A Cinematic Fade Out

April 11, 2011

Originally published in The Michigan Daily

As we approach the end of another school year — for me, the final days of my junior year — the time seems right to reflect on what we’ve learned. Not to be vague, but a year can change a lot of things.

This is perhaps a little too vague, I know. But this is my last column, so forgive me if my specifics are tapped out. What I can say, though, is when it comes to movies — and more importantly my education in film — the past two semesters have been a long journey of breaking through personal barriers and accepting the barriers that sometimes won’t budge. Transcribing my usually lucid ruminations on Hollywood franchises, film criticism and my love of the screen into this column for the past eight months, combined with diving headfirst into the shallow pools of screenwriting and studying film business, have opened up the doors of how I think about film.

These things have also revealed me to be a cocky, procrastinative and stubborn kid suffering from perpetual senioritis. Film is my passion and my motivation for the future, but late nights working on a column or a screenplay outline (usually consisting of playing “Snake” on Facebook for a few hours and then proclaiming I’ll do my work tomorrow) followed by extreme sleep deprivation have been par in the course of my experience as a junior.

But I still have time to dream. Every three-act structure has a turning point before the third and final act — one that takes our protagonist from a low point and thrusts him or her into a final battle. Perhaps that’s me. I’m the man on the screen, the center of attention. The world is a movie set and I’m the player.

I’m Truman trying to break out of Seahaven, long trapped and devoid of effort but renewed with a sign of what could be. I’m Jerry Maguire looking to be complete.

And while I can say I’ve learned much from watching film, and even studying it, I hope to find even greater lessons from emulating it. The story is an agent of change, a chemical reaction of characters that leaves none unaffected or untouched. To accept your place as part of the story is to accept your own transformation.

That’s the insight I’ve gained as a young screenwriting student and as The Michigan Daily’s film columnist, and perhaps just in time. Screenwriting has tuned me to the peaks and valleys of narrative and the necessary evils of any story — especially my own. My challenge in conquering screenplay structure is mirrored by my reluctance to accept that structure in life.

In a column last October, I lamented that screenwriting didn’t feed off my previous understanding of film, but rather forced me to redefine my creative emphasis in the art form and take on a new, story-centric cinematic mentality.

Everything is different now. And what’s more, I’ve matured enough to accept that change.

I’ve come to believe in the rollercoaster and the high emotional tides that come with pushing myself to the limit. While I once held tight to my character, I’ve learned to reveal it, test it and change it.

But I now have but a single act left in my story here at the University. I have everything I need — all the information and insight to continue my story — but like every third act, time is short. I’ve got 20 pages and I better make it good.

Each of our passages through this University becomes like a film — the kind you don’t want to end. And while we wish it could last forever, we should realize that our film is important because itdoesn’t last forever.

It’s what we do with the time that is given to us.

Think of the audience. It’s what we leave in mind as we walk off the screen — when the credits start rolling, it’s the end they’ll remember. So let’s please the crowd and make this tale a happy one. Some stories don’t have sequels.

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