So last Saturday, I was at a Greenhouse Productions Spotlight workshop on Creativity: Beauty in Story with Brian S. Chan and in the midst of his lecture, he puts this quote up on the screen:

Big Fish illustrates how stories provide life with a narrative structure and unity, on which hang human significance.” ~ Kelly James Clark

This quote was significant for a few reasons. I do love the film Big Fish and I listen to a podcast from the film’s screenwriter, John August, every week. But the main significance was the author of the quote – Kelly James Clark was my Intro to Philosophy professor in college. I enjoyed the class so much that I took a second, month-long class with him titled “Death and the Meaning of Life.”

And recently, as I’ve been writing more screenplays and realizing how I approach the stories and themes, I’ve been thinking a lot about that class.

When I went to Calvin College, they didn’t have a film program. My junior and senior year, they participated in a program called Los Angeles Film Studies Center (LAFSC) where students from Christian colleges could spend a semester in Hollywood, getting a taste for how to succeed out here. I didn’t find out about it until later my senior year and couldn’t have afforded it, if I had, but my friend Kiff VandenHuevel, who I’ve mentioned before here was involved our senior year, along with several other guys I knew in college. And the program is still going on today – my friend Miles Allen, also mentioned in other posts, went through the program a few years ago, and my friend Melanie Hall, whose husband Adam, the director behind Research. Sudden Death! and Murder?, works at LAFSC. But I digress.

The point I was starting to make was that unlike many of the prospective filmmakers out here, I didn’t get exposed to all the famous, classic films while I was in college. I did my own film studies on VHS and DVD. But I was exposed to some films in college. I was blessed with studying with Quentin Schultze, William David Romanowski, and, as I mentioned, Professor Clark. Plus, the school brought in film like Henry V, Bridge Over the River Kwai, and Being There.

That month-long class, Death and the Meaning of Life? We read a bit, journaled a lot, and watched great films like Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Harold & Maude, Woody Allen’s Crimes & Misdemeanors and Love & Death, among others.

So when I’m considering my approach to writing films and how much I relate to Brian McDonald‘s Invisible Ink approach, I realize, my first significant exposure to film was in a philosophy class. And journaling about it.

So thank you, Professor Clark, for starting me off on this journey, in more ways than one.