol’ chuckle from a cheeky screenwriter.”
However, things got real raw when he decided to admonish a chunk of the class for grammar mistakes he found in the essays, and subtly/passive-aggressively called out everyone who wasn’t born in the U.S. (and some who were) that they need to get themselves “tutorors” (yup, he said that) and generate “graduate level” material – because it was abhorrent to his sensibilities. He later on butchered the pronunciation of a Chinese name from a film that he assumed that all the Chinese students in the room had seen, but was appalled that almost none of them had. Someone had to tell him it was banned, to which he apologized for his actions.
Now, this is the same guy that has undermined the value of screenwriters because he feels that the progression of “cinema” is heading towards “scenario-based filmmaking” – which is just a uppercrust way of saying a Michael Bay film with a smaller budget. I’ve been letting that slide since he doesn’t actually make films – like actually operate a camera, actually sit down and edit all the footage, actually write some words on a paper.
Basically, he’s just a consultant and a critic, sitting on the sidelines and sipping Haterade. I once called him out on all the sarcasm about screenwriters (in kind) as quietly as I could in writing, to which he replied, “Don’t be so sensitive,” on my weekly think-piece-write-some-thoughts-only-to-have-it-shot-down-in-class-cause-he-can’t-write-the-questions-clearly. At that point, I realized he was just a terrible educator. The problem is that I still have to jump through his hoops.
And that has never been so evident than tonight, because when class ended and I picked up my midterm, I saw in red marker that he gave me a D.
I laughed. I really did, because it was so absurd – in that he was so offended by my “Original Thinking” when he’s been spitting the same venom, and that this was the first time I ever failed so hard in school. I showed my screenwriting colleagues, and their reactions ranged from “oh shit” to “HOLY SHIT.” They offered advice and condolences, but the fact of the matter is that I have to let this hipster-of-an-educator know by the end of this week if I want to redo the paper – because to him, it read as “a nasty film review,” did not feel “like a sincere graduate level paper,” and was not “within the spirit of [you and] your colleagues’ work.” To that affect, I can partially agree since I was blatantly scathing about my movie requirement.
No matter how much I despise this guy as an educator, I definitely despise him more as a person. (This is the same guy that forgets people’s names, including my preference of going by something easier than my legal name. Cause, you know, so it doesn’t cause most people to crash and burn at the pronunciation.) This grade (and this class) essentially stands between me passing and graduating on time, and for most of us taking this required course (which is a mystery we’ll never solve), he’s the tollbooth operator that badly wants his dues – which might be for us to turn into mindless clones of himself.
Being Asian-American or an Asian in the U.S., this should seem like an everyday situation with an obvious choice. We’re groomed to just work hard and don’t make too many waves so that we end up successful. It’s the credo of most (or all) immigrants and their second-generation children.
But for me, if this guy is what stands in the way of my dreams because I disagree with him and he can’t take what he’s dishing, then he better be ready to go to war.
Shout out to my friend who often writes in this style.