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"Act II"
Posted 05/05/2017 02:11PM

Dr. Pete Melman

"Act II"

English Teacher Dr. Pete Melman delivers his final Babbott Lecture

Dr. Melman spoke on the lessons he's learned as a screenwriter and offered a metaphor for shaping the direction of one's life. Read an excerpt below:

What you want this afternoon, if anything, probably won't be what you want when you're thirty. And what you want at thirty may not be what you want at sixty.

Only — and this is key — you should eventually want something.

Because if I'm to give the contents of this speech any credence, that's what screenwriters demand of their characters: they must want something and they must actively work to achieve it.

Otherwise, those characters just aren't worth cheering for. Passivity kills a story. I mean, imagine watching a movie about a character who wants nothing, who ambles aimlessly from day to day. Not as a result of some existential malaise or overwhelming grief like director Kenneth Lonergan depicts in Manchester by the Sea, and thus with dramatic intention. Just, a character who bumbles passively through life. It would be insufferable. It would, in truth, be unwatchable.

Your task, then, as you transition from Act I to Act II is to ask yourselves what you want and how you expect to achieve it. You're the screenwriters of your own lives. You may not always feel that way. You may feel as though the film of your life is being tyrannically directed by parents and teachers and societal expectations, but in the end, when it boils down to human agency, you are the heroes of your own lives.

And soon enough, it's going to be up to you to call "Action!"

Peter Melman Babbott Lecture 2017 from Packer Collegiate Institute on Vimeo.

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