Am I A Luddite?
Radiation Level: 13 Years of Build Up
Listening To: 6 Underground by Sneaker Pimps
Today I taught a screenwriting class to 8th graders. I was SUPER excited. Two of my favorite things: middle-schoolers and writing movies! If only they had been as excited as me. (sigh)
It was a positive experience, don’t get me wrong. But I was expecting them to be bubbling with enthusiasm. Like me. I’ve been working on the lesson plan for days. I decided the class would focus on comedy writing (rule of threes, putting the funny word at the end of the sentence, etc.) Super interesting, right? But when I showed the clips from Napoleon Dynamite and Little Miss Sunshine, they just yawned. I asked, “Are these scenes funny?” “Not really,” they said. (sigh #2)
Okay, lesson learned – never assume someone of another generation shares the same comedic sensibility as you. But we did do a writing assignment that showed a lot of talent in some of the students. AND they not only wrote on computers in the lab, they used FINAL DRAFT. That’s right, 13-year-olds competent in Final Draft. I was in my 30’s before I even know what Final Draft was. (sigh #3)
Will this class foster a career in screenwriting for the young lads and ladettes? I don’t know. Will this class make them better writers? Probably. I would have LOVED to have taken a class like this when I was in 8th grade. But that was way before computers and screenwriting software. What I do know is that the leap our young people have taken in terms of being facile with technology makes me think we shouldn’t fear the future. These kids are whip-smart and bold. They are entitled to think they can do anything. I’m starting to think it’s true. They can do anything, including save the planet.
That said, I had my first job interview today via Skype. I was tickled at the idea that I was wearing a suit jacket on top and sweats on the bottom and the employer wouldn’t know. I spent an hour trying on clothes, glasses and seated positions to create the most flattering yet professional image. I had to make sure I wasn’t too close to the camera or the shadows on my face looked like dark circles under my eyes. I found the sweet spot about 4 feet from the camera. Then the call came.
I found it difficult to concentrate on what I was saying because though you can see the person you’re speaking with, you can’t really look them in the eye. In order to appear that you are looking them in the eye, you have to look directly into the tiny camera at the top of your computer. And, as another distraction, there was the little box at the bottom of my screen with my image in it which I felt compelled to keep looking at to make sure I wasn’t slouching, frowning or revealing my sweat pants.
Maybe the more you use Skype, the more you get used to it and figure out where to focus. For me, it was like being interviewed by someone standing in front of a mirror – how can you not look at yourself? This made me much more insecure during the Skype than I would have been in person. I know Skype is the way of the future and I’ll get better at it, but for me, just like the way a Kindle will never replace the hand-feel of a book, Skyping will never replace meeting someone live, in person. Does that make me a luddite? (sigh #4)