…and that’s all she wrote.

Hold onto your knickers, my jellybottoms. It’s about to get real.

I’m working on my masters degree at the University of Southern California.  It is very, very expensive. Almost all of the revenue I make online goes to paying my tuition, and that doesn’t even cover half of it.  Sallie Mae supplies me with the rest.  So, I work as a TA in the undergraduate equivalent of our first production class.  Here at USC, we go by numbers.  The grads’ first production class is called 507, for the undergrads, 290.  290 is very, very intensive, and for an assistanceship, the pay is not that great compared to some of the others versus the amount of work you have to do. But if you had to ask me my honest answer about what the best part about it is, I’d say it’s the students.  Going off the ones I know in my class, I feel like the undergrad cinema students here get a bum rap; they’re quite intelligent, quite perceptive, and I find them quite easy to get along with.  But moreover, they’re finding their  voices and they enjoy what they do. For the most part, filmmaking is a joy to them, not a requirement they need to go through to get their degree.

This is one of my students.  His name is Sandy.

From the first time I met him, I noticed that not only did he have a more evolved sense of humor than his peers (or me… or most people, for that matter), he was also generally kinder, more tolerant, theatrical but not obtrusive. You could kind of tell he’d been through some shit in his life; how else could he have evolved such a sharp sense of humor? And yet, he held almost no bitterness, and this lead people to gravitate towards him.  On top of all this, he was also remarkably talented.  His first two films in 290 were enjoyable in any right, let alone for a first year film student.

The first week of class, when the professors and I sent them into the wild unknown to film… whatever, Sandy asked me if I thought it was realistic to find a restaurant that would let him film.  I remember when I was producing McCracken’s second 507 (you might recognize him as my Michael Bay)- the abject hell we had trying to sniff out a restaurant that would let us film there, followed by our eventual failure and settling for a banquet hall on campus.  I told Sandy not to hold his breath, so imagine my surprise when he called me later in the weekend with a message of victory, and with little effort at that!  As for the film itself, I was amazed by what that restaurant allowed him to get away with. If nothing else, it was a testament to his people skills.

One of the last times I ever spoke with Sandy was during the story conference for his third 290 film (290 students are expected to make four on their own over the course of the semester).  His subject was regarding the story of a happy couple who find themselves in a car accident, leaving the woman crippled and the man at fault.  He rose the question of how, and even if, their relationship would continue after that.  This would have been his first venture into drama; initially his idea was that the woman would leave her husband, but our professors suggested the idea that perhaps they find ways to adapt.  Perhaps though they often went dancing before the accident, maybe after the accident you could show the husband picking her up and carrying her, finding a new way to dance.  Maybe that’s your resolution.  That idea wasn’t mine, it was my professors, but he loved the idea, and wrote it down immediately.  That’s how open he was.

Last night I was on a podcast for a show on TGWTG called Nerd to the Third Power; I got the e-mail telling me about Sandy’s death during that podcast. I actually gasped, causing everyone else to get confused and even prod a little.  I rode it out, then started to get in contact with my students and professors.  Talk about life immitating art immitating life; Sandy was killed in a car accident while driving back from Santa Barbara.  His girlfriend was driving.

I haven’t even begun to process this; Sandy excelled at everything he did.  His potential was enormous.  And I’m not just saying that in the way people always speak reverently about the dead; he really was one of the most talented, entertaining kids in that class. My very first class of people that I can consider my “students”.  My student. TA’s in this school often form professional relationships with some of their  top students, and Sandy was most definitely one of mine.  He had such a unique voice, entertaining and deliberate, humorous and yet focused.  It’s gone now. I believe he was nineteen years old.

I’m trying to find meaning in this, but frankly I have none.  I guess in cases like this, this is where the spiritual life comes in handy, that suffering and death gives meaning and purpose to human existence. But I’ve got nothing.  All I see is a tremendous loss of unique potential that will never be gotten back. Maybe when I’m older and more mature I’ll have something, but all I know now is he’s gone, and my brain doesn’t believe it.  Like the movie’s over, but the credits haven’t started rolling yet.

And that’s all she wrote.

  • anoniem

    That was a shocking article… he looked so promising in the beginning, and then suddenly it’s all over.
    My condolecensces.

  • Bernardo Valenzuela

    i stoped trying to find meaning in stuff a while ago. in some moment i started to think that maybe its ok to just worry about the fact that we are here and not why and with what purpose. things just happen, and the mistical cosmical reason behind it might just be a little too much for our ape brains.

  • Pablo

    Rest in peace Sandy….

  • empryme

    I am sorry for your loss.

    Recently a very beloved family of mine passed away. She had been a devout Christian and knew that there was an afterlife waiting. That got me thinking: if we do possess an immortal soul, that will continue on after our lives have ended, then why speak of the dead in the past tense? They exist still. Even if you do not believe, which is fine (it’s your life and choices, not mine to make), then doesn’t remembering them help keep them around? They don’t have to end anywhere or anytime; they can can exist in our memories and, I think just as importantly, as our inspirations.

    I hope my long-windedness is comforting and not simply boring.

  • Nina

    Mes sympathies…

    Death is one of the biggest realities that exists, yet for all its “real-ness” it seems so [i]unreal[/i] and difficult to grasp, regardless of whether or not you have any strong spiritual beliefs.

    I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your student. From your description and from the brief glimpse of his talents in his youtube series, he seemed very bright, interesting, and full of potential.

  • Endless_Nameless

    I am really sorry for your lost. Not because you said how great and good he was, but because it was a person who you cared. When this kind of thing happens, I always remember this song:

    Unfortunately for you, it is in portuguese. It is called “The Good Die Young”, and is from one of the great (punk) rock bands from the 80’s and 90’s, and it was over because of the death of the lyricist/vocalist (His lyrics are incredible. It is the kind of thing that people who not knows this language really miss). One of the lines says:

    “It is so strange… the good die young… that is how it seems to be…”

    It is so famous, that if you search in youtube, you will only find homages to people who already gone.

    Keep strong…

  • Danke fuer den Hinweis. Lernspielzeug kann Kindern helfen sich zu entwickeln.

  • A bit late to the post, but all the same, my condolences.

    I lost a dearly loved one nearly a year ago, and, sadly, in a very long and drawn out sort of way. Admittedly, your case and mine have little in common, but both cases would seem to the objective observer to be very “unfair” or even “cruel.” I have struggled with coping with it and, as an aspiring writer (obsessively analyzing every little thing for meaning or literary devices or whatever instances of life imitating art I can find) I have tried to find meaning in this, too.

    I wish I could say I found some, but in the end, the universe is just randomly and pointlessly cruel at least as often as it is kind, and all you can do is remember the best things about those you’ve lost and try to move on as best you can. Said lost one wouldn’t want you to be unhappy over their being gone for too long, they would want you and the world in general to benefit from them having been there. The meaning, therefore, is not to be derived from how they died, but how they lived. Once you’ve started to get over the wasted potential, focus on what gave them that potential, and how to encourage such traits in yourself and others.

    That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

    I suppose, judging by an earlier post, that you have some experience in loss already… maybe I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

    Again, my deepest condolences.

  • Joe

    Hey Lindsay, which is better? New York or socali?

  • The brightest seem to be taken far to early. This has happened to musicians over the years (probably everyone has a similar story), i notice this more since i write music and associate with musicians. I am sure i don’t have to tell you to hold onto your memories of him.

    I also agree that Masters school is super expensive.

  • Brandon Evans

    Oh my god I had no idea Sandy died 🙁

    I met him during orientation, and saw him at a few few other things (notably Second Nature auditions where he was of course amazing). I just found this blog and was reading with my girlfriend, and when I saw Sandy I just couldn’t help telling her all about him. When I scrolled down and learned he was dead I was stunned, and couldn’t help but cry.

    He was an amazing kid and he will be missed.

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