On the first day of the second week of classes at Westvale Fine Arts, Professor Vogelmann walked through the History department on his way to class. On this day he would have one of his favorite meetings of each scholastic year. Each student would show off the best that he or she could come up with, a mere 48 hours following his approval of their scripts. Many of these scripts consisted of overly personal dramas replete with esoteric psycho-drama, and as such, meant nothing to anyone else in the audience. These amused him and were worth at least a few chuckles in the faculty lounge with his peers and the graduate students who had already made it past this phase of the coursework. Besides these sorts of film confessionals, some works actually represented talent. Such films became known as unicorns for obvious reasons. Too infrequently did any student bring in a unicorn for the professor to be excited. He much preferred mockery over praise anyhow.
As Vogelmann occupied himself by swinging his keyring around his finger spinning the keys to the classroom, his condo, his car and his office, he passed by his best friend’s office. He knocked on the closed door and this stopped his keys from swinging around anymore. They made a clunk as he palmed them in his hand, placing them back in his pocket. Just as he turned away to keep walking, the door swung open.
“Bird Man! How you doing?” Professor Janian asked.
“Good, good. What’s the latest with the Communists?” he asked as he glanced at the plaque on the office door. It read DR. L. JANIAN, PROFESSOR OF SOVIET HISTORY. It amused Vogelmann that no one ever came by in the middle of the night and stole it. He added, “what do you have going on for the next couple hours?”
“Nothing. Why? Do you have more terrible movies you want to show me?”
“You don’t even know, Larry! I think we have one this class that you’ll really like. He’s from Romania and has money.”
“Is that so? Hold on, let me lock up the office. I’ll meet you there.”
“I’ve got a few minutes, I can wait here.”
He watched his friend walk back into the office and shut the door behind him. They took a short-cut through another department. An open room with no one in it save for an old man with moth eye-brows caught Vogelmann’s attention. He watched as the old man, another professor or possibly just a custodian, danced around, waving his arms pretending to cast spells.
Mr. Janian turned and whispered, “they just hired him. He came from Oxford. I heard it’s like Hogwarts there or something. Really crazy guy.”
“What department is that?”
“It’s better you don’t even ask.”
“So tell me about the Romanian student you got. Does he wear a cape and have fangs?”
“Nah, I wish. I have a good story about him already though.”
“Yeah,” Vogelmann paused and fiddled with his keys once again. “So most of the students we get send in a demo reel as part of their portfolio. They send it in the mail.”
“So what, he sent it by bat courier?”
“No, I wish. Actually, I was just sitting in my office one day, about a week before the deadline, and right into my office comes these two raven-haired girls wearing aviator sunglasses. I thought you had sent them over as a joke or something. They looked Armenian. Anyways, they put a huge envelope on my desk and it just says ‘BEST REGARDS FROM CLUJ-NAPOCA’ on it. I open it and there’s just a stack of cash in it. It had a band on it and everything.”
“So you took a bribe?”
“No, not exactly,” he lied.
“You’re such a sack of shit, Bird Man.”
The two laughed together before Larry continued, asking “So what did you do with the money?”
“I would have told you about it but you took this summer off. I convinced the [title] of [the school] to fast-track a construction project. The film department remodeled the sound studio and theatre.”
“Oh, goodness. For movies?”
“Not just that. It fits 45 people easily and has a projection room. We bought brand new digital projectors to add to what we already had lying around back.”
“You’re saying that you managed to find funding, get a project fast-tracked, and have the whole thing completed all over a summer break? At [school name]? You’re kidding me.”
“Well, wait until you see the proscenium and the seats. You remember [theatre name]?”
“Oh yeah, that independent place in [part of LA]. That place is a historical site, isn’t it?”
“No. The owners were thinking about petitioning for it to be declared one but I used half of the money to get them to reconsider. They sold us the whole thing. Turns out they wanted to scrap it because no one goes to the movies anymore. It’s a parking lot now.”
“So you’re telling me you gutted a historic cinema house in a low-income area? And had its interior installed in the building that houses the most expensive arts program that has ever existed?”
“Well, when you put it that way it does make us look bad.”
They both laughed again but their cheer soon vanished from their faces as they reached the new classroom’s old door.
“Anyways,” the Professor said as he turned his back to the door.
“You’re going to love the Romanian exchange student’s film,” he continued, smirking, “this kind of student never has any talent.”
Although Professor Vogelmann always enjoyed mocking the films his student brought into class, the first presentation session was an absolute goldmine. Everyone, in every class, had to bring in their best work to the table with barely any preparation and demonstrate it in front of everyone – the other students, some other teachers – to see where everyone stood.
“Let me get the door for you,” Mr. Janian replied.
They both walked into the classroom. All of the students, sitting in the fancy old theatre chairs, looking sharp in the freshest Fall attire, turned around and looked at the pair of professors as they walked up to the front.
“Good afternoon, class,” the Professor spoke to the two dozen students who had gathered there already. He continued, “Today we will begin viewing everyone’s projects I gave last week. I hope that the weekend was long enough to put the footage together. Let’s start with the exchange student’s piece. Curtis, could you put that on for us?”
Curtis, the TA, who no one in the room even noticed, leapt out of the orchestra pit and ran back up the aisle in between the left and right-hand tiers of the auditorium. He ducked into the control room to begin ratfucking the stacks of students’ assignment reels. He knocked over a stack of random junk. After he found the Romanian student’s assignment, he dimmed the auditorium’s lights and fed the film into the projector.
Read the other sample chapter or cross-reference the dramatis personae.