Part One: Mason

The first summer of college. What to do?

I had some ideas. But my son, about to turn 19, had some too.

Somewhere those two circles, amazingly, intersected.

My first idea was my film-student son, who we will call “Chance,” should join me in taking a class at George Mason University where I have just a handful of credits to complete my MFA.

I found a screenwriting class that would meet the reqs of both our programs. I contacted the prof., I registered and I sent links to my kid, who is enrolled in a small liberal arts college in Colorado, so he could do the same.

We submitted paperwork, awaited approvals. Through more and more hoops we laboriously jumped.

Our first class, held on a Monday night in May, was in a computer lab. I couldn’t see the faces of any of our classmates. But I could see our prof, and he had eyebrows with lives of their own.

The prof mentioned movie after movie I hadn’t seen, his eyebrows conveying interest, surprise, horror, denouement. I glanced across the room at my son, one of three faces I could see among the forest of computer monitors. He responded with recognition to the references, but kept his mouth shut.

He is a freshman, so a 400-level class might be a bit much for him, I thought.

On the way home in the car I asked him what he thought.

“I looked at the syllabus mom, and we covered all of this in ‘Basic Film Making.’ Also, that textbook he kept referring to? Got it. Read it. Done.”

“But,” he added, “it would be an easy credit.”

We talked about the class project, a 1000-word screenplay for my son, who was taking the class as and ‘undergrad.’ I had to do slightly more work. I was accustomed to cranking out 3-5000 words several times for every class so it seemed do-able to me.

But, “let’s sleep on it,” I said.

 

The next morning Chance and I talked about how I’d gotten stuck in the mud with a tractor – about 20 years ago. I remembered many details, even though it had happened 20 years ago. I described how first another tractor, then a D-6, then a D-9 had all gotten stuck trying to pull me out.

Then I went to get groceries.

When I got home, Chance was printing his 1500-word screenplay about getting stuck in the mud.

Should we take this screenwriting class? I knew I would learn a lot. But Chance?

“Nyah, maybe we should take a roadtrip,” we both said at once.