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  • laurenwhitehurst8

My Dreamer

I have been bugging Jack since December to start looking into summer internship opportunities. Granted, as a Type-A planner, I probably started pushing a little early. But last year, he cast too narrow a net, probably too late, and he ended up in a retail job selling cookies and cake. He actually learned a lot in that customer-facing role, but maybe his greatest learning was that he does not want to work retail as a career. Given Jack really wants to land a film-based opportunity this year and given the number of NYU students who also want this experience, it just felt like he couldn’t get going soon enough.

Yesterday, finally, Jack sent me an initial list of opportunities he has identified, along with a list of “dream” jobs where no formal internship exists as far as he can tell. The dream list was as long as the one showing actual opportunities (though he insists it’s just still too early), and while my heart ached thinking about how difficult it will be to land one of these roles, I imagine Jack didn’t miss a step. You see, Jack is my dreamer, my eternal optimist, and he truly believes outcomes are likely to fall in his favor.

Jack’s attitude, to some extent, is learned behavior. In his first Easter egg hunt, he was the kid who found the golden egg and won the grand prize. When he visited Harry Potter World, he was the one chosen at Ollivander’s shop to be matched with a wand. On at least one family trip, he found twenty dollars on the floor of a random taxi – I say at least once because I have a vague recollection that this happened two times. Even now, Jack seems to have incredible luck. Just last year, for example, he spent an hour commuting to see a film premiere for which he did not have a ticket and managed to secure one of the few turned in from last-minute cancels. He visited sets hoping to catch a glimpse of the stars and ended up with a photo of him and Denzel Washington. Of course, Jack has not always been the luckiest in the bunch, but it’s happened enough times that he just isn’t as discouraged by odds as most of us would be.

Jack’s passion is television and film, and while a lot of moms would say their kids love watching television, it’s quite different in Jack’s case. Jack does spend an inordinate amount of time watching all kinds of shows and movies, but he is really studying how stories are told through visual media. And while he speaks passionately about all types of genres, Jack’s truest love is superheroes. Given how much I have learned from Jack about the visual aspect of film and given the in-depth conversations we have had about so many critically acclaimed movies, it may seem surprising that Jack’s passion is a genre that is less about emotional inquiry and more about action and the inevitable triumph of good over evil due to magical powers. Really though, doesn’t it make total sense that Jack most loves stories where dreams are reality and optimism is rewarded with a happy ending?

One difference I see in today’s Jack is that he knows he must also create opportunities: he realizes he won’t succeed in film solely based on luck. So, when Jack attends film festivals, he talks to the people sitting next to him to understand how they fit into the film world and to make connections that may benefit him later. He engages with people in his classes to make friends, but also to see how their interests may align with his in the future. He spends a lot of his free time visiting sets, always introducing himself to the Lead Production Assistant and then informing him or her that he’s studying film at NYU and would love to help if an opportunity arises. I used to berate him for wasting study time on this pursuit, saying he would never hear from anyone later. Then, two days before a long-planned trip to Colorado at the end of last summer, he called me to say he wasn’t coming because he had just landed a PA role on an Apple TV+ set. How? One of those lead PAs had an unexpected opening and remembered the passionate NYU student who had approached him months before. Lucky? Yes. But not effortless luck at all.

I love that Jack is pursuing a career in his area of passion, and I love that he doesn’t worry about finding a place in that world. I do think he realizes that it won’t be easy, but his optimism leads. I don’t meet many people as optimistic as Jack, and while I worry about my dreamer, I am also hopeful he never loses this trait. It is pretty difficult to remain optimistic in our world today, and I love that Jack retains an ability to think so positively about his chances. Sure, I’m his mom, but I do see real talent in his short films (one of which has won an award) and in his superhero scripts/animation work. I’m also a realist that knows talent may not be enough. All that said, Jack’s optimism combined with his determination to create his own luck makes me feel he has a chance to land the needle in the haystack.

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