Geoffroy Faugérolas, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s Spring 2016 Mass Communication Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the following essay in response to the prompt: “When you tell someone your major, how do they respond? Are they impressed, surprised, judgmental, or curious? What stereotypes do you think surround your major? In what ways are the stereotypes accurate and in what ways are they inaccurate?”
If you have ever seen the original Total Recall with Schwarzenegger and remember the scene when, exposed to Mars’ atmosphere, his eyes pop out of his swollen head, then you will be able to picture the reaction of my relatives when I decided to enroll in a Media Production major. Other people usually have a gradual reaction that I have categorized in three steps.
First, with the somber look of a doctor making a diagnosis, they all take a moment to process the information and understand what this bizarre major entails. When they realize the major includes the word “production,” they immediately image a dashing scene from Entourage or the latest celebrity pictures taken on a yacht. I call this the Ka-ching! moment: I have suddenly become an exotic animal, a secret insider of a glamorous world. Hell, I might even be a prospective Spielberg, Weinstein or Cameron.
“So what do you do?” they usually ask, with a naïve expression trying to mask their cognitive dissonance, “why is filmmaking even taught at the university? Kevin Smith said to just pick up a camera and shoot.” Well, if Kevin Smith said it, it must be true and I should probably change my major.
I call this phase the Disillusion, when the fantasies about the “showbiz” disappear from their mind and are replaced by conceptions of filmmaker stereotypes. We all have those images of a messy artist partying on Hollywood Boulevard, smoking happiness and unceasingly bullying his agent into getting him more “gigs.” They insist on the word gigs as if it were some magical formula, whereas work seems like a tarnishing name for their splendid endeavors.
Los Angeles and New York are filled with accurate clichés of the artsy hipster scene but only because it feeds their legendary status as avant-garde cities. Filmmakers themselves have participated in the dissemination of those stereotypes by depicting archetypal showbiz characters in popular comedic media. Even the Production Assistants or Personal Assistants have gained the mythical status of modern slave. After all, there is no glamour in portraying the industry as the corporation-owned entity it has become. Yet, both worlds of artistry and business withstand because they need one another. The work has become more formalized, precisely timed and budgeted. Its boundaries are set by innumerable rules where accountancy, law and finance are proficiencies as important as storytelling and creativity. By then, if people who asked me about my major have not yet run away, I finish them off by revealing that I transferred from a prestigious bilingual Business School to pursue both creative and business endeavors.
Geoffroy is a senior at Pepperdine University majoring in Media Production.
Jon Pfeiffer is an experienced entertainment and copyright trial attorney practicing in Santa Monica. Jon is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California where he teaches Media Law. COM 570 covers First Amendment issues as well as copyright, defamation and privacy.