Ah Bugger

The vapid utterings of a neurotic mind.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

My non-used commencement speech.

So I am graduating from Grad school in May. I got an email from school a while back asking me to write a commencement speech for them to consider. I did. I worked hard and made people edit it for me. I sent it in, and waited to hear back. They chose not to choose me. Boo hoo. But since I like my speech, I shall place it here for your enjoyment!

This is for the school of Communication at American University. I'm getting my MFA in film.


I am extremely honored to have been asked to be a commencement speaker. Wow, I thought. A captive audience to listen to me wax poetic on what I have learned in the three years I have spent at American University, working towards the MFA in Film and Electronic Media that I will (hopefully) receive today!

In order to not abuse my power, I’ve decided to give you the top ten things I have learned here at AU. Oh, I can hear you whispering to each other. Top ten? That’s so clichéd. I KNOW! It’s okay, though. Remember that I work in film and clichés bring home the bacon. Anyone who has seen the Twilight series can attest to this. However, after suffering through multiple speeches where the speaker repeatedly claims to be finishing up, only to continue for another 45 minutes, I’ve decided it would be best to allow you to count along with me.

1.    My first lesson learned was to get to the point! I used to think the more time I had your ear; the more likely you were to help me. How wrong I was. Then I learned the magic of the elevator pitch, which forces me to impress you in the time it takes to get to the next floor. Fact is a minute is generally all someone is willing to give, so I try to make it impactful!

2.   Capturing someone’s interest is not enough! I still have to request their help. The second lesson is Don’t be afraid to ask! The worst that can happen is that someone might say no. I’ve never heard of someone getting poked in the eye because they were brazen enough to request help. Simply by asking, I got an extremely talented and professional cinematographer to work on my student film with me, for free; I got to meet and take photos with my all-time idol Julie Andrews; and I’ve worked on multiple television and movie sets. Why? That’s right. Just because I asked.

3.   Now if you are asking yourself, how do we know whom to ask? I’ve found it’s vital to (lesson 3) never stop making friends. To quote our very own professor Chris Palmer, Network, Network, Network! Go to every event. Meet every person. Chat with the cop in line behind you at Popeye’s. Take business cards and go home and shoot off a quick email to say how glorious it was to meet them. Then later, when you are writing a movie about a DEA agent, that guy getting the extra crispy chicken meal may have a great connection to a person you can interview.

4.   In the time that I have been working in film, I have found that the people who work a lot are the ones who show up ready to go, and are fun to work with. Through them I learned lesson 4. Smile! Be nice! Work hard! Always do your best to “be on,” because people love to work with people who make things go smoothly and are fun to be around. You may be the most talented person alive, but if you are unpleasant or hard to work with - opportunities will quickly fade.

5.    While having fun and being nice, I still have to remember lesson 5: Take myself seriously. Perhaps more accurately: Take my career seriously. Here’s an example of when I did not heed this: I was in LA last September, and had the opportunity to hobnob with the cast of NBC’s Community. When actor/writer Joel McHale asked me what I did, I stuttered, and said I want to be a writer? He took a physical step back and retorted, well do ya? Who knows what chance encounters like the one with Joel McHale could have lead to if I could have made him laugh and impressed him with my self-confidence? I’m going to meet a ton of people who intimidate me, heck everyone intimidates me, but I have to just fake till I make it! Because honestly, if I don’t believe in myself, why should anyone else?

6.   Though I can’t get too cocky! Lesson 6 is to admit when I don’t know something, but then do what it takes to figure it out. I was assisting Professor Larry Engel on set for the Discovery channel show Curiosity. He kept sending me off to get things with crazy names, like stinger. What the heck is a stinger? I asked myself as I stared into the abyss of nameless film equipment. I grabbed a bag in the hopes that the stinger was inside. After presenting a multitude of devices, all of which were not the elusive stinger, I had to admit that I just couldn’t figure out what it could be, and I asked. Turns out it’s an extension cord. However, because I admitted that I was naïve to the terminology, and willing to work double time to make up for it, I got the opportunity to work with Professor Engel on many other incredible projects.

7.   Speaking of Larry Engel’s projects, he always seems to be working on the widest variety of subjects. Ask any of the professors at AU and you’ll find that they are curious about a multitude of topics. This taught me lesson 7: to keep learning! I read voraciously. I watch every show, every movie, and every play I can squeeze into my schedule… and can afford, because let’s keep it real. The point is that I have no idea where my next inspiration will come from. So, I try to say yes to everything!

8.   Finally, to finish up my list, we arrive at lesson 8. Wait, did I just say 8? Didn’t I say earlier that this was a list of 10 things? That’s the final lesson, my friends. I’ve learned to budget my time wisely. Things inevitably take much more time than you expect. There’s nothing worse than having to work longer hours than you anticipated. So if you think it will take 8 hours, budget 10. Then if you finish in 8 hours, or heck, even 9 1/2, everyone will think you are the most organized, fantastic person, whom they’ll be clamoring to work with again and again.

I am so grateful for all of the lessons I have learned here at American University and for the power that has been instilled in me to be the very best at what I do. Congratulations to the class of 2012. There is such an immense pool of talent sitting in this audience and I cannot wait to see the successes that each of you will inevitably achieve. Maybe one day you’ll let me work with you? Because, after all, I AM A WRITER!