Thursday, July 15, 2010

In this War of the Roses I find myself bleeding red and white


It's mid July in the early hours of the morning, the time of day when the hot hot temperatures cool and crime simmers on the back burner.

A mousy brunette is dragged through the double doors, her heels swishing back and forth across the tile like a figure skater who knows she's on thin ice.

What's she done, Joe?

It's another one of them classic film lovers, sir. Caught her watching Dark Passage.

Book her.

When I write my personal statement for film school, I have been advised to focus on the work I've produced, what I hope to accomplish creatively, rather than my more prevalent film studies background.

This makes sense.

What doesn't make sense to me, and what never will, is the undercurrent, this bitter rivalry that exists between those who do, and those who talk about what others do, and why there is such caustic, Joan Fontaine and Olivia De Havilland style rivalry between two of the same blood.

And because I hope to never understand this and would rather be stupid and naive about something I believe in so passionately, I've made a decision. Certainly I will focus on those things, but should it be applicable (say, if I'm asked to name influences) I refuse to hide this love of film, all film, young and old, and the fact that I want to play a part in the creation of new work and help to protect and promote what's past if it is in my capacity to do so.

I would love to get accepted into a great school but refuse to be ashamed of this. No matter what the keepers at the gates would like me to say, however accomplished and respectable they might be. I have some big guns to fight with. Scorsese, Truffaut, Woody Allen, The Coen Brothers, Thelma Schoonmaker and many others.

So to borrow from Farragut and The More The Merrier, damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.


  1. what a beautiful statement! i totally approve :D

  2. Thank you for writing that! I feel the EXACT same way, I have never understood it either. Because after all, it all comes down to a love of film doesn't it? Whether you want to make your own movies or want to talk about others. And also where do the old saying "We learn from history" fit in then? I mean haven't most great filmmakers learned from the people before them? Of course, you've got to bring your own special flair to it, but it's not like one can deny film history in doing so! Oh I'll quite rambling now ;D and to give it a twist I'll borrow from Duke and say, damn the martinis, full steam ahead! ;)

  3. thank you, olga! <3

    Sara-I absolutely agree! I don't understand why being familiar with films of all periods can't be a strength all its own to stand apart. If you know how to actively view films then you can learn a great deal about filmmaking from them, and be just as blown away by the cinematography in The Wind as in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I definitely need to be more of a 'doer' which is one of the reasons I'm applying, because I really want to be immersed in a more intense production environment where I can improve as a filmmaker. This can be accomplished without it, of course, but I see value in it and suppose we'll see if they see value in me. I'll figure things out either way.

    Three cheers for duke!

  4. I talked about what I learned as an undergrad, what I've been working on since then (including my book project and website), and what I hope to do with a degree from King's College. I also mentioned why I felt that the program at King's was right for me.

    I think each school probably has their own prompt for personal statements, and in some cases there is a word limit. So make like Indiana Jones and "choose wisely."

    I believe in you! You'll make a great director!!

  5. The schools I'm planning on applying to actually just say 'personal statement' in which I'll do the same sort of thing, tailored a bit for each school. I definitely want to err on the short rather than the long side, I'm not particularly fond of writing about myself, and I'll take any opportunity to be like Indiana Jones.haha. Thanks k!!

  6. Meredith:

    A nicely framed cry of outrage. The vagaries of film schools are a mystery to me, but I suspect the roadblocks, the illogical mindsets and the Alice in Wonderland moments are quite similar to those found in other areas of academe. I have had some experience in that region. My wife and I have worked the last eleven years in major institutions in England on a bibliographical project.

    Our experience sheds some light on your dilemma, but provides no antidote. I have found the keepers of the gates of academe at times a difficult lot. The smarter they are, and the more mature and secure: they are a pleasure to deal with. Otherwise, it has to do with protecting fiefdoms, jousting about trivialities and days lost.

    Find the school that you want to enter. In your personal statement focus on the work you have produced, and what you hope to accomplish creatively. You need not denigrate your beliefs, but overly expressing them might withhold the key to the door. If such is the case are you better off not in that school with your beliefs strongly stated – or within the school with your beliefs intact? Within the school you will have a much better forum to express what you believe.

    Get in the school, but thereafter be strict to your code. Hide none of your beliefs. There will be trials. Acquiesce if it is of no consequence. But never let anyone cross the line of respect and disrespect. And fight only the good fights, lest you are perceived as being one in perpetual disagreement. See the end and get there. And the end will really only be the beginning. Simple plan – arduous journey.

    It seems to me a “personal statement” is akin to some components of a resume in business. I was in management positions for years. I never again looked at a resume once I hired a person.

    Random considerations from one who has been down a few roads. Consider or disregard as applicable. Best.


  7. Gerald, thank you as always for your guidance and insight, especially as one with experience in the world of academe and beyond. It is extremely helpful, and very much in line with some of the other helpful comments I have received from some of my professors. I definitely won't be on the defensive when i write the statement (I was shaking it out with this post, if you will) as it helps no one. I really do want them to like me because I like them and think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It's never been a question of it taking up any majority of the essay, I just find it frustrating that it feels like I should hide it, when it was really classic film, not just film, but classics specifically that sort of opened the gates if you will. It seems if I were a math major or a philosophy major to them it gives a greater range of experience, but to study film puts you in a negative category to some, potentially some who might be reviewing my application. If I make it to the last legs, which I doubt given the intense competition but I'll give it all I've got, do I just stick with the wong kar wai's or can I mention billy wilder? I think I do injustice to what makes me, well, me, if I have to censor everything pre-1970. Though you are absolutely right that the important thing is to get in. Tis a very delicate balancing act I play.

  8. Thank you Meredith. Your career path seems to be on level ground. Keep us posted as applicable. Best. Gerald

  9. Personal Statements... I'm not a fan. But I agree with you -- be honest about yourself and maybe they can see how passionate and knowledgeable you are about all sector's of the film world. Keep us updated :)

  10. I will friend. ps someday maybe we'll skype and catch up or something. :)