Look Around

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The holidays can be a time to relax, unwind, and catch up. It’s also a time to recharge and figure out the next project. A great way to do this is to observe what’s happening around you. This is more than sitting at Starbucks, sipping overpriced caffeine juice and “people watching.” This is research. At Columbia, the filmmaker’s job is to record the world with a critical eye.

I‘m not just flapping my gums. This is something that is taken very seriously at Columbia. If you don’t believe me, I‘d like to share some photos and observations I’ve made that I believe capture my Columbia experience and have helped generate ideas.

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For example, the other day I was in the line at the grocery store. It was the 15 items or more line, the SLOW line. There I watched a curly haired boy of about five year’s old bargain with his mother, a fit woman in her 30s or 40s. “Mom, I wanna play Angry Birds!” He kept saying that over and over. “Mom, please, one more game, please. I want to play Angry Birds.” The Mother ignored her son. Instead she was checking out the point-of-purchase items and tabloid headlines. It didn’t look like she was reading. It looked like she was making a point by not reacting. It was obvious they’ve been through this before. But neither would back down.

The boy decided to up the ante. He actually swiped for the phone and tried to pull it from his mother’s purse. The mother grabbed his wrist firmly and pulled him close. Forget Angry Birds…this was Angry Mom! She clinched her jaw and in a low stern voice said, “No! No more Angry Birds! If you don’t behave there will be no angry birds for the rest of the week.” The little boy actually called her bluff. He whined Mommy one more time and swiped for the phone again. The mother pulled the phone from her purse and said, “That’s it. One week.” The boy poked out hip lip and began to cry. Mom could only let go an angry snort as she load her groceries onto the conveyor belt. Sometimes there are no winners.

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Here’s another scene that happened at the local Trader Joe’s. I saw stockings. They were rainbow colored horizontal stripes that made her legs look like giant packs of fruit stripe gum. Her skirt was ill fitting. It wasn’t so snug as to imply she uses a magic “I-look-good-in-anything-so-damn-you-all-to-hell-if-I-have-to-cut-off-circulation-to-my-upper-torso-to-get-into-this-skirt” mirror. It was the opposite. It hung loose, making her look almost sickly…or insane. She wore a frayed, dark blue waist coat, so I couldn’t tell what her shirt looked like…which is just as well. Then she turned. I expected to see a knock-off Katy Perry, (who is a knock-off Punky Brewster) but instead was met by a kind, withered face of around 60 to 70 years old. Hmmm…interesting. She wore cat-eye glasses, and her hair was a bit tussled, making her look almost sickly…or again, insane. The woman was a mess. She was a glorious colorful mess that brought sideways glances and caused shopping carts to bump into shelves holding boxes of organic almond milk. On the other hand, her eccentricities can be explained away by calling her a fashionista. Whatever possessed her to pile Pollack, Warhol, and T.J. Maxx onto her 5’1 frame didn’t matter. She made me smile. She was a spirit. She made it easier for me to grab my orange mango juice and get the hell home.

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This is my world as a Columbia directing student. These are the local characters that fuel my fantasy. The stories are all around. We just have to be open to seeing them.