Guest Editorial, May 7-10, 2011
The first thing Maddux that’s always what I called him when I was a student — ever did for me was to simultaneously instill me with a passion for filmmaking and ruin the movie watching experience for me entirely.
On the first day of class, Maddux showed us an old film called "Capricorn One" about NASA faking a space landing on Mars using film techniques — special FXs, soundstages, editing — to manipulate the general public into thinking they had seen something that wasn’t real. And in the coming weeks Maddux showed us how these techniques were used in everything we watched on TV or in the movie theater.
No longer could I just sit passively and watch a film. Now, I was picking everything apart: the editing, the directing, the photography, the score. Maddux made us look at every detail and with every realization, every lesson, he propelled us on the path from being mere movie watchers to movie makers.
Maddux made us apply this same critical thinking to making our own work in class. He was less concerned with what we were making as why. Why this story, why this shot, why this music cue?
Many firsts in my life were because of Chris Maddux. He was the first adult who put me in charge of something, namely the high school news program. And he supported us as we tried to figure out exactly what our weekly program should be. (We didn’t have the capability to do anything live at the time. We had to tape and edit everything ahead of time. But thanks to Maddux’s tireless effort to raise funds for the program, now they can do the news live and so much more.)
So — did it just have to be a bland reading of the news? Could we do field pieces? Could we include short films? He let us try things out, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing, but he always supported us.
Chris Maddux and his wife, Sharon, took me to me first Broadway show on a drama club field trip. He introduced me to classic rock and roll during a ’60s musical production, and he didn’t laugh when I asked what we were listening to and he said, "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band," and I said, "I’ve never heard of them."
It’s because of Maddux that I won my first awards at drama competitions, validation that helped me gain confidence as a writer and artist. It’s because of Maddux I had a prom date my junior year.
Often when someone close to you passes away, the emotion that overcomes you, even more than shock or sadness or grief, is regret. You regret not seeing them one last time, not telling them how much you cared about them, or how important they were to you. I regret that Chris will never get to see that the teacher in my first feature film is named Mr. Maddux, because what better name for a teacher who, when faced with a quirky student who just doesn’t quite get it yet, uses patience, sarcasm and sympathy all at the same time. What was once a simple homage to my favorite teacher has now sadly become a tribute to him.
You’re lucky if you can find a teacher who inspires you. Who supports you. Who encourages you to be not only a better student, but a better artist, a better person. It’s no coincidence that from the time I started taking Maddux’s classes I went from a barely passing student to an honor student.
You’re lucky if your teacher becomes your mentor; reading and watching your work long after you’ve graduated. And you’re luckiest of all if that mentor becomes your friend, the kind of friend who invites you to share Christmas Day with his family every year, because he knows your family is working.
I feel a lot of things right now. But what I feel most of all is lucky. Lucky to have had someone like Maddux in my life. To have seen his boys grow literally since they were in Sharon’s belly into the men they are today. To have shared so many great days, and months and years and decades with him. To have spoken to him on the phone for the last time, and have him tell me how proud of me he was.
We should all feel lucky to have had such a teacher, mentor, friend, father, husband, man, in our lives.
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