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Choosing and working with students


A difficult student
Jules Engel Film-maker
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So after a while, it comes onto teaching and I've been very lucky because I've been working with CalArts [The California Institute of the Arts] and students come in from all over the world. That's a plus. And so, to a degree, this is one place where students come and you'd be surprised how many of them go back and they become teachers which is good because then there's a way for a new talent to find himself or herself, has some place to go at home and don't have to travel. It's a big… big deal. But so far, for me, teaching has been good and comfortable and it's something that some people can do and some people push too damn hard. Or they want to make themselves look like giants or, you know, they're something very, very special. But I've been very lucky at CalArts because, I don't know why, the people come our way, they are just some very wonderful people. Of the many years that I've been running the shop, there's only maybe two incidents where the incident is unpleasant, you know? Where the portfolio that would be viewed was not his. Because what we saw come from him on a piece of paper that has nothing to do what he showed us, his portfolio. Recently we had this wonderful woman... I think that she… they moved to Iran... no, they moved to Paris from Iran. She was in her late 30's, very attractive lady. And I look at the portfolio, wonderful stuff, good stuff, yeah. Now, I came to look at her drawings and stuff, I knew we had a problem. We had a big problem because that stuff was not hers. Now, what you going to do? I mean, you're dealing with an adult, you don't want to embarrass her. So I figured, what the hell, I'll stay with her and see if I can... because she had some drawing talent, you know, but not what she showed. If I can work with her and you know, just help. But nothing really helped, because the stuff that she was putting on paper was bad. So eventually we decided: no. Either we're going to tell her, we don't believe this is yours or just forget the whole damn thing. Let her go, we give her a diploma and all that.

Six months later she shows up because she's going to apply at USC [University of Southern California] for a Masters degree. You know? I was laughing hard inside. I didn't show the surprise. But there she says she's going to apply for a Masters degree at USC, I think she already entered and she needed some paper from CalArts to qualify her, you know, whatever. So you see, there you are. So you run into stuff like that. Then I told her my assistant would take care of it so this way I could out the front door. But her, she had a lot of nerve. You know, I mean, without any problem, she just wanted this big signature because she was going to apply for a Masters degree and she wanted us to sign the paper that she's qualified. No, there I had to draw the line. I said, my assistant will talk to you. I don't even know what happened, but I'm sure she went back and she signed it herself. Because she did that while she was at CalArts. So that was one of those times when something very strange happened, because she was not stupid. She was not dumb or anything, she was a very elegant lady. And they lived in Paris and that was not her work, and now she wants a Masters degree. So you run into something like that, but nothing heavy, nothing really ugly, you know?

The late Hungarian-American film-maker Jules Engel is best known for his contribution to the field of animation. His work includes the dance sequences in Walt Disney's 'Fantasia' and the creation of 'Mr Magoo'. His films and lithographs are housed in museums all over the world and have won many awards.

Listeners: Bill Moritz Tamara Tracz

William Moritz received his doctorate from USC and pursues parallel careers as filmmaker and writer. His forty-four experimental and animation films have been screened at museums in Paris, Amsterdam and Tokyo, among others. He published widely on Oskar Fischinger, James Whitney, Bruce Conner, the Fleischers and 200 pages of animation history for an AbsolutVodka website. He wrote chapters for the "Oxford History of Cinema", appeared in several television documentaries, curated art exhibits and received a lifetime achievement trophy from the Netherlands Royal Academy for his work with visual music. He has served on film festival juries and received an American Film Institute filmmaking grant. His poetry and plays are also performed and published. He is a leading expert of Oskar Fischinger and recently published a biography of him. He teaches at The California Institute of the Arts.

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: The California Institute of the Arts, CalArts, University of Southern California, Paris, Iran

Duration: 4 minutes, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010