My first semester at the Academy was quite a whirlwind. Friends teasingly referred to me as “Mr. Chips,” “To Devi With Love” and inquired after my Sweathogs. Ah, Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not at Notre Dame anymore. But in truth it was a great experience. It’s very different teaching at a performing arts college as opposed to one of the top academic institutions in the world, no doubt. I had to seriously shift gears and it did not at all help that the professor before me had been doing nothing but showing movies in class, and hence making me appear the “bad guy” when I came in and wanted them to do actual work.
But how rewarding to see them rise to the challenge! After the initial adjustment period I got that old familiar spark. Kids who had been slacking off suddenly worked their tails off to please me. Some of them shifted gears, too. Several transitioned from trying to get out of as much as possible to getting as much as possible out of the course. Note to self: “Never leave the classroom for too long. It’s part of who and what you are.”
Finals came and went before I knew it, I graded papers with lightning speed and found myself headed back to the Midwest for several days en route to Whitby for the much anticipated 2nd annual Bram Stoker Film Festival - yippee!
It was a particularly fun trip this go-round as dear friends Steph and Alec would be joining us for a filmmaker slumber party. Their fabulous film The Red Machine was playing a run at our beloved Vickers Theatre in Three Oaks, Michigan. For Deviant aficionados, you have seen this theater in Raven Gets a Life, or perhaps watched any of our regional premieres there. Bendfilm/Anchorage Film Fest buddy Jennifer Burns also came down to join the party (her fabulous documentary Vincent: A Life in Color shared Steph and Alec’s rare honor of getting favorably reviewed by Roger Ebert – so well deserved!)
Our first night was a divine homecoming. We threw one of our famed cocktail parties with the usual suspects – an eclectic mix of local filmmakers and Notre Damers and shared Last Seen on Dolores Street to great response. People were ultra enthused about our next project and I got that old familiar feeling – “there’s no place like home.” I can live many places, but, Man, I just love making movies back here.
Come Sunday I was caught in a battle between the devil and angel who hovered above either shoulder: hang with filmmaker friends and respond to audition queries regarding our possible upcoming film shoot in Whitby, or create a syllabus for a class I wasn’t yet confirmed to teach the semester that would begin the day I fly back from the U.K. Despite my impulsive nature, I opted to go the practical route and spent the day developing my syllabus (I was rewarded. While in Whitby, I learned via text my class over-enrolled and I’d be teaching not one but 2 sections of my new course – yipes, but yay!)
I’ve made peace with L.A. after 2+ years living here and I’m positively enamored of my beloved Los Feliz, which seems like its own world amidst the rest of this glorified suburban sprawl they try to pass off as a real city. But I always feel like my batteries recharge when I return to the Midwest. It’s a part of me and a proud one now. I couldn’t wait to leave when I was 18, but now I’m thrilled to return every time and it’s increasingly hard to leave it.
I was lucky of course to have to leave for such a fun reason as the Bram Stoker fest, but felt unusually emotional this time. Stephanie said he nicest thing to me. “Wow. I respect you even more now. I see what you’ve given up.” She was talking about my choice to live in L.A. despite the cushy life I have back in Indiana. It meant a lot to me that somebody recognized the magic I always feel back there – the people, our wonderful home, the possibilities limited only by our imagination. We stayed up late watching The Princess Bride the night before I left and I wanted to tell everybody in the room, “As you wish.”
Instead, I packed and called it a night well into the morning, knowing a long day of travel awaited. Wow – return to Innsmouth, with our feature this time. It all seemed so surreal. It even felt a bit odd hopping on yet another plane which had been my natural habitat the past year plus. My writer friend David joked, “They should make a show called “Where in the World is Devi Snively?” Part of me began to wonder if I even knew the answer to that question myself anymore. But back out on the road, it would all become much clearer again…