May 18, 2008
Good morning, ladies, and allow me to begin by congratulating you on this tremendous accomplishment. College graduation. Woo hoo!
And from Scripps College, such a beautiful, prestigious, forward-thinking — and incredibly expensive institution. A historic bastion of girl power and a place that educates women exclusively.
But before we go any further, we should honor all those people who supported your journey to this moment. I am referring, of course, to the parents and step-parents, the grandparents the domestic partners once removed, the babysitters, the BFFs, the starter-boyfriends, and most importantly, the dude who cuts your hair.
Your parents, I am sure, are waiting for an explanation: Who is this person delivering the commencement address? Has there been a mistake? Was Condoleeza Rice’s plane delayed from Yemin? Did Chelsea Clinton have to get her wisdom teeth pulled?
No. It’s time for the first reality check of your post-graduate career. You got me. A Hollywood screenwriter — and yes, I apologize in advance because I will be plugging our summer movie THE HOUSE BUNNY, which opens in theaters nationwide August 22nd, please buy your tickets on moviephone and tell a friend.
But it is slightly appropriate that I plug the HOUSE BUNNY, the story of a Playboy bunny who gets kicked out of the Mansion — only to have her face the real world, get a job, and become the woman she was meant to be.
Right. Reality check, number two. You have to get a job. As a screenwriter, the only advice I can give you is what I know. I’m aware that some of you might be headed off to crack the human genome, do postgraduate work in molecular biology or get a job in that most noble of professions – PR– and for that, I’m in awe of you. I myself graduated from Occidental College with the intention of making a living as a…poet who would… write screenplays on the side.
Armed with the goal of being a poet-slash-screenwriter, I set out on the first part of my quest. Which was to…get a job. I stuffed CD booklets at a gothic record label, sold crystals at a new age bookstore, read scripts at an indie film company and telemarketed my balls off. I was in what we screenwriters like to call “the beginning of Act Two”.
Act One is childhood, high school and of course, college. And the whole awakening-of-deep-profound- insights-into life-history-and-politics-thing. But that’s just what we call the “set-up”. Where the heroine’s personality is established — even though her central motivations haven’t yet called her into action.
Act Two is the part of the story where the plucky heroine has a goal and sets out on her path to achieve it. She must overcome obstacles — in the form of the boss who won’t give her the promotion, the jealous rival, the annoying person in the next cubicle — and in the case of our favorite romantic comedies — the guy you always wanted but could never have, or better yet, the one that got away, or better still, the one who’s been waiting.
In case it hasn’t yet become clear, today is the first day of your beginning of Act Two. And bear in mind, much of what I’m saying right now might end up on the cutting room floor. Because my role here in the movie of your life is a small one. Consider me a cameo appearance, but hopefully one with some credibility, one who will remind you of what you already know: that if you are true to your goal and to your own inestimable powers of intelligence, passion, and intuition, you will prevail in true “girl power” fashion.
Okay, so, one thing to remember as you enter your second act is that you — the hero — will invariably reach the Point of No Return, when all hope is lost. Just like in every great chick flick we know and love — Private Benjamin or Thelma and Louise — Erin Brockowich or my personal favorite, Legally Blonde, all your resources will be gone, and a happy ending is nowhere in sight. And that’s the moment when you will pick yourself up by the bootstraps, tap into that essential inner strength we knew was there all along, get yourself an incredible makeover and say, screw it, I can do whatever I want with my life. And I will.
But brace yourself. Because it’s a rollercoaster — one moment, you’re up, the next, you’re down, until that moment in Act Three when you take a stand, you fill the screen, I’m talking serious close-up now, and you tell us what you really and truly believe in. And maybe you’ve got your faults and your foibles, maybe you’ve made a few mistakes along the way, but this thing you believe in is so passionate and true that all of us — your best friends and your family — we can’t help but root for you.
And whether you get the perfect job, or the perfect guy, or you win the big case, or solve the caper, that’s all just an aside — because you believe in something.
Which brings us back to who you are now. Whether you’re a fish out of water, or a misfit, or an activist, or the one who make jokes when everyone is being serious, or the one who cries when everyone else is having the best time ever — you are the hero in your own life. And without being too Hollywood about it, this is what great movies are all about.
Of course, Hollywood follows a formula. Lives do not. What we plot for the Movie of Your Life could easily spool into a much larger and more complicated story than we could ever imagine. Maybe it’s not a movie; it’s a TV series, a Broadway musical or a trilogy. And in twenty years, we’ll do the remake with a much younger cast. There is no telling the potential of your own personal franchise.
So what do we do today? How can we send you off into a world that is so wildly erratic and unpredictable? How can we bank on your box-office draw?
I’ll say the same thing I say to myself every day while writing a script. Think on your feet, trust your instincts, explore the possibilities. What if and what if and what if. Does it have to be set in St. Louis? Can the best friend be an environmental toxicologist? Can the stolen diamond be a cure for cancer? Let’s see something we’ve never seen before. Let’s make people laugh, cry, or jump out of our seats. Don’t say it; show it. Character equals action.
All I can give you is what I know. Which is that yes, THE HOUSE BUNNY opens on August 22nd. And yes, I finally did get that book of poetry published. Last year. It took me awhile, but I finally got to be that poet-slash-screenwriter I set out to be on the first day of my own personal Act Two.
So, what I wish for you — is lives of women-slash-girls-slash-scientists-slash-writers-slash-lawyers-slash-environmentalists-slash-humanitarians-slash-mothers-slash-wives-slash-artists-slash-architects-slash-engineers-slash-diplomats-slash-President-of-The-United-States. We’re waiting in our seats with a bucket of popcorn, a fizzy water and a high calorie snack. Our cellphones are off and the lights are just beginning to dim.
Ladies. Girls. Women. Chicks. Congratulations. Let the movie begin.
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