Hollywood director discusses life at SMC

Although Tom Shadyac owned a mansion and was flying private jets, he still felt as if something was missing.

With movies like “Bruce Almighty,” “The Nutty Professor” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” the four-time award-winning director had become part of Hollywood’s culture of excess materialism where “money was God,” he said.

In 2007, a bicycle accident impacted Shadyac’s health for months, and led to a shift in his perspective on life.

Shadyac sold his 17,000 square-foot mansion, opened a homeless shelter in Charlottesville, Va., and became a benefactor for land preservation efforts in Telluride, Colo.

The realization that led to his transformation also motivated Shadyac to write his first book, “Life’s Operating Manual,” in which he shares his thoughts on spiritual values and love as the ultimate guidance, and his criticism of capitalism and society’s self-destructive ideologies.

Santa Monica College English professor Catherine Edelmann and film studies professor Sheila Laffey invited Shadyac to SMC to discuss his book with students and people from the community last Wednesday evening.

With shoulder-length hair, wire-rimmed round glasses, he sat on a table that was cornered with lit, white candles, and faced a lecture hall filled with about a hundred audience members.

“I will mess you up — in a good way,” Shadyac said, and opened the discussion with the question on what the audience members love.

Many in attendance were students who read his book in one of Edelmann’s English classes.

In accordance with his belief, that the true meaning of education was to draw out the answers from within, Shadyac often responded to students’ questions with countering questions, and occasionally quoted “the prophets” and “the mystics,” as he called Buddha or Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Shadyac gave the audience a unique point of view on life and values in society.

“If things are shitty, then something in your life is being fertilized,” he said.

As examples, he referenced the crucifixion of Jesus and the assassination of Gandhi, giving rise to the adoption of certain values by groups of people.

In his book, as well as in the discussion, Shadyac criticized capitalism and some widely accepted values.

Supply and demand were a perverted method of distributing resources, Shadyac said.

He also said that money did not create society’s problems, but rather, society created its own problems.

“There is a reason for all of this stuff,” he said, referring to violent acts like 9/11 and the recent shooting at SMC. “The answer is right here in this room. The reason violence shows up is because we’ve chosen a violent ideology to pit ourselves up against.”

His book not only gives the readers an insight on this perspective on current social issues, but also on spirituality.

Sharise Rogers, one of Edelmann’s students at SMC, said that reading Shadyac’s book was life changing and thought provoking.

“Our thoughts don’t create reality; God creates reality,” she quoted from the book.

“We’re not completely in control,” she said. “Just have faith and hope that everything will work out.”

CultureNathan BerookhimComment