09
Dec

Malibu, California. No wonder Barbie decided to move here. Both are too perfect to be real. Driving up the PCH, the ocean sparkles to your left and multimillion-dollar homes likewise sparkle to your right. Charming little bait shops and fruit stands sprinkle the landscape every few stoplights. Though the marine layer can often obscure the scenery, it was nowhere to be found that morning. Not a cloud in the sky. Gorgeous.

I was heading to Pepperdine University to visit a friend that teaches film production there. Greeting me in the lobby, he proceeded with a tour of the department and casually mentioned that I would be speaking to his students for a few minutes. Come again? Why would I do that? According to him, I had real world experience to be passed down to the next generation. Interesting. Until that very morning, I thought I still was the next generation… We entered the classroom and all was swell until the students actually started to file in. I hate myself for admitting this, but I got nervous. Why? Who the hell cared? They were just college kids. Film students. I’d been around those types plenty. I looked around the room to size up my audience… and didn’t recognize one single person there. Granted, I had never met any of them before in my life, but my confusion stemmed from a deeper source. Who exactly were these creatures? I didn’t recognize anything about them: their appearance, their body language, their apparent joy-like state of being. It then occurred to me that I might have just discovered a new species of film student.

They were washed. Clean-shaven. Most if not all of them looked like they were wearing freshly laundered clothing. I didn’t understand. I also noticed that many of them were lacking traditional film student essentials: the ubiquitous coffee mug and pack of cigarettes. Intriguing. Obviously a lot had changed since my days at school. As a student, I had learned that discerning survival skills was the name of the game. Do I brush my teeth or wash my face? Do I change my clothes or pack a lunch? It was one or the other, but not both; the ‘L’ wasn’t going to wait for anyone. Daily sustenance could be hunted down and found at McDonalds or Subway. To blend in with the rest of the herd and hide from predators such as instructors asking for overdue scripts, most students adapted black on black camouflage. It worked. On any given day, you would be hard-pressed to tell us apart as we either milled around the halls or huddled in front of the film building. Our appearance exhibited common traits of the species: pasty skin, sleep-deprived eyes, unwashed hair and three-day stubble.

Yet the kids in front of me were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. White teeth gleamed under their ever-present smiles. Shiny locks of hair framed their peaches and cream complexions. Happy and healthy film students. Fascinating.

My enthrallment with this previously unknown species superseded my anxiety of talking to them. Instead I wondered: “Could I communicate with them at all? Do we speak the same language?” I recalled my time at Columbia and Chapman, what life has been like since graduating, how to survive in LA… and slowly began to detect signs of classic film student behavior. While a few sat upright and focused steadfastly on my every word, most were not. Slumped over in their chairs, they seemed to be looking past me, their faces clouded over with ambivalence. Now this is what I remembered. Alas, no new discovery had been made. These were the same students that I knew back in Chicago. Yet instead of mirroring the barren and sometimes inhospitable terrain of my hometown, they had merely adapted to their beautiful surroundings in order to better blend into the landscape. Survival of the Malibu fittest. We’re all the same underneath; some of us just have better teeth and year-round tans.

Image: Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses to “Evolution Of The Species”

Funny how your description of the film student actually reminds me of the supposed metamorphosed film professional.

Sterling
December 9th, 2010

Oddly enough, that makes me feel a bit better. It was hard not to envy those Pepperdine students, but I guess Columbia really was prepping us for the real world? 😉

Me
December 9th, 2010