Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Metamorphosis


There are moments in our lives when we have no choice—there is but one door through which we can walk. Other times, while we have choices, the “right” door is obvious to all. Then there are those moments when we are both blessed and cursed with an abundance of choices, each spiced with possibility and potential and we find our progress stymied not by too few opportunities, but by too many.

Such was the month of April.

Returning from a cruise to Mexico at the end of March, my wife, Stephanie and I spent several days in L.A.. It was partly a trip to visit friends and partly a chance to scope out Chapman University where I'd just found out I'd been accepted into the master's program for film school. The school seemed great—a small, intimate campus in large, Spanglish buildings set among the sort of exotic flora only Southern California can produce. I strolled around the campus, spent time grilling both students and professors, sat in on a class and came away with a very nice overall impression. More than anything, however, I was just excited at the thought of being back in a scholastic environment.

That evening, we drove up to Burbank and visited an old friend of Stephanie's who's a Post Production Supervisor at Warner Bros. We were given a fascinating VIP tour, zipping around the lot in his golf cart, ducking in and out of sound stages, wandering around the various sets and peeking in on the Poseidon (the film he was overseeing at the time) post-production spaces—giant mixing stages, the ADR dubbing stages, the score stages, the editing booths, etc. We met the director, Wolfgang Peterson (Das Boot, Air Force One, Troy), as well as the producer, Duncan Henderson (Dead Poet's Society, Harry Potter, Master and Commander) and the editor, Peter Honess (Rob Roy, L.A. Confidential). To pull back that curtain and see how the magic is made was a thrilling experience.

The next day we spent in Hollywood with one of my dearest friends, Kris (click on "play video"), an independent producer, writer and actor. His roommate, Tad, who's an agent with ICM, the third largest talent agency in the country, listened politely while I told him about my plans for the future.

And then he tore them apart.

“Why in the world would you want to go to film school?” he asked. “Forget it! It's two years and 80 grand—skip it, move to L.A. right now and just begin working. Sure, you'll start at the very bottom and it sucks, but it's where everyone starts. The key is getting out here as soon as possible, diving right in, and working like hell.”

There was obviously a lot more to it, but you get the gist.

What he said made a lot of sense and needless to say, took the shape of an existential monkey wrench. I thought I had everything planned out—going to film school and then taking Hollywood by storm. But now those plans were in shambles. I called Stephanie's friend at Warner Bros. and asked if I could take him out for breakfast. He agreed. When I asked him about the validity of Tad's advice, he said he couldn't agree more. In the successive days, I interviewed two former production assistants who now cut film trailers—they couldn't agree more. A cinematographer—he couldn't agree more. A script supervisor and screenwriter—she couldn't agree more. And of course Kris was thrilled at the idea—we've wanted to work together for years.

When the acceptance letter for Boston University's graduate film program arrived shortly after we returned home, I felt the glow of satisfaction, but not the thrill of possibility. While the decision was far from made, I knew the direction toward which my heart was inclined.

The Hollywood dream. What a cliché. It is my aspiration, my ambition, dare I say my calling to work in the film industry. If I don't go for it, I'll always wonder what could have happened if I had.

My wife is overwhelmingly supportive. My friends and family are overwhelmingly supportive.

So why is it that at the time of writing this blog, I am turning my back on L.A. and packing my bags for New York City...

* * *

On a Saturday a few weeks ago, Stephanie came in from fetching the mail, her face aglow, a large envelope clutched in her hand. Suddenly, I knew what it had to be. A large envelope was a good sign, right? Surely they don't need large envelopes just to say no?

I grabbed it excitedly, haphazardly ripped the top open, and yanked the contents into the light.

“Dear Mr. Fibbs: I am very pleased to inform you that you have been admitted to the MA degree program in the Department of Cinema Studies at New York University beginning in the Fall semester, 2006.”

Wow...

As far as film schools go, NYU might as well be Harvard. It's one of the most exclusive and selective programs in the country. NYU's Film School (technically known as the Tisch School of Arts) boasts such alumni as Billy Crystal, John Cusack, Ethan Hawke, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ang Lee, Spike Lee, Woody Allen, Oliver Stone, The Coen Bros., Meg Ryan, Martin Scorsese, and M. Night Shyamalan among hundreds of others.

At last count the school has produced 16 Nobel Prize winners, 13 Pulitzer Prize winners, 13 senators, 56 Congressmen, 25 Academy Award winners, 8 Grammy Award winners, 9 Emmy Award winners, and 8 Tony Award winners. Saul Bellow went here. So did Elihu Root. And Elmer Bernstein. And Bernard Herman. And Neal Simon. And J.D. Salinger. And Alan Greenspan. And Jonas Salk. And now me.

I dreamed but never really hoped to get in. I sent in my application knowing that it would boomerang back to me in the form of a polite but decided refusal. It was my one not-a-shot-in-the-world-but-what-the-hell application.

Except that that isn't what happened. Sometimes, dreams really do come true.

My L.A. advice is solid and difficult to argue with. This is going to cost time and money and certainly blood, sweat and tears. If my Master's doesn't give me a leg up on the ladder to Hollywood creative production, I may, indeed, need to start, once again, at the bottom of the L.A. food chain. All things that, had I settled on the path that led to California in the first place, may have, to a large degree, been avoided. I know they're right.

And yet...

Here, now, at this point in my life...at this point in our lives...this is what's right for Stephanie and me. Her job couldn't be more thrilled for her. They've agreed to let her work out of New York. As a Manager of Media Relations for a large space advocacy non-profit, this is the mother-load. She will be going from a small, luke-warn media market to one of the most monolithic and dynamic in the world. While not technically a promotion, it is a move of inestimable advantage.

Every few days we pinch ourselves. Manhattan...soon we'll be living in Manhattan! It is a change we can't wait to embrace. A friend told me the other day that New York City is going to be overwhelming. That's OK, I answered, we've been underwhelmed for long enough. We can't wait to feel the rhythm and pulse of the great city, to soak in the sights, sounds and smells of America's most vibrant, cosmopolitan metropolis. To stroll the boulevards, discover the best-kept-secret delis, take in Broadway shows, trade our cars in for the subway (especially nice with today's gas prices), and, of course, immerse ourselves in NYU's phenomenal film school.

L.A. isn't going anywhere. But this moment may never come again. These are tandem chances of a lifetime—extraordinary opportunities we dare not let slip through our fingers. This is a special occasion in which we have both been given the chance to pursue our dreams and reach for our unique stars—and do it together.

I know it's only a matter of time until I find myself in L.A., working with friends already established and creating the magic we all know we have within us. Perhaps the wait will be only the length of graduate school. Film school will give me the necessary connections, allow me to enhance my teaching options, build my resume and, God forbid, allow me to fall back on something later in life. I don't want to lose my focus on ALL that I want out of life—and film school was always one facet of that dream. Hollywood isn't going anywhere—it will still be waiting for me. However long it takes, that, it seems, is another metamorphosis and another post.

* * *

I've started another blog to chronicle my film school adventures: The Film Snob. I’m not quite sure of the shape this blog will take. I see colors and sense patterns, but don’t yet see the latticework that will make up the structure.

It will not resemble this blog, which is usually updated only once every week or two, generally with substantive and protracted posts. Instead, I envision The Film Snob to more resemble the traditional blog—updated often with short posts about remarkable events that took place over the course of the day or week directly relating to my experiences in film school. Additionally, it will be more professional in nature. I will maintain The Ready Room for my more personal topics.

You may notice when you go there, that I've already posted quite a bit. The entries are composed of several posts from this blog that cross-pollinated well, copies of my film reviews for DVDFanatic, as well as a few film related articles that I wrote for The Colorado Springs Gazette during my time at the newspaper. The most recent post is a 2005 New York Times article that proclaims a Cinema Studies MA as the new MBA. It's a fascinating read.

I may not have much more to say on it for the next few months of preparation but will, no doubt, have no end of things to talk about come September.

32 Comments:

Anonymous Cathi of Agoura Hills California said...

Thank goodenss you choose NYC of LA. What a hell hole to go to. Born and raised here and hate it. Everyone you meet Brandan is a film/screen writer, model/actor or drives a truck for the studios. It's nowhere to raise a family. And the people all suck out here. They are mean ugly people and they'll stab you in the back every chance they get. They'll tell you what you want to hear and lie to you every chance they get. NYC is where I'd rather be. They are mean and ugly to, but there is history and you will be really where the heart of it all is. Hollywood isn't what they make it out to be. That's why all the rich and famous move out when they can. Fake people live in LA. Trust me I'm one of them, married to one, had children that became it. It's not where yu should be.

12:43 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Brandon,

Congratulations on your decision. I was wondering when we'd hear what path you'd decided to take. Though the path of immediate action may have led to monetary rewards more rapidly, I think that the challenges of film school are much more up your alley. I wish you all the best.

I'm sure many folks have told you that they will look you up when they are in the city, and I would just like to formally add my name to the list. I hope to find some time to go up to NYC in the next year, but I can't guarantee it. I can get to a lot of shows here in DC. The problem is that I can't hit one city district and have the great variety that the great white way affords.

All my best for you and Stephanie,

Jim

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Brandon!

Great news, and well done on making a strong decision. I think you've done exactly the right thing. You couldn't really pass up the opportunity of NYU. I think you would have learnt masses just jumping in and trying to swim, but you'd have learnt it the hard way. There's something to be said for that, but then, there is also learning from the masters, and you can't beat that kind of training. I'm so excited for you both. I think you will absolutely love NYC -- I'm so jealous as I've always wanted to visit NYC but never had the chance. I think you have a much greater chance of mixing with some true art-world professionals and that will lead to more exciting projects than you can imagine -- I wonder if, once you're there, you will ever leave! All my love and best wishes to you both. XXX Heidi

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Deletha said...

This is such wonderful news! I am so excited and happy for you and Stephanie. NYC is indeed magical, and I know you will enjoy your time there. Also, I will get to see you when I am in NYC, and that is usually a couple times a year. My next trip will be Thanksgiving, so I will see you in a few months!

Love, Deletha

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Sandy said...

hey Brandon,

congratulations on your new adventure to the Big Apple......I'll be praying for you and Stephanie as you prepare to embark on this adventure. it isn't easy relocating.....there are lots of things to be done. keep me updated on how things go.

Sandy

9:38 AM  
Anonymous N said...

Congratulations Brandon on this amazing accomplishment.

You are doing the right thing, for the simple reason that NYU is an end to itself, not just a means.

That goes for Manhattan as well.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous FTW said...

Wow...NYU. That's intense. Congratulations.

I also just read about confirmation. May the name of the Lord be glorified through you.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Reacher said...

Yeah, big deal. What's NYU and the Big Apple after you've been to SBU?

I'm really excited for you. Mostly I'm excited about having another friend who will have a floor I can sleep on. Trust me, after you see the rent you'll know why I limit myself to the floor. The NYU neighborhood, Washington Square Park, the Village, etc. are my favorite areas of the city. And, I must say, a much better choice than LA.

I'm restless already. When are you moving, so I can book my flight?

10:12 AM  
Blogger Reacher said...

Make contact with this guy when you get there. I taught a summer program at Princeton with him a couple of years ago. I didn't get to know him extremely well--we were only there a month--but he is brilliant and a great guy.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous jb said...

Hi Brandon.

Love the blog, and your writing is fantastic as usual. Very exciting news for you and your wife.

Save your money on film school, you've had good training with Robert. Take that money and make a film, or go work on a film. You won't regret it.

I actually had 3 offers to go to LA film schools when I was making Wilson Chance... and if I had done that I would have never done the first film, or have 2 more films ready for 2007 with investors already interested.

At any rate, go for it! Hollywood is losing its grip, because people want to see what indie filmmakers can bring to the table, something that's new and exciting. The art of film has finally come back into the hands of the artists.

I look forward to seeing your first film.

Best,
jb

10:32 AM  
Blogger Grinth said...

Congratulations! I kind of figured that was the route you would go, and a good one it is at that.

I'd also like to add my name to the list of people who would like to visit you in NYC. I've been meaning to sneak down there for a visit and now I have another reason to do so.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous The devil's advocate said...

I can't agree more with JB and the others who gave you the sage advice of giving up school and going straight to work. Write a screenplay or get to work on a production. We all impatiently await the results.

Of course I am happy for you in making a decision, and I wish you and yours all the best, you seem to be a wonderful team, but I must make my voice be heard.

God bless,
The devil's advocate

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Brandon, it is so great to see it in black and white. And how *wonderful* that you and Stephanie won't have a "commuter" marriage! It's great she can work in NYC.

"N" was right...NYU film school *is* an end in itself. And while it's not a path I would choose, I'm still just a little jealous. Wow. How incredibly cool is that...

Recently finished this book: Its All Your Fault: How To Make It As A Hollywood Assistant
by Bill Robinson, Ceridwen Morris and I expected to find it an amusing and witty story about the hardships and rewards of taking the path you chose not to. Instead, it was awful and horrifying. I know you've made the right choice. What a wonderful few years you have ahead of you!

I'm SO happy for you, and for your wife, whom I hope to meet before you leave town!

10:55 AM  
Anonymous CW said...

Congratulations! This is too exciting for words...

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Kristin...from Oregon said...

Greetings from the Great Northwest!
Oh Brandon...what great news for you and Stephanie. Despite being negligent in my attempts at communicating as often as I think of you two...I religiously read your blog to feel connected to where and what you both are doing. I'm so happy for you...and elated that you both will be together in this new journey! Needless to say, we will have to visit you in New York...What a wonderful new adventure for you. Congratulations & God's best to you both! ~Kristin "the new sister"

12:09 PM  
Anonymous DEON said...

Brandon,
Congratlations and let me say that, I've always thought of you as a sort of Shakespearean type of guy, and you know I've always loved reading your stories and Blogs over the years. I am so very proud of you I know that you and Stephanie are gonna go and take New York by storm. NYC is very lucky to be getting such a great Man you have such a vivid and bright spirit about you, and you will be great at whatever you choose. God Bless you both in this new journey that is about to take fold. I hope to come and visit you guys in NYC, it will be a great pleasure to meet Stephanie, after reading so much about her. Take care you two and again God Bless you in yor new journey together.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous The devil's advocate said...

You do find the best pictures for these blogs. Bravo.

The devil's advocate

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brandon,
Congrats my friend. Enjoy the Big Apple and for goodness sakes have the Shepard's Pie at B.B. Doyle's. It's walking distance from broadway's theaters (incentive?) at 302 W. 51st.
It's a big step, and I wish you the best.
-Jeff

1:16 PM  
Anonymous S said...

Brandon,

I could read your writing forever......so entertaining and yet it makes me look at all my years of Christmas letters and letters to Grandma and realize how DULL they were. : )

I wish you and Stephanie the best as you begin your journey towards New York and wherever else life may take you. As for me, I am headed to California with the AF and hope to get down and see a few of Kris' shows.

We'll talk soon!

S

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Beth said...

Let me add my congrats! So exciting! Look up my brother and sister-in-law and for heaven's sake - go to Carnegie's and have the best cheescake ever and then skip over to Serendipity's for a out of this world frozen hot chocolate. The city is full of things and places and people to discover - you will LOVE it! Besides the food the architecture is absolutely stunning and breathtaking. I am so jealous!!

3:16 PM  
Anonymous SR said...

Brandon! Oh my goodness, I just read your blog and that is awesome news, bro! I am sooo excited for you and Stephanie, what a journey you are about to embark upon. NYC is the best! We were there last year for a friend's opening of her play at the John Houseman theatre. It was a whirlwind weekend, never long enough, but we had a ball. I am so thrilled and know this will be a huge step toward your goal of being in Hollywood. Doors will be opened to you that you have never even imagined! I just know it.

SR

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well my Fibbs, I am soo happy for you. I am glad that life is treating you great. New York what more could you ask for. So when you become that big film maker you can always make a film on our lives in Sig :-).
From the LA well now Moorpark girl that loves LA and doesnt think everyone is ugly and mean
Sonja Daye

12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

= ) = ) Brandon, I'm so happy for you and Stephanie!! I can *totally* see you LOVing NYC!! and I'm SO glad to hear how things have worked out with Stephanie's job--what a tremendous blessing! just too bad Anita may be moving right as y'all arrive--she'll have to give a run-down of cool places to visit (and maybe some passes to the MOMA ; ) ).

You are going to flourish there, my friend--what a heady time! : )

Daria : )

4:34 AM  
Anonymous Vickie said...

hey there - i had goosebumps reading the story even though i had heard most of it & knew the outcome.

can i just ask from the outset that you make sure you get a place big enough for us to come & stay in NY!

8:19 AM  
Blogger jen said...

brandon, you RAWK!

good job, my friend. i will add you to the list of pulitzer prize winners, mmkay? can i come help you on your first indie film? i promise you will never have to write another go native again. hee hee.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Go native?

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Gilly said...

Buddy, Film School in New York. That is awesome! Damn awesome! Go get um! I have never been to New York so guess I will need to take the trip. Miss you bro, sounds like things are kicking ass for you.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous AA said...

Hey Brandon,

I am so happy for you. I always knew you would be someone famous in the film industry. Having grown up around the industry I know it's tough, but you can do it. LA people are so phony, they don't have any class, (I should know). NY has so much to offer you both. Good luck. You have my permission to use my name in any screenplay you write, direct or produce, lol... Just don't forget about your favorite barista.

AA

11:15 AM  
Anonymous MD said...

Dear Brandon,

I read your blog comments yesterday, and I am only now able to respond. I am so happy for you and Stephanie and I am very pleased with you decision to go to NYU.

I just can't wait to hear the news of you new exploits and I truly wish you the best. I wish that I could someday join you in your exploits...

MD

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Vargo said...

I'm so thrilled for you. How exhilarating it all sounds. I know you'll relish this new adventure.

Warmest Regards...

12:49 PM  
Anonymous West said...

congrats on the acceptance to NYU...

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Cassie said...

Brandon,

I read your blog, and that is so exciting. I admit, I don't envy you at this point in my life. I'm so tired of just going to school and having no life that the next four weeks just cannot pass quickly enough for me. But give me a year or two off, and I will be filled with envy. Can't wait to hear about your studies. When I am ready to tackle my M.A., you'll be there to give me some great advice I'm sure. I am very glad that you are on your way to making your dreams come true. Good luck, and keep in touch.

Cassie :)

10:58 AM  

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