We can't have this be an intellectual or philosophical crisis. I'm not a fan of, as George Saunders puts it; "pulling up my big manure truck of ideas and dumping it on poor, unsuspecting you."
A vacuum is a bad learning environment. The "particle" needs a "field". The earlier this starts, the better. Rarely do we talk about "cultural social mobility" or a "cultural middle class". My father does not run an art gallery; my mother is not a psychoanalyst. Growing up in Mexico, I rolled around in mud, not the detritus of the English language. It wasn't until I was 18, that I stepped foot in the MoMa. For most of its history, America did pretty much everything a country could to impose a narrative of inferiority on its nonwhite minorities. Jewish success is the most historically fraught. According to an article in the Sunday Review, Although Jews make up only about 2 percent of the United State's adult population, they account for two-thirds of Tony-award winning lyricists and about a third of Nobel laureates. But Culture is never all-determining. Individuals can defy the most dominant culture and write their own scripts. My childhood was spent in a small town 30 minutes away from Mexico city, where no one had ever heard of Johnny Carson or Albert Brooks. In these circumstances, it takes much more grit, more drive, and perhaps a more exceptional individual to break out.
Stories are how humans become people. It has been this way since our ancestors drew on the Lascaux cave walls. This particular caveman, is a would-be-writer with a heart as wide as Cinemascope. My love affair with movies started when I was 7, when I would listen to my uncle wax philosophical about De Sica, Goddard and Kubrick, as the people in their seats, yelled at him to focus the film correctly. But it's not just cinema that's shaped me.
My mom introduced me to Captain Underpants. I'm a heavy duty reader. As a kid, there were only two things that I liked more than reading books; the annual Scholastic Book-fair and the "Reading Club" catalogs. These were better than sex. Even now that I've had sex, I still think it's better. My mom would limit me to a 200 dollar cap. Figuring out which bubbles to fill out and which books to order and have shipped to Mexico, was the hardest thing I had to do that week at school. As Emily Dickinson said; There is no/ fairer house than Prose. I actually broke up with an ex because she didn't read. I still think there are only two reasons for reading fiction. To experience beautiful, original prose (which is in short supply these days) and to learn something about the psychology of people and their nature. Wanting to write for the Screen & Television was only natural.
There is a crisis in the humanities. Only 8% of undergraduates major in the humanities. Those with not only an academic interest in literature, theatre or art, but those interested in producing the artistic works that humanists study- are even worse off. Poetry cannot cure a toothache. To cite just one example, the Minnesota State Legislature recently appropriated over $500 million to help build the Vikings a new stadium. At the same time, the Minnesota Orchestra is close to financial disaster because it can't erase a 6 million deficit. Are Millenial's selfish? lazy? narcissistic? Do we have a lost generation? - what about those with an iconoclastic cosmopolitan mind? Where do they go?
Everyone eventually gets a schooling in brokenness. Michael Chabon says that "works of art" (like good episodic television writing) are representations/approximations of "the vanished whole-ness" we felt before adolescence. Scale-models that compress and deal with grief, they are a way to reconcile the past that haunts us and the cosmic ache that arises when we undoubtedly find out that the world, for all its mysteries and promises, is indeed, irrevocably, and has always been, broken. So the question then becomes what do you do with the pieces?- for me, after my mom died, there followed a renewed inquiry into the nature of such things as - heartbreak, drama, physics, Existentialism and Art. Remember, this is a guy, with a deficient denial mechanism. The universe is a big and lonely place. Tolstoy reached a point in his life where he wondered why he should keep living. How do we carry on, or even why should we carry on? Of course, we don't choose- the choice is hardwired into us. The blood chooses to live. I choose to live for cinema. To be an observant of human folly. Life is the subordinate of art. To
(Guy thinking about space): Oh God, I feel so small. When I think about how big space is, I think about death. [bong rip].
Elizabeth Meriwether is trying to avoid making piss pie. The 31 year old showrunner of FOX's "New Girl" says writing for a broadcast series is like making piss pie. You start out making something else, and the suits ask you to put another drop of piss in, then a drop more, then suddenly you're serving up something that smells like the bleachers at Yankee stadium. "New Girl" is one of the funniest shows on television. It is the kind of show I've written many times on spec. A show with plenty of nuanced character development, cinematic tone, generational insight, and comic modernity. It is the kind of show I want to write when I grow up.
So why go to USC?- It was at Yale that Meriwether developed her voice. This is what I meant by the field and the particle. In many eyes, 120 pages of a screenplay are worth more than 1 page of a Diploma. But to me- You are like a fairy godmother. It is precisely at community college where I was exposed to the works of Dostoyevsky, and Lubistch, Pollock and Jung. I wear my influences on my sleeve. For years, I used to drive 40 minutes to the nearby airport, in Mexico, just to get the US editions of the New Yorker, Esquire, GQ, and so on. They didn't sell them anywhere else in the country. Just last week, just because I go to school here, I interned and attended the SBIFF, and got to meet David O. Russell and Martin Scorsese.
It's always been hard making movies or TV, especially when you don't have a track record. It's really difficult to get the big-time jobs, or the big-time recognition. When you move to Los Angeles, there are thousands of guys just like you who can write a script just as fast and are just as talented.
I need all the knowledge I can get. And USC is where I can do that.