My friend Pot-Head got booted from our experimental screenwriting class, which is unfortunate. For that class, she was my first reader, so I was pretty excited at the outset. The first reader is a concept that I admire in theory but not in practice, since I usually end up partnered with people whose writing I don’t care about and vice-versa. But since Pot-Head and I are friends, we mutually admire and care about one another’s work, so we actually put a lot of thought into the critiques, and for the first portion of the semester she helped me quite a bit.
Then she got booted, and I got fucked.
Another person I know is in this class with me, the Token Articulate African-American Fellow. He was absent the day first readers were assigned, so, for lack of anybody else, we were partnered as a threesome. Since Pot-Head dropped, we’re back down to a twosome, which would be awesome, except for one thing: Fellow doesn’t want to do any actual work.
He respects and values my opinion; he just hates this class, loathes the assignments, and puts it off beyond the last minute. Consequently, I’ve read roughly four pages of work from him over the course of the semester, and two of them were a review of The Passion of the Christ he wrote for another class. All of this is fine with me: if he doesn’t write anything, I don’t have to read anything, and I don’t have to do a critique. It’s a “get out of jail free” card for the first reader system.
Something else you need to know: I’m sort of friends with Callie, the professor who teaches this class. She taught me last semester, and I really dug her style and criticism (which mostly involves comments like “Where’s the conflict?”, “When does this get funny?”, and my personal favorite, “???”), so I started bothering her until she decided to stop fighting it and now pretends like we’re friends.
Now, Callie doesn’t seem to like Fellow. He doesn’t like her much, either, but she’s not a fan of people who don’t do the work and don’t read the assignments. And she’s especially not a fan of people who attempt to B.S. their way through the discussion of our reading assignments, seeing as it wastes everybody’s time.
The thing about Fellow, though, is that he’s really surprisingly good at B.S. He used to be an acting student, so he’s got that whole “articulate” thing, and he’s good at faking like he’s really sincere despite neither knowing nor caring about what he’s saying. In fact, he even had me fooled (except for one thing that made me suspect him, where he pointed out a random line from an assignment, read it, and said something like, “For some reason, this line really spoke to me”—that’s pretty much a giveaway that he didn’t actually read it) until he whispered to me once, “I did a pretty good job considering I don’t even own the textbook.”*
Unfortunately, he’s not good enough to fool Callie, who’s been teaching long enough to know all the tricks. One day after class, when I was fighting her to keep Pot-Head in the class despite her repeated, unexplained absences, Callie asked me, “Could you tell Fellow not to participate in discussions when he hasn’t read the assignment?” I was sort of stunned into silence that she had him all figured out, but then I realized that she’s a lot smarter than I am, so obviously she would’ve figured it out. I smiled and told her I would.
But that’s clearly not enough for me to believe that she hates Fellow. The real key came the week after we had turned in our first treatments for a 10-page script. The treatments were short, but Fellow’s somehow managed to be completely, confusingly incoherent. I read it three times, but I had no idea what was going on. For our class discussion, we basically went around the room pitching our first readers’ treatment to the class. I made the “I’m not sure I understood this” disclaimer about 40 times as I stumbled through the pitch.
My summary went like this: it’s a story about a man who has lost everyone he’s ever loved—friends, family, his wife—and he finally is unable to take it, so he commits suicide.
Not surprisingly, I got it all wrong. Fellow seemed kinda pissed that I didn’t get it. He explained to the class that it’s about a man who has visions of other people’s suffering, and he can’t take that anymore and ends up dying of a heart attack.
After class, Callie approached me in the hall and said, “You did a good job trying to explain Fellow’s piece today.”
“Yeah,” I said, “sorry I screwed it all up. I really didn’t get it.”
“Neither did I,” she said.
“I read it, like, three times, and it totally confused me,” I continued.
“Me too,” she said and grinned like this was the funniest thing in the world.
The week before spring break (the week that all this treatment confusion occurred), our first-draft scripts were due. I was hoping his fleshed-out script would be different (and clearer), but he had nothing. He said his computer told him he was giving the wrong password and locked him out, but once he got it figured out, he’d e-mail the script to me.
He didn’t e-mail it. Then, he didn’t show up for the third and final class I have with him, on Thursday. He didn’t e-mail it all through spring break. I was surprised by none of this.
Finally, Monday, we’re back in school. He apologized for not e-mailing the script, saying his grandmother had a heart-attack, so he spent two weeks in Georgia and didn’t have access to his computer. I started to feel guilty for all the thoughts I’d had over the past week about laziness. He promised he’d e-mail both the script and his feedback for my script on Monday night, so I could hopefully read it and give feedback for Tuesday.
He didn’t e-mail it. I was shocked.
Then, he didn’t show up for class on Tuesday. “Stunned” is the only word I can think of to describe my demeanor.
And he hasn’t e-mailed it since, not surprisingly.
It’s not that I really yearn for his feedback, or to give him feedback. Sure, I’m interested in what he thinks about it (he has a lot of strong, valid opinions about everything, so I doubt he’d hold back), but I won’t live or die if I don’t ever hear what he has to say. And, yeah, to some degree I’m interested in reading his script, although it won’t exactly make my day if I don’t get it and have to say as much in my feedback.
My beef, mostly, is that I know that he doesn’t really give a shit, and he knows that I know that he doesn’t give a shit, either. So I wish he’d just be straight with me and admit that he said “Fuck it” to this class long ago and probably is going to half-ass every assignment from now on.
During the break yesterday, Callie asked, “Have you seen Fellow at all?”
“I saw him yesterday,” I said.
“Did you read his script?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “He said he’d e-mail it to me, but he never did. Why, did he turn one in to you?”
“No,” she said.
“I don’t believe it,” I said sarcastically.
“Your friend Pot-Head wrote a great treatment, and she had a lot of interesting things to say,” Callie said. “I wish she was still in class.”
“Yeah, me too,” I replied. “Hey, you could always fudge her attendance and let her come back, if she promises never to miss again.”
“Didn’t she already promise not to miss again?” she asked.
“Well, yeah,” I said, “but there are circumstances—”
“You’re putting your ass on the line for her again, and you’re going to get screwed,” Callie said bluntly. “I’m not going to do the same thing.”
Sigh…I miss Pot-Head.**
*That annoyed me because, the second week of class, he asked to borrow the textbook from me so he could read the assignment. He said if I gave it to him Monday, he’d give it back in class on Tuesday. Then he didn’t show up for the rest of the week, so I couldn’t read the assignment for the following week. And then he didn’t read either assignment. [Back]
**Yay for melodramatics! Don’t worry, Pot-Head’s alive and well and full of vim and vinegar and THC. She just can’t really handle full-time school right now, for reasons that are private. [Back]