The value of conversation

November 28, 2010

Between classes at Columbia on a lovely September afternoon, Schamus found a spot in the sun behind Dodge Hall to smoke a cigar. “For me,” he said, “the happiest place on earth is a well-run school. If I have a false nostalgia, it’s for an ongoing conversation in which anyone can say anything interesting, a conversation you have in public, and that includes people who are dead. To the extent that I have a management style, I try to replicate that environment.”

His conversations with students and filmmakers have in common a desire to get them to stop trying to please an imaginary internalized Professor or Studio Head and free themselves to say something original, fresh and useful — something constructively weird.

To get people past needing a conversation to have a specific goal is not easy. But important.

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