Monday, April 16, 2012

Matt Swan Is Excellence

I walked into a classroom and sat down. Shortly there after, the instructor began to speak. He introduced himself, made some jokes about his name, then said we could call him by his street name. Students laughed. Truthfully, I have not stopped laughing since. I also have not stopped being appreciative of that instructor. His name is Matt Swan. I ended up taking several classes taught by him. I also took several semesters of work study credits by working at the student run radio station. Matt is a funny, charming, amazing instructor. He is tremendous. The most influential thing he ever did for me came after I graduated college. Before I get to that life changing moment, let me write about how I took a media writing course taught by Matt where I had the opportunity to write TV and radio commercials, radio dramas, and screenplays. At the end of the semester I had to choose a final project. I could create a marketing campaign for a product, storyboard a movie or TV show, or write a thirty minute film script. Truth be told, I did not have interest in any of those, however, a film script would open up the language to me as I would be allowed to have my characters use curse words. I selected that project. With so many other final papers to write in several English classes, I put off the film script until the last possible moment. For inspiration, I watched Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night which had become my favorite show at the time. The fast paced dialogue sounded more like music than speech. I decided I was going to write my dialogue in a similar fashion. I typed out thirty-one pages in one night and printed it out. I walked over to Matt's office and turned it in. The following school year, I had Matt for another class so I was able to get feedback on my script. Matt had given me an A on the script calling it one of the most memorable screenplays he had ever read. The formatting could use some work, but on a creative level, he loved it. I was glad. I took it home and was proud that I had one script to my name. Of course that would be the only script to my name. Now, fast forward to a year after college. I could not land a radio job anywhere in the country. I was depressed and getting more miserable by the day. Matt called. He asked about my radio career and I had to report that it was not moving in the the direction I wanted. He then suggested I write a full length version of the script. I said no thanks. He insisted. He was almost angry that I would not listen. Finally, I said I would at least try it. I talked it over with friends. How hard could it be? I started to write. After a couple years, I showed it to some friends. They hated it! I wrote another draft. Then rewrote some more. Draft after draft. I kept trying. Maybe this draft will be it. No. Maybe this draft. No either. By that point, I had concluded that it was time for me to take acting classes to better understand my writing from an actor's point of view. While I took these courses, I had an opportunity to write theater pieces. Eventually, I had written a couple. Then one was selected for a writing festival. sitting in the audience were Matt and his wife, Judy. A year later when my first ever play was produced, Matt and Judy once again made the drive to Chicago to watch me star in the piece I had written. Before I knew it, people were taking notice of my writing. What about that original script? I completed the full length feature and actually had the guts to pitch it to a studio which has produced movies with top notch Hollywood stars. Nowadays, I write plays and films. I write because Matt Swan inspired me. I write because Matt Swan forced me to do so and in many respects, he redefined my passion in life.

It is with a great sense of pride that I congratulate Matt Swan on his recognition by Northern Illinois University. Excellence In Undergraduate Studies. He is a beloved teacher. He is a tremendous friend. Matt Swan was the single reason and driving force why I started to put ideas to paper. I love Matt for how he influenced my life. I share this URL with you so you may learn about the man who brought meaning to my life in an artistic sense.

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