So I just finished my last class as an undergraduate college student and am headed to Paris for the week before starting my BBC attachment (the UK word for “internship”) in November. I wanted to write something before I left, but I stumbled upon this old post, which for some reason got deleted from my blog. I thought I’d re-post it until I get a chance to write something new when I get back from my trip. Hopefully the “something new” will involve some unbelievable story about how I got picked up by an antique car at midnight and was transported magically to the 1920s with all the literary greats. We’ll see.
Until till, let’s journey back to 2010…
I met Quentin Tarantino this week and he made me realize I’m a hypocrite.
In my writing classes we learn that a character can be developed by placing him or her in a new situation and watching them react. In movie talk, then, I met Quentin Tarantino (new situation) and he taught me that I’m a hypocrite (new character detail) because I always say that one should approach a celebrity like a normal person. Yet this happened.
If our meeting was a scene in a movie, it might look something like this:
INT. LINCOLN CENTER AFTER PARTY – MIDNIGHT
Small crowds of well-dressed Manhattan socialites gather around small tables, chatting indistinctly among themselves and eating cookies on sticks.
A young twenty something joins the growing mass around the bar, looking around for something or someone.
This is JONATHAN (21): glasses and button-down shirt, pulling slightly at his jeans, the impulses of an ostensibly nervous and perpetually anxious person.
An older man steps up next to him, hands in pockets and rocking at the knees.
This is QUENTIN TARANTINO: slightly balding and white button-down shirt rolled up, slightly twitchy for indeterminable reasons.
Jonathan looks casually to his right, then left. He slowly turns back, realizing who he’s looking at. He turns left again and exhales in one quick WHOOSH.
Jonathan turns to his right again. He takes a deep breath and puts his right hand on Quentin’s left shoulder.
Hey there—Hiya—How’re you doin.
I just want to shake your hand.
Quentin holds his hand out obligatorily. They shake.
I’m a NY—I’m a film student at NYU so you’re, uh, like my hero.
Oh thanks. That’s really nice of you to say.
Pretty amazing to be in the same room as all these film greats.
Jonathan points behind him. Morgan Freeman stands close by.
Yeah. It’s amazing just for me to be on stage with all these guys. It’s an honor.
Yup. I’m sure.
Well I don’t want to hold you up. Nice meeting you. Thanks for your time.
Jonathan takes a step to the left and exhales loudly. He approaches the bar and orders a drink, squeezing into the crowd and quickly blending in.
FADE TO BLACK.
So let’s talk celebrity encounters.
American people are Hollywood people, so we’re all dreamers to various extents and intensities. As someone who can get lost in everything I watch (except for unsexy, formulaic crime procedurals), I used to think that celebrities existed in a parallel universe—normal people like me on one track and celebrities on the other, close by but never actually touching. Since moving to New York, however, I’ve had to quickly acknowledge that this just isn’t the case.
I like to think I’d treat celebrities as “normal people.” But this statement is a gross lie because 1) you just read my above interaction with Quentin Tarantino (“I just want to shake your hand.” Really?! The subtext of that sentence is “I’d like to touch you and then walk away.”) and 2) in truth, celebrities really aren’t normal people, even if they want to be.
Also, most of the people I meet in New York work in the field in which I’d like to work one day, so this means I’ve either studied their work closely in school or read about them elsewhere. That said, in approaching said celebrities, I never want them to think I’m a creepy/sycophantic fan, but I also don’t want to verbalize my resume to prove that I’m not just a distant admirer and am instead a film student whose studied their work closely. I know that people like to talk about themselves, but boasting about your achievements is pretty unattractive when first meeting a creative hero.
So how do you decide whether to approach a celeb? Always go for it. Sure you may risk sounding stupid or engaging in a meaningless interaction with one of your heroes, but they’ll most likely forget about it even if you won’t. And, if you’re a true fan of whomever you’re approaching, you should be able to draw up something to talk about with relative ease. Maybe this was my problem with Tarantino. Yes, I’ve seen his movies, but I’ve never really studied them closely or channeled them while in my own creative work. In this case I think I was just a distant admirer, which is why I fell into the generic “I like your work” kind of a fan.
Ultimately, don’t worry about it at all because they’re just people. (Wrong. They’re not “just people” so you should worry about it. Just kidding. No but really.) In fact, I feel a little weird writing about them as the Other, as these separate beings who walk among the us Normals. Nevertheless, putting yourself in their shoes doesn’t hurt either. I like to think that somewhere among the grossly large swamp of pop culture knowledge that is the brain place of Quentin Tarantino, he thought, “Cool. I feel lucky to be in a place that’s lead this fan to approach me like this.” In any case, it’d be worse to forever regret not saying something to a creative idol than it’d be to have a short and trivial interaction.
Heck. At the very least, maybe you’ll get a blog post out of it.