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The Studio School Journey: Graduation


Traditions are structures in time. Traditions are what we do WHEN. When it’s Christmas we do this, when it’s New Years we do that. When someone gets married, when someone gets buried. Traditions are what we do WHEN.

So what do College Students do? And what do Studio School students do? I’ll start with the former:

Tomorrow you will all dress in robes inspired by the priestly keepers of knowledge. Catholic keepers of knowledge inhereited this attire from Roman and Greek keepers of knowledge, who inherited it from even older traditions. I will wear a hood, and it’s most likely been inspired by the hood worn by Druidic keepers of konlwege. You will wear a mortarboard—that’s that weird square hat, and it’s called a mortarboard because it’s modeled after a tool used by the Masons for mortar work. Masons, druids, priests—these were the great European keepers of knowledge when colleges were first formed.

And like everyone at every college everywhere since the first, you will be graduate in the TRADITIONAL  attire of great knowledge keepers. Tomorrow we will, with great pomp and circumstance, acknowledge your graduation—not just from Studio School, but into the ranks of college graduates. Everything we’re doing, all the ceremonies and rituals and traditions you’re experiencing—it’s all about soaking it up and sinking it in.

Like your parents and loved ones, I need these ceremonies too. I’ve taught all of you. I think I’m the only person who’s been lucky enough to teach every student we’ve had. I remember you as Freshmen, and tonight, I will have seen all of your showcases. Tomorrow you’ll be Alumni.

Rituals are flags in the timeline of memory, and we want to plant a big one!

So how do we do that in a unique way at Studio School? What are our special traditions? The school is so young. You are our second graduating class. Traditions are still in their nacency, and in some ways, this means most of our most important traditions have yet to be named and codified. I think one of them is that we all go to all the shows and showcases together at the end of the school year. Another is this Club 21. Will graduation be in the studio again next year? I don’t know. Will I always say something mythic and dorky? I don’t know. Will the senior thesis film screening always be the night before graduation? Sure would be cool, but it’s hard to be sure. So instead of trying to guess all the cool traditions we’ll look back on and recognize, I thought I’d share what I see as the traditional experience of the Studio School student—the Studio School story, if I may.


The Studio School story always begins many lifetimes ago, aeons ago, ages ago! When you were high school students. You lived at home year round, with your families. Your friends operated in the same world with the same rules—likely at the same high school. And maybe it started when you were younger or not until your senior year, but at some point, you began to feel different. If you were like your friends, your whole group probably felt uncommon. And that difference you felt had everything to do with a relationship to art and a need to be creative. So while everyone around you was beginning to pick traditional liberal arts colleges, you felt a sincerely strong urge to follow your creative passions and become an artist! Most likely, you were scared to make this decision. More likely, your mentors were scared of this decision, but we received letters of love and recommendation from mentors that supported every single one of you.

Despite whatever resistances you may have had—internally and externally—when you got the call, when we invited you to our campus, you found the courage to accept. For most of you, this meant gathering your belongings and moving to a new world. And when you got here, when you entered the gates at LA Center Studios for your orientation at Studio School, you found a community of individuals who had all been brave enough to take this leap. Here you weren’t different. Here you found fellowship, companions, helpers, mentors, teachers—a whole community of brave artists who want nothing more than to participate in the successes we share.

You have no idea how special this is. To get here, everyone had to decide to be an artist. You are only among people who have made that decision. That’s not normal! Most kids in college have no idea what they want to be—or if they do, it’s likely to still be what their parents expect.

But even though the rules are different in the studio than they were in HS, and even though the people are different, this all probably makes more sense to you than what most people call the real world. Instead of an arbitrary bell telling you where to be, you get a call sheet that says when you’ll start creating. As disorienting and different as it was when you first got here, being on set, collaborating with other artists—by now it feels like your nature.

Still, adapting to this world didn’t come easy. This school is HARD. The amount of work you’ve done is insane. We made you cadets, and we put you through training—a lot of training. Story, Craft, Collaboration, Entrepreneurship—we’re relentlessly intense here. Tears are common. I see them all the time. We push you so hard, and sometimes you fail, sometimes you break, but everytime we care, and every time we’re here, and we know that the birth of something new often looks like the death of something old. Training is when we work through as much of ourselves as we possibly can.

But then, and you all know this, at Studio School, shows are what make our world go round. All the training, all the exercise, all the work, it all comes through in the shows—in the plays, in the showcases, in the screenings, in the hip hop battles. And it’s when we watch the shows that the suffering from the road of trials turns into a blissful recognition that all the work, all the training—even the tears—they’re all worth it! Show after show, you renew yourselves, you update yourselves, you overcome challenges and you earn the respect of your peers.

At first, the social scene, like any at any college, was callow—popularity, clicks, all that stuff.  But not after the shows. One of the most special things our culture is that we all see each other’s work. First day Freshmen year, popularity probably looks like it would at any college, but by now, your respect for one another is far more informed by how your work comes out and what you’re like as a collaborator. That’s beautiful to me. You’re beautiful to me. And I’m going to miss seeing your work.

Because in the end it’s not about the shows. It’s about getting you out of here. It’s about delivering you to the world as next generation artists and storytellers. So for the last year, at least, you’ve been focused on reels and headshots and resumes and showcases and gigs and jobs and network and plans. This is the Studio School return journey—to give you back to the world as an actuated artist.

And the funny thing is, even the first time you went home for Thanksgiving, you’d probably already changed more than your family or friends quite knew how to recognize. By now, and it just blows my mind to think about it, you’re new people.  You’re not kids anymore. The raw talents with which you came are now professional skills. That you’re sitting here today means you’ve been a hero to yourself.

And tomorrow, when you graduate, we’ll stick this landing together. We’ll solidify this memory with tradition. And when you go show the world what it’s all been for, we’ll watch with loving eyes.




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