This piece is a follow-up to the 5/12/14 post, Forrest, Film, Full Circle – This is My USC Story. Check it out if you haven’t yet to get the full context.
So I get a text in the middle of the afternoon yesterday from my dad. It’s an MMS with a picture attached and the text, “What I got today.” I tap to open the image, and I realize it’s a photo of some sort of letter. But of course, MMS being what it is, the text is mad scrambled by image compression, so I can’t really read what it says.
Regardless, I squint my eyes to try to make out what it says behind the JPEG Compression Goggles. Trying to make out the 12-point font is a hopeless endeavor, yet I struggle at it for a while, in the process missing a critical detail lying elsewhere on the page. After a minute or two, I say, “Screw it,” figuring I’ll ask my dad about it on the phone later and in the process remind him that MMS compresses the life out of things.
But no, I’m a persistent little s**t, so I tap open the image again, this time focusing somewhere besides the lossily compressed mess that was the body. Above the body I saw a blob that, based on the shapes of the numbers, was clearly the recipient name and address (my dad’s name and my home address); worthless. But my eyes continue up, and at the top of the page I can barely make out the simple sans-serif letterhead: ROBERT ZEMECKIS.
Immediately, my thumb furiously swipes out, complete with caps lock, “EMAIL THE PICTURE, I CAN’T READ IT.”
Y’see, one little detail I forgot to mention in the initial telling of my USC story was that I had met with the dean of the School of Cinematic Arts the week before school ended. The objective? To tell her my USC story, or, as is equally valid and more contextually appropriate here, my dad’s USC story, and ask her if she would be willing to deliver to Robert Zemeckis a letter from my dad telling the story. “My” Forrest Gump/USC story as personal as it is to me – I even used it as my Common App essay way back when – is just as much my dad’s story, if not more so; arguably, one could very legitimately assert that I’m just one of the supporting characters in his story (but I’d like to believe I’m at least a co-lead). I’d been meaning to go on this quest on my dad’s behalf for the longest time, and I figured, when better to do it than when I have the title of “impending graduate” behind me – certainly a heavier/weightier title than “starry-eyed freshman” or “silly undergrad”. Or perhaps, as Cynical Danny™ would think, it’s the “future potential donor” title that held weight, bahahaha.
So that second-to-last Monday of school, I went to see the dean, clutching the letter written by my dad. The dean is super awesome and cool, so we talked for a bit about my job hunt and I told her how much I appreciated my SCA experience (which I do) and how much of a transformative journey it’s been (which it has). We talked about a handful of other things, and eventually, I got to the question I wanted to ask.
I had everything I wanted to say written down, a good chunk of which I reused in the Forrest, Film, Full Circle piece. I knew I couldn’t just start out asking the dean about getting the letter to Zemeckis, so I led into it by telling the story from the start, as I did in my blog post. At various points in the story, she interjected with laughter or a related comment, and we discussed various tangents. I eventually reached the point in the tale about how my dad took Forrest Gump as a sign and chose to attend Alabama and how that started a chain of events that led to my arrival at USC, to which she said: “Oh, Bob would love to hear this story!” (… yes, “Bob”) So at that point, I asked the dean, “Would you be willing to deliver a letter telling this story to Mr. Zemeckis on my father’s behalf?” being sure to follow up with how if it were for anyone besides my dad I wouldn’t even bother asking.
Without a moment’s hesitation, she said she would. I left my dad’s letter with the dean and gave her a sincere and gleeful thanks as I left her office – thanks so much again, Dean Daley.
So the picture my dad sent me was a photo of Mr. Zemeckis’s reply. I’d hoped he would write back, but figured he probably wouldn’t. The topic had all but left my mind, so needless to say, it was a nice surprise to see the response in the picture my dad sent me:
Transcript (for if you can’t see the image):
June 17th, 2014
I was delighted and moved by your letter, especially how you and your son Da Eun’s life in Alabama dealing with a disability paralleled the journey in Forrest Gump. Being able to connect to an audience on an intimate level is why I do what I do, so thank you for reaching out and letting me know your story.
It’s especially exciting that your son attended and graduated from my alma mater, USC, as I’m still very much involved with the school. Please send him congratulations from me, and I’m grateful my film still holds a special place in your hearts as it does mine.
All the Best,