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Parable of the Film Student

By Linda Hoffman Kimball

P1120986A young man wants to get a graduate degree in filmmaking. He plans to be a writer of screenplays for full length feature films for the entertainment industry. He hunts for film schools and is accepted to one. Then his girlfriend, in the last months of medical school, gets her dream assignment for her residency. But it’s in DC, states away from the man’s school of choice. They decide to get married rather than hassle with a long distance romance. The man hunts for a film program in DC. They launch their adventure and marriage with faith, love and rich lessons in compromise.

 The man finds a university which he describes as “the best film program in DC to go to when you wife just accepted a job there.” Not only is he accepted, he’s given a teaching assistantship and a scholarship. Things look rosy. The couple learns through give and take how to juggle their busy schedules and differing talents. They get a dog, make new friends, hold callings in their ward. They make it work.

 When the man – let’s call him Peter – signs up for this graduate program, he knows that it isn’t perfectly suited to the skills he wants to enhance. Their program is all about documentary work, “media that matters”, substantive journalism. They are about “changing the world,” not earning Oscars. Peter is selective, even tactical in choosing classes suited to his ambitions. He scours the bulletin boards – both physical and online – for extra jobs or internships that might offer him training in appealing ways that the university’s normal curriculum doesn’t offer. He gets those jobs and internships. He develops relationships with wise and connected professors. That serves him well, too. He and his wife juggle their hours, the dog, the meal prep.

 Peter takes advantage of everything the university had to offer that sync with his interests and builds a promising platform. Peter accomplishes great feats in areas they normally don’t boost. When graduation comes along, Peter’s career planning claims the attention of the administrators. The University heaps honors on him.

 Supported by the resources of the university, it is in fact Peter’s vision that drives his success, his instincts and clarity about knowing where he wants to get and how to get there using the provisions available to him. He deserves every banner waved, every second of his time on the Jumbo-tron sharing his accumulated wisdom as commencement speaker.

Whether this is just championing by a proud mother, or a parable set in a modern day, I’ll let you decide. The situation suggests to me a metaphor for any course we’re on. Employment, parenthood, church? Certainly no metaphor matches point for point, but I find useful lessons here. Perhaps for some of us the branding of the “university” we attend doesn’t necessarily mesh with our personal agendas.

Do we have a stewardship to detect our own inner driving forces?

Once we receive and recognize them, how do we work towards accomplishing them in whatever environment we find ourselves?

If we don’t fit the branding, does that make us misfits?

If so, what actions does that mandate?

Does that mean we bail? Alter our dreams to fit the branding?

Do you see other applications?



About Linda Hoffman Kimball

Linda Hoffman Kimball is an artist, writer, photographer, and poet who grew up as a faithful Christian near Chicago, & joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1971 while at Wellesley College near Boston. Early on she assumed that all Latter-day Saints were articulate, inquisitive, faithful, and socially engaged since her role models in the University wards in Cambridge, MA., were. Her husband says she is “fluent, but not native” in Mormon-ese. She is a founding member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

4 thoughts on “Parable of the Film Student”

  1. Yes, praise the man (Peter is real, so I'm not sure "parable" is quite correct, but you know I will always quibble in this loving and kindly way :-)). But to get to the point I think you are making, we have to know you as someone who feels called to the Mormon church (for some 40 years now) but has found it an awkward and uncomfortable place to be for much of that time. Something like "the best church you can find when God says 'look on Temple Square'".

  2. I think it's fascinating that the person who is compromising here is the husband, and that he's still able to find a way to carve out a niche for himself. I've had the experience of following a spouse around through medical school, residency, fellowship, and now work, and in many ways, I've always felt like my ambitions, goals, etc.. were secondary to his, especially once we started having kids and could afford to have me at home with our kids. In some ways, I think it's the doctor's spouse who has to fight to have an individual identity and ambitions, and to make the best of necessary compromises, and it sounds like "Peter" is doing this in spades.

  3. As always, dear friend, you have given me much to think about. I do see application of your questions within my own life and those families/parents that I work with daily. I could tweak your questions for those of us who have found ourselves the parents of "different" children: Do we have a stewardship to detect our own inner prejudices and predetermined plans? Once we recognize our predetermined plans for our children, how do we work toward accepting and enjoying their gifts and presence in whatever form they bring? If we don't fit the branding of a typical parent/family does that make us misfits? If so, what actions does that mandate? Does that mean we bail on our child or alter our predetermined "dreams" to fit the reality–and beauty–of the person we are given?
    And can I add another question? If we feel we are "misfits" in a typical world, do we only align ourselves with others who are the same? Or do we teach others tolerance and love and acceptance through participation as the "odd one out?"

  4. Reading this made me think about that part of our current culture that focuses so much on 'maximizing your potential'; the voices that say that you should always be in the best environment for your particular skills and talents, and that if you aren't in an ideal place, you should just move. Sometimes, it's better just to work with what you have and where you are. Also, that sort of thinking doesn't take into account the fact that most of us live in some sort of group, like within a family. We have relationships with others and sometimes the group or relationship is more important than what one particular individual needs.


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