Welcome to the final entry in our Surviving Writing series: an inside look at the experience of being a Writing for Film & Television student thanks to Paul Donnett, who originally wrote it for his blog, Reel-Focused. Read parts one and two.
By Paul Donnett
Graduate, Writing for Film & Television
We did it! A year ago, a few hundred of us assembled at Scotiabank Theatre for orientation, ready to learn, to prove ourselves, and ultimately to conquer the world. On August 17, we graduated in a blaze of glory and gushy goodbyes.
I promised myself I’d wait a week after graduating before blogging, partly to work the emotion and booze out of my system, mostly just to process a coherent thought before jotting down a worthy final chapter. Now here I sit. The computer’s on. The coffee’s poured. Here goes.
Time is a funny, elusive thing. Actually, it isn’t a thing at all. Even as a concept, I can’t quite pin it down. You have it, then it’s gone. Life hands you more, and before you have time (ah, there it is) to say thank you, life takes the stuff back. For example, it feels like about five minutes ago that I completed my first class, when in reality I’ve already been out of school nine days. Ah, time; there is simply isn’t enough of it.
However, if I measure time not as some abstract and cruel force of nature, but as a unit of experience I can ignore or grab hold of at will, it focuses me on the only “time” I really ever have: right now. And that’s a good thing.
Rummaging through the cupboards for a yummy analogy, I’ve concluded that time is like the merry-go-round that once stood tall in my elementary school playground: I can either worry about how fast that one unoccupied space keeps passing me by or bend enthusiastically at the knees and get ready to jump aboard.
Remember that one kid who would perpetually watch longingly from afar, afraid to leap? I wonder where he is today.
What’s my point? If this last wonderful, terrifying, clarifying year at Vancouver Film School taught me anything, it’s this: life presents one opportunity after another but you’ve got to grab them while the getting is good.
Luckily, I came in as a bit of an expert in fumbled chances and missed opportunities, so I was determined not to let anything or anyone pass me by, come hell or high water.
- Invitation to submit to a writing contest? Submit.
- Unfamiliar face in the hallway? Introduce yourself.
- Approaching deadline for an assignment? Don’t put it off.
- Lineup of interesting but irrelevant shows on your PVR? Watch what you must and ignore the rest.
- Fridge full of beer? Alright, pop a top. Then back to work!
That pretty much explains how I got through this year, assembled a sexy portfolio, and met a whack of people I hope will assist in propelling me to riches and fame. Well, that plus yoga, white wine, and the support of the most courageous woman on the planet.
I wanted this year to matter. I needed it to matter. Life’s too short, man, and my dreams are too precious to just piss away and mourn at some later date. Whatever the future holds exactly, I’ll always be able to tell myself that I threw everything I could at this past year, shook every hand, left no stone unturned. Well, expect for the ones that would have killed me had I added one more thing to my plate. And remembering that will always feel really, really, really good.
Graduation was a blast. I usually get a little antsy when a ceremony goes on too long, and ours certainly did. But I didn’t care. This was our time and I was going to enjoy every last sappy minute of it. Pass the Kleenex, please and thank you. It’s simply impossible to spend as much time as we did together – walking through fire, sharing our deepest secrets, exposing ourselves so completely on the page, destroying, massaging and rebuilding each other’s egos – to not feel a deep and abiding connection that’s closer than we have with some of our own family and closest friends.
And we’re going to need that because now it’s showtime. A week to rest, maybe two, and then it’s back on our feet, ready to do it all over again.
For a year, we got to enjoy life in a beautiful bubble. An incredibly packed, tightly scheduled bubble, but a bubble nonetheless. Hey, maybe that’s the secret; maybe we can keep living in that bubble! Yeah, yeah, we’ve got to get jobs, pay bills, etc., but as writers, we also need to make sure the lights in our mental “writer’s room” stay on. Maybe it’s not so unrealistic after all to think that we can still schedule a little writing time every day. Still get together to workshop each other’s scripts and hand each other notes, building up that portfolio, staying tuned in to upcoming contests and festivals, keeping those literary muscles toned and supple. Like we’re still going to class every day, pressed to write, chasing a deadline, burning the midnight oil until something finally clicks and our wildest dreams come true.
Maybe there’s no maybe about it. Congrats, my forever homies! Now let’s do this!