Film School, Class of '69
Film School, Class of 69 is a humorous novel about the film school at UCLA. It tells of a brief but pivotal period in the history of cinema, when rebellion flourished and the "establishment" was the source of all evil. The author was a film student who was entirely unaware that the industry was about to change, or that he and his fellow students were about to change it. More
Films of the '50s and '60s were largely of three types, separate-bed comedies, Westerns, and B Sci-Fi films. Westerns outnumbered all other genres 20 to one. All had identical plots, and all were as unwatchable then as now. Hollywood was in need of an overhaul.
Waiting in the wings, eager to pounce, were a tiny number of cocky college kids with extraordinary talent, who were on the verge of saving Hollywood from it’s own ineptitude. Their formula, if you want to call it that, was imagination, something seriously lacking in Hollywood fare. Among the better known of these film school kids is Francis Coppola, whose Godfather is the best movie ever made, point of fact, period, end of discussion. And George Lucas who gave us Star Wars, the most influential film ever made. There were dozens of other influential talents known mostly to insiders, all enrolled at the same time in one of three film schools, USC, UCLA, and NYU. The era between 1965 and 69 produced an uncanny number of brilliant film makers, and their success spawned the hundreds of university film schools around the U.S., but at the time, with minor exception, there were just these three.
Why so many of these massively talented kids should find themselves in one place at one time is a mystery this telling does not solve, although it suggests a theory. The UCLA film school, at the time, and at no time since, offered a degree of freedom unmatched by any other department on campus. An unstructured universe is a breeding ground for talent because it allows people to explore paths that reach out in every direction. If your thing was music, rock on. The Doors and two other rock bands of note arose from the same small group of film students. Why? Because no one said they shouldn’t. And no one in the anti-establishment climate of the time ever dared to say "Follow these rules for this is how it’s done." For these kids, rules were clear statements of what not to do.
The film schools gave their students two things that mattered above all else, freedom, as mentioned, and access - access to equipment, access to a society of like-minded others, and most of all, access to an audience. UCLA offered the most freedom of the three schools, and the biggest audience. UCLA held the Royce Hall Student Film Festivals, twice a year, and these were enormously successful. When a basketball game was playing at the same time, the student film festival drew the larger crowd. People came by the thousands, night after night, because at the time it was their only chance to see films that Hollywood did not make. Student films were crappy films, for the most part, but they had one thing Hollywood was incapable of providing: something different. Critics called student films adolescent smut. Many of the films shown at Royce were just that, but they all showed imagination of the sort that just wasn’t available anywhere else. Take George Lucas’s student film THX 1138 for example, an SC film. It got whoops and hollers at every screening. The buzz among the students was: "This guy’s on to something."
Film School, Class of 69 is a historical novel about the film school at UCLA, written by someone who was there. It is a composite of characters, events, and films based on the faded memories of the author. Like Camelot, it is a story of a brief but magical moment in time, when rebellion flourished and the "establishment" was the source of all evil. It is not point-by-point accurate, like a history lecture, but rather an emotional experience giving the reader a feel for what it was like to be there. It is written from the point-of-view of a fictional character who was entirely unaware that the industry was about to change, or that he and his fellow students were about to change it.
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