Friday, June 01, 2007

Ben Affleck speaks at high school commencement , Falls Church VA

Actor Ben Affleck gave the commencement address at Falls Church High School in Fairfax County (the smallest high school in the county), near Arlington Blvd and just south of the City of Falls Church in northern Va. The team is called "Jaguars". I have substitute taught there. The event was reported on NBC4 today. Affleck had befriended a student (as detailed on NBC) when he was filming "Forces of Nature" (1999) "What wisdom do I have to offer, when after all, I am an actor?" he said. He went on to tell students that the next ten years of their lives will be their freest, and that while they may be able to watch themselves (literally by promoting themselves with new media), they should also watch their neighbors. The video of the speech is here on NBC. (It is under the "Streaming Video" banner on the NBC4 home page.) The story that he relates about the student who introduced him is quite touching and should be left to be heard in Affleck's words.

As a little "film", however, the video is pretty much an experience of "Being Ben Affleck." With a much nicer tone than any John Malkovich. We all have to struggle with contradictory social messages in defining our self-image, but only the individual can define his own purpose and self-concept. Affleck notes that, as an "actor" he has mere "pretended" to be a gangster or hit-man ("Smokin' Aces"), or astronaut ("Armageddon") or war flying ace ("Pearl Harbor"). He indicates that the experience leading to this address takes him closer to real life, as did actually writing (with co-author Matt Damon) "Good Will Hunting" (which starts in school as a story). Furthermore, my own experiences working with the acting groups in Minneapolis in 2003 was very much that acting is indeed a profession. Sometimes, in enforcing classroom management or "discipline" a sub sometimes has to become an actor (or bluff), it seems. (Affleck also co-wrote "Gone, Baby, Gone" with Aaron Stockard, due in 2007.) Affleck's new wife, Jennifer Garner, attended.

I have memories of my own graduation at Washington-Lee High School (now getting a new building) in Arlington June 14, 1961. It has been more common for some high schools to offer film (like journalism) as an English department elective for seniors, and this can provide the opportunity to teach the basics of screenwriting (as a literary form), pitches, the three-part structure that we saw emphasized (especially by Carrie Fisher) on "The Lot," two postings below. Script writing can be an important skill, as commercial filmmaking and advertising (as well as entertainment screenwriting) become important career fields.

In 2005, Langley High School (near McLean VA) had actor Chris Rock do an anti-drug assembly.

It should be noted that some actors did excel academically. According to imdb, Jared Padalecki, who plays Sam on Supernatural, was a candidate for the Presidential Scholars Program in 2000 his senior year in high school in Texas. Ashton Kutcher actually considered a career in medicine because of his fraternal twin brother's heart transplant.

Picture: A letter to me in September 1960 inviting me to join the Washington-Lee High School Science Honor Society.

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