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There are Fifty Ways to Leave your Lover - Renen Schorr Goodbye Speech

 

There are Fifty Ways to Leave your Lover....

In early July of 1989, the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School's architect Amatzia Aronson took me on a tour of the school's future complex - 600 ugly, naked square meters, which had to be built within three-and-a-half months during the Intifada. He'd already divided the blueprints into corridors, classrooms, offices, editing rooms, library, restrooms, and more. We walked through the low-budget, low-ceilings, small quarters, and when we reached what we call today the mini-studio, he apologized. "The height of this space makes it impossible to install proper lighting to create a movie studio. These are the facts."

"So we'll shoot the films on location, outdoors," I told him. "The school's films won't enjoy the comfort zone of a dream studio. We'll engage ourselves with outdoor light, day and night, difficult as this may be. And I will tell my future student to bring us the locations that have not yet been seen!" And thus I was forced to take the school's first creative-artistic decision.

In 1998, a decade later, I initiated a visit to the National Film School of Denmark in Copenhagen, at the time the top film school in Europe and the original wellspring of the explosive New Danish Cinema "Dogma" movement. I wanted to learn its case, including its physical configuration. The busy director asked his deputy Arne Bro - slim, bespectacled, soft-spoken - to give me the tour. These are generally 30-minute tours.

Not in Denmark. Not with Arne.

He went meter-by-meter with me, detailing the endless deliberations over every spot; the subtle differences between the three spectacular well designed studios; marveling at how a soft light fell in perfect timing in the teachers' lounge, and more and more. An hour and a quarter to envy.

I could no longer resist. "Tell me, Arne, is this the tour you give every visitor to the school? Going into the minute details of your school's essence through its architecture and design? How the hell do you find the patience?"

Arnie gave me an incredulous stare.

"I don't exactly understand your question, Renen," he said. "The school is my country!"

"And you are my brother!" I hugged him.

 

 

Yesterday, before tonight's graduation ceremony, I vacated my office. I worked here four long days a week for 30 years, from age 37, the moment they bet on me to create and direct a school, at the outskirts of the Israeli-cinema world of those days in the industrial area of Talpiyot, in neo-realistic Jerusalem.

My office, from the eve of the school's opening, was never renovated and has hardly changed much at all. A black-red inbox, and black-red outbox on the same white desk. Over the years, the carpets have changed colors, the chair has been replaced for more orthopedic models, and the typewriter has given way to a computer and speakers.

The school was naked of posters one week before the opening. Lia van Leer came to my aid by allowing me to raid the Cinematheque collection of Israeli and international posters. They were then immediately framed and hung in all the classrooms and the editing rooms. And I brought some posters from home.

I love movie posters.

I framed one poster for my office that hung behind me ever since. From They Were Ten by Baruch Dinar, 1961. I saw the movie when I was nine years old. I liked the poster even more than the movie.

Personal and group meetings took place in that office, with students, teachers, school staff and guests from across the globe - directors of film schools, donors, international film personalities, and more.

Film school directors from all over the world were really enthusiastic about our outdoor garden. They would repeatedly glow, saying "this is a garden that has a school".  But once in my office they could not figure out the poster. When they asked, I would explain: pioneers are building a community at the top of a desolate hill. A true Zionist movie.

 

 

At the end of 1994, Noa Levi, a graduate of the school's third class, made her final walk-through of the school. When she was finished, she stood at my doorway and asked if she could come in for an impromptu meeting.

"Renen," she said, taking a seat and getting straight to the point, "I have a special request to ask, but only if you promise me that you won't get angry by my chutzpa, OK?"

"OK," I responded.

"I love the school, but is it possible to finally take down that They Were Ten poster?!"

"Why is this so important to you?" I asked.

"It always annoyed me, during our personal meetings. "And it's annoyed others too. Maybe...is it possible to spare future classes this agony?"

"No sweat. Take down They Were Ten right this minute, gently. And replace it with Citizen Kane that's leaning against the wall in the corner of the room."

Citizen Kane hung behind me for about a year. Afterwards I hung They Were Ten right back where it belonged.

Yesterday I took it to my home in Tel Aviv.

Tomorrow, Dana Blankstein Cohen will sit on that chair as graduate-director, age 38. She will lead the school during the next two years as we move to our exquisitely-planned, permanent 4000 sq. meter structure with a film studio, three theaters and a garden, in the center of town. A garden with a school. She will soon be hanging up her own poster.

 

[][]

 

This is the 26th Graduation Ceremony of the school's directors' tough five year curriculum. The first graduation event, held at the Jerusalem Cinematheque in December 1992, was one of the happiest evenings of my life. How sweet was the light!

 

The Sam Spiegel School and its films were featured on the front page of the all the newspaper cultural covers, but nobody knew what to expect from the evening itself. Everyone was glowing as they walked out to the foyer of the Cinematheque - the graduates, the students, the parents, the teachers, the donors, the industry, the press. The first time this whole experiment was revealed, and the message was clear - Israeli cinema was changing.

A number of parents approached me or the staff of the school and its faculty to express their deep appreciation and their excitement, with the exception of Rachel Ofek, the mother of David Ofek. Walking towards me, her face was angry and her voice was hoarse.

"Mr. Schorr," she said, coming at me as if I were a red sheet, "I'm furious at David! And I'm furious at the school!"

"Why are you angry at David?" I asked quizzically.

"Because he didn't graduate cum laude! His brother Eli is a professor of economics in New York. Another brother graduated with honors, but he, David, not only went to study film - he'll never make a living - he didn't even graduate cum laude! This is not the way I educate my children!"

"Why are you judging him like this?" I said, baffled. "He excels in a class with a number of excellent graduates. He got the prize for the best documentary!"

"A prize is just money," she sneered. "He did not graduate magna cum laude! That's what counts," she declared and left in a huff.

David Ofek, who was not far from her, later one of Israel's foremost filmmakers, approached me, whispering calmly.  "Renen, don't let my mom upset you. That's just how she is."

"No, Ofek, she'll keep on taunting. You, and also me. I'll write her, on official school stationery. You'll see that everything I just told her will look much different in a formal letter."

I wrote to Rachel Ofek on letterhead in praise of David's excellence. I signed it "Director-Founder."  I posted it in the mail. Three days later, Rachel phoned with infinite gratitude to thank me. She always believed in David, she repeated time and time again, despite the fact that he opted to study film, and she invited me over to taste her renowned kubeh which she prepared in her established Ramat Gan neighborhood, "Rachel's kubeh".           But she remained worried about how David would ever make a living...

 

 

My dear graduates, as you leave this graduation night ceremony, you will be alone. The Sam Spiegel School will no longer challenge, recommend, accompany, or fund you. But you are all invited to look upon it as your home. As hundreds of fellow graduates already look upon and experience this school as their alma mater.

We have a great many expectations from you, not only to work in the film and television industries and to make an honorable living, but to fight - not just to fulfill your abilities, but to be agents of change in every possible professional and artistic realm, singularly and together.

 

[][]

 

The 30 years since the Sam Spiegel Film School's inception add up to more than a quarter of a century. From my standpoint, they passed almost in the blink of an eye.

I was a lucky bastard.

As founder of the school, I was given enthusiastic backing from Ruth Cheshin and the Jerusalem Foundation, to do the thing that I love most: to cast good people for every role and make decisions at breakneck speed. I was even more fortunate that chairs and members of the board of directors who worked alongside me were, almost without exception for 30 years, caring and engaged, even when absorbing some of my prickliness. I was otherwise fortunate in my ability to cast - students, staff members, teachers, DNA committees, donors and many friends of the school. Its ongoing accomplishments and trailblazing throughout the years are the harvest of this engagement and togetherness, and at any given moment so many partners are emotionally involved. This credit roller over the last 30 years has been endless and sometimes would move me to tears.

 

A special and personal thanks goes to my only daughter Gaya, who is here with us tonight and has been sitting by my side all evening.

Gaya was born during the fourth year of the School. Until she left to study in NY she heard at home, especially at nights and on weekends, strange names - those of teachers such as Batya Gur, Michael Lev Tov, Nachman Ingber, Orit Azoulay, Shemi Zarchin, Yair Lev. And heard the never-ending difficult phone conversations I had with various mayors of Jerusalem, chairs of the board, ministers and bureaucrats over the years, and more. She heard the names and watched again and again the films that went on to become School classics, and the names of graduates, wonderful graduates such as Talya Lavie, Nir Bergman, Rama Burshtein, Nadav Lapid, Gilad Tokatly, Dorit Hakim-Kremer, Tom Shoval and so many others.

Gaya - over so many years you had the ability to be so patient and to console my restless and stormy soul. That is not to be taken for granted.

When I decided this year to step down from School, my homeland, you were the only person I consulted - all the way in Brooklyn. And when I told you about the decision I was about to take, you said one thing: "Dad, you are a brave man!" So I want to say to you, Gaya - you are the brave one!  These are our terms of endearment.

 

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In the last few years, and especially during this last year running the school, I have been trying to figure out what has been motivating me during all these years, in my cinematic work. What makes Renen run? What is, perhaps, my Rosebud?

 

It was the early 1960s at HaCarmel-Gavrieli Elementary School in a middle-class central Tel Aviv. We would gather on early Friday afternoons after school for the weekly movie projection. It was definitely not mandatory. Our charismatic gym teacher, Kosiminsky, was the brains behind this enterprise. A side business. Films were screened with a 16mm projector that was rented for pennies from the film department of the Workers Union. The makeshift screen was lame and pitiful, the chairs were rundown - but the gym was packed and energized each week, as if we were in India, flying on an adventure.

150 pupils would be there with their school bags; hungry for Friday lunch, but first - a movie.

The movies screened over and again were Tarzan, Son of Tarzan, Maciste, Jules Verne films, Jerry Lewis. We would pay Kosiminsky's assistants at the door and run to grab seats in the gym and on the stage. The older kids, the seventh and eighth graders, would take the better seats on the stage while the others were in the hall.

Cinema Paradiso.

Every Friday, when the movie ended and the closing credits started rolling - Kosiminsky would turn on the lights. That would set the seventh and eighth grade kids off. They would leap off the stage chanting "One more movie! We want another movie!"

The entire gym joined in with cymbals and drums.

And again, in total Hassidic fervor - "We want another movie!"

I thoroughly enjoyed these moments as I shouted along with the chorus. Every week I observed the impresario Kosiminsky on stage, a few meters away. He wasn't happy. All he wanted to do was count his revenues and go home. After all, it was Friday. But the mob would not let him.

"One more movie!" the chant rumbled and rang in the gym, for minutes on end. By public demand.

The weary impresario Kosiminsky instructed the tired projectionist to put a reel on the 16mm projector and screen a few minutes of Tom and Jerry or Bugs Bunny or Laurel and Hardy or Chaplin.

When that was over we kept on clapping and continued our gospel "One more movie"!

Four or five more films were screened. No less than 30 minutes of shorts, before the era of television.

We went home at 4:30 and still wanted one more movie.

 

My heart is elated to be passing on the heavy burden of responsibilities to Dana and shout:

 "Run Dana Run! Hit the road for a better school!"

And thanks to you all -

There is another movie!

We want another movie!

For you, for me, for us all!

 

Be blessed!

 

News
View complete news list >>
Aurit Zamir has been appointed the new director of the JSFL
Dana Blankstein Cohen has taken over as the new director of the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School
Synonyms, by Nadav Lapid, on the New York Times list of the best films of 2019
Listening In, by Omer Sterneberg will compete in the Berlinale Shorts 2020
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