How Not to Be a Film Geek

I had to make a choice between two film schools, both generally considered to rank among “The Big Five.” One famous M.F.A. Screenwriting Program is set within a large university, which also tends to attract a panoply of diverse students who are not only book smart, but also street smart enough to convince their parents that sunny L.A. is a better place to study most any subject than, say, overcast Berkeley.

The other operates as a film conservatory, peering down from a Hollywood hilltop on the former campus of a Catholic girl’s school. Students are discouraged from holding outside jobs while in residence so they may live, breathe, eat and sleep filmmaking exclusively. This means endless philosophical discussions on the cinema, swinging tonally between the droning and dispassionate diatribe to the angry staccato outburst. Hallway chatter shall cover every topic from the many breakthrough ways in which Wes Anderson manages to objectify women and call it progressive, to why federal law should consider film colorization to be felonious assault. I took one look at the place and realized that to escape even as far as Taco Bell, I would have to get in my car alone and drive for several miles, then eat my chalupa in the car soothed by the bland, wordless rhythms of “Yanni at the Acropolis.”

Needless to say, I chose the university—where I proceeded to succumb wholeheartedly to the cloistered, clannish, us-versus-them film geekery I’d been so determined to avoid. Over the next three years, I spent most of my days inside one building, talking to five people about three things.

Evening cocktail and pizza parties excluded even the strange and exotic creatures of the Theater Department—impromptu tap dancers and booming Shakesepearean orators—inhabiting the opposite side of the courtyard. These folks were only welcome among our ranks when they came over to audition for our shorts, at which point they’d be required to speak our language and talk only about our side of the camera. We shunned attendees of public screenings from conversation during intermission cookies and coffee, inspiring them to leave before the ensuing director’s lecture peppered with hilarious inside jokes about “gaffer’s tape” and “flatbed editors.”

Only afterwards, when cast out into the lonely, isolating world of the Aspiring Hollywood Screenwriter, did I realize how many advantages of college life I’d missed out on. Although I could return any time for various events among the general public—such as a popular concert series and a prominent book fair—not until I’m a Big Deal Alumna endowing a scholarship or dedicating a library will I feel truly at home re-upping my membership in the privileged university community. I do, however, have a couple of tips to share about how things would go if only I had it to do all over again.


10. Sign up for “Sleep and Relaxation Class” at the Wellness Center. Enjoy free massage, acupuncture, acupressure and flu shots. Accept any and all pharmaceuticals offered, including the Christmas break Xanax administered to any student expressing an unusual fear of flying.

9. Enjoy complimentary Student Health Club membership by actually going there. Sign up for Yoga, Belly Dancing and Rock Climbing classes, plus weekend sailing instruction at the Marina given by strapping young seniors named Justin, Jason and Jordan. Further indulge taste for young eye candy in Water Aerobics class scheduled right after practice session of Men’s Swim Team. Briefly fake drowning incident.

8. Go to a football game and pretend to get it. Better yet, check out the basketball team, which actually wins from time to time and wears sweaty tank tops and revealing short-shorts. Drink plenty of beer and eat greasy nachos drenched in mysterious cheese-like sauce.

7. Attend plays, lectures and events, where registered students get preferred seating for less than the price of a movie ticket and a box of Red Vines at the Arclight.

6. Visit the Sunday Night Salsa Dance at the Student Center. Hook up with Argentinian Ethnomusicology doctoral candidate named Bruno who insists you close your eyes and feel the rhythm of the Pampas as he glides you around the dance floor.

5. Check out a fraternity party during Rush Week. Claim to be somebody’s worldly stewardess aunt just in from Bangkok who's been formerly schooled in the art of love, speaks little English and pours a mean tumbler of sake

4. Learn Kendo, the ancient school of Japanese swordfighting, among nerd group meeting Saturdays on the quad, alternately taking turns to be first in line for rumored Star Wars sequel.

3. Spend time in Law, Medical and Business School libraries wearing cheap make-up and plunging necklines. Who needs another Film School Loser around when it's time to settle down and buy real estate?

2. Assuage middle class guilt by joining radical Chicano group boycotting on-campus Panda Express for using non-union cabbage in its egg rolls.  

1. Date the undergrads. That’s what they’re there for.


  1. You know, it's about time somebody did something about those eggrolls.

  2. You write interestingly in your blog. I would suggest writing a book, which could later become a screenplay. And just for us old fogies, could you write something that was nice, like a good romantic comedy? Without the too visual sex scenes? I, for one, am so tired of seeing bad sexual behavior in the movies. If you must include sex scenes, please at least make them REAL looking.

  3. You got it Mamaclem, good sex only. Thanks for writing everyone, especially CL, who made me laugh out loud in one sentence only. This kind of stuff keeps me going. JGTH

  4. Anonymous2:01 PM

    It isn't only the B-Ball team that actually wins. UCLA's football team is 5 and 0, ranked 12th in the Nation and is tied with SC for 1st in the Pac-10.

  5. Okay, but what about the sweaty short-shorts? And by the way, who said anything about UCLA?