Classes Start Today

22 08 2005

Every year, about this time, since I’ve been teaching at USC (only about three years full-time) I get this tickle in my stomach. It’s part excitement (like going on your first ferris wheel) and part fear (like going on your first ferris wheel) (hmmmm) and it always coincides with the first week of classes.

I know that I’m supposed to be real grown-up about this, and move forward calmly and with great aplomb (I have horrific visions of what an “aplomb” actually is, but I won’t torture you with them now — you’ll have to beg). But I find teaching here so exciting, and the students so damned bright, that I always have to think twice before stepping out into class on the first day.

Tonight I am back to teaching one of my favorite classes — the graduate class which is laughingly called “Intermediate Editing.” Actually, it’s more like Basic Editing. Now that everyone has got their Final Cut, iMovie or Avid Xpress Pro systems at home or in high school, everybody thinks they know everything they need to know about editing when they walk in the door. Au contraire!! What they know about editing falls more under the category of “putting shots together.” The actual “how to think like an editor” doesn’t happen until this class. It’s actually powerfully fun, and if the students weren’t so smart, I’d probably hate it. But, as it is, I get to know 12 really interesting people who all are incredibly passionate about making films.

I LOVE my work.

Speaking of passion in filmmaking I would run, not walk, to the theatres when THE CONSTANT GARDENER opens in a week or two. I was fortunate enough to be able to see a screening of this on Saturday, and it is a very powerful, very well-made film by the director of CITY OF GOD. It concerns a staid British diplomat in Kenya who is married to a very passionate woman who finds a “cause” there. He knows he loves her, but he doesn’t know what that means and he certainly doesn’t know why. After her death (and I am not giving anything away by mentioning that; it’s in the first minutes of the film) he begins to find out the answers to both of those things and the film evolves into an extremely plausible thriller that comes from the John Le Carre novel from which the film was born.

Told very much though his point of view (not literally, but emotionally, the film puts us squarely in the middle of his personality and his personality changes. The filmmaking is consistently interesting, Claire Simpson’s editing is poetic and demanding all at the same time (those of you who recall the twists and turns in time of CITY OF GOD will find this film simpler but just as interesting to follow), and the performances are all excellent, down to the day players.

Wonderful work. Let’s all make movies like this.

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