The Michael Cunningham and James Franco YouTube Conversations



While I'm working on scrubbing up some of these artist interviews I wanted to share something I came across yesterday: a series of YouTube videos of conversations between Michael Cunningham (Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist) and the ubiquitous (albeit deservedly) James Franco. First, videos like this are totally my speed; interesting creative types chatting, even under the knowing watching of the camera, captivates me. Since we're going to be talking a good deal about artists and the best ways to teach and cultivate young artists, this particular video in which they discuss writing and MFA programs appealed to me. In it Cunningham makes some thoughtful and some curious remarks. You should certainly watch the whole thing (it's only five minutes long and has some hilarious moments) but here's a snippet:


I am as a teacher, all about trying to figure out what is unique about a writer, what is unprecedented in any given young writer, and help them become as much like themselves as possible—as opposed to trying to reform them into versions of the writers we’ve already got. What really thrills me is when I can help a student write something wild and difficult and strange and unlike anything we’ve read before.[...]I’ll do reading and there’s Q&A’s afterward and a very, an irritatingly popular question is, ‘Mr. Cunningham, Mr. Cunningham, I understand that you teach writing. You don’t think writing can be taught, really, do you?’ Like I’m… like it’s some sort of giant scam to separate young writers from their money. No one questions people’s right to go to art school or film school or acting school—it’s only writing that is singled out as un-teachable.

We've got two parcels here: first, a really lovely comment about teaching writing (and, honestly, a beautiful way to capture what it is to cultivate artists) and, second, this fairly questionable assertion that "no one questions people's right to go to art school or film school or acting school." which I can only respond, Really, sir?If you've seen my About page, you'll know that the title Stay Out Of School is not actually an attempt at being wildly provocative so much as a direct reference to David Mamet's book True and False in which he advises young actors specifically to "stay out of school." I don't see a reason to go for the jugular here, but I'm wondering-- does every discipline think that it's the only discipline in which instruction and guidance is vilified or scoffed at by outsiders?

Please weigh in.


--------------------------Note: I originally saw a related episode posted on Vanity





Elizabeth King