Miramax Films cochairman Harvey Weinstein addresses the audience at a September 26 luncheon in his honor.
Editor’s note: UB Today granted considerable poetic license to Jim Bisco in his report on Harvey Weinstein’s comments before an appreciative audience September 26 in UB’s Center for the Arts. Weinstein—celebrated movie mogul and former UB English major—was in town to accept an honorary SUNY doctorate of humane letters.
PREMISE: Miramax mogul returns to his "film" school to receive honorary degree.
FADE IN: LONG SHOT EXTERIOR-BEAUTIFUL SUNNY DAY IN EARLY AUTUMN ON THE CAMPUS OF A UNIVERSITY IN BUFFALO.
LONG SHOT INTERIOR-THEATER IN CENTER FOR THE ARTS BUILDING. ABOUT 200 STUDENTS AND OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES ARE GATHERED FOR A LECTURE BY A RETURNING ALUMNUS WHO HAS CHANGED THE FACE OF MOTION PICTURES.
HIGH CAMERA SHOT EXTERIOR-SEDAN WINDING THROUGH CAMPUS.
CLOSE-UP INSIDE SEDAN-HARVEY WEINSTEIN WARMLY SURVEYS THE CAMPUS AND REFLECTS ON HIS UB EXPERIENCES.
DISSOLVE TO YOUNGER WEINSTEIN IN LATE 1960S. HE IS HITCHHIKING NEAR THE SOUTH CAMPUS AS BATTERED CAR SLOWS TO PICK HIM UP. WE HEAR THE REFLECTIVE WEINSTEIN IN VOICE-OVER.
WEINSTEIN: I got accepted to all the state schools. I lived in rent-controlled housing in Queens, so all I could afford was a state university. Albany looked tough, like you really had to work hard. Binghamton, forget it. They had like one movie theater and I knew I couldn't survive that. So I was at the University at Buffalo and I was hitchhiking and a student picked me up.
MEDIUM SHOT INSIDE BATTERED CAR WITH YOUNG WEINSTEIN AND STUDENT.
YOUNG WEINSTEIN: What are your classes like?
STUDENT: I take the History of Blues Music. I have to listen to Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton.
YOUNG WEINSTEIN: How are you graded?
STUDENT: We grade ourselves.
YOUNG WEINSTEIN SMILES, SETTLES IN HIS SEAT AND THINKS ALOUD TO HIMSELF: I'm in.
MEDIUM SHOT-YOUNG WEINSTEIN HANDS A PUZZLED POLICEMAN A TATTERED PAPERBACK BOOK.
WEINSTEIN (VOICE-OVER): When I was going to school, it was in the middle of riots protesting the war in Vietnam in 1969. I led a dual life here in Buffalo. On Friday afternoons I would be receiving smoke canisters from the tactical police units, but on Friday nights I would go with my friend Gene Fahey to his father's cottage. His father was a captain in the Buffalo Police Department, and I would be trying to get the members of the tactical police unit to read Soul On Ice by Eldridge Cleaver.
LONG SHOT INTERIOR-DARKENED MOVIE THEATER ON THE SOUTH CAMPUS. PAN DOWN TO YOUNG WEINSTEIN ENTHRALLED BY SCREEN.
WEINSTEIN (VOICE-OVER): I would go to Norton Union on the old [south] campus and see Truffaut movies. Because I grew up here, I knew that people loved those movies. I could never believe that in Nebraska, they weren't just as interested in My Left Foot as they were in New York. Then I lived in a place in New York City of cultural snobbism, and what we tried to do was kind of frowned upon at first and then later embraced. I think my early experience here in Buffalo started shaping me in terms of learning about how life is lived.
MEDIUM SHOT BACKSTAGE AT CONCERT AT WHICH THE HEADLINER-STEPHEN STILLS AND MANASSAS-HAS JUST CONCLUDED A SET AND YOUNG WEINSTEIN GIVES THEM A CONGRATULATORY PAT.
WEINSTEIN (VOICE-OVER): When I was here, I had a little sideline producing concerts. We also saw that Hide in Plain Sight was made here with James Caan, and later I helped Barry Levinson and Robert Redford make The Natural.
MEDIUM SHOT LOW-BUDGET HORROR FILM SET WITH SLIGHTLY OLDER WEINSTEIN GOING OVER PRODUCTION DETAILS.
WEINSTEIN (VOICE-OVER): And then my first movie. It was kind of like having radar-you have to hear about rich uncles. I knew that a guy in Hong Kong had a million dollars to make a horror movie, and my brother being the horror expert came up with an idea called "The Burning" from a story he heard. So the first movie that Bob and I ever produced was called The Burning, which was a low-budget movie shot here [in New York State], and a girl walked in to audition with this speech and she was amazing. Her name was Holly Hunter, and we hired her. We said to her, "You know some day, Holly, under our watch, you will win an Oscar." Well, after she saw The Burning, she said, "Guys, you are so full of it." A few years later, I hired her for a movie called The Piano, and I kept my word.
EXTERIOR SHOT-MARQUEES OF SMALL MOVIE THEATERS IN BUFFALO WITH POSTERS OF FILMS DISTRIBUTED BY MIRAMAX.
WEINSTEIN (VOICE-OVER): When I started distributing movies, they were strictly small theater houses: the Amherst, the North Park. Slowly, movies like Cinema Paradiso and sex, lies, and videotape would change the whole distribution pattern of that kind of movie, so we could just broaden and enrich the movie-going audience.
EXTERIOR SHOT-CENTER FOR THE ARTS BUILDING-WEINSTEIN TODAY, EXITING SEDAN AND WALKING INTO BUILDING.
WEINSTEIN (VOICE-OVER): But can I tell you something? Until we had success, it was all low points. And I know it sounds corny as hell, especially when you're starving and poor, and I did all that.
MEDIUM SHOT INTERIOR OF THEATER-WEINSTEIN AT PODIUM TALKING TO ASSEMBLY.
WEINSTEIN: The journey is outrageous, and maintaining it is fun, too. Don't get me wrong, having money and success is great, but you know what? The journey up is a riot-if you have good friends, nerves of steel and tenacity. Never take no for an answer, and if anyone tells you no to get you off your course or off your game, don't believe that for a second. There are no rules.
MEDIUM SHOT INTERIOR-TV NEWS SET. ANCHOR IS REPORTING AS SHOTS OF WEINSTEIN RECEIVING HONORARY DEGREE IN ART GALLERY OF CENTER FOR THE ARTS ARE SHOWN.
ANCHOR: As cochairman of Miramax Films, Harvey Weinstein has seen his company receive 148 Oscar nominations and 42 Oscars during the past 12 years, but one award has eluded him-until now. The former English major who left the University at Buffalo 30 years ago to make his mark in the entertainment industry received an honorary doctorate of humane letters on Tuesday, September 26, during a luncheon in his honor. UB President William R. Greiner conferred the degree on behalf of the SUNY board of trustees.
SOUND BITE FROM UB PRESIDENT.
GREINER: He got the idea for going into promotions when he was a UB student, and look where he is today. If his life experience didn't account for 20 credit hours, I don't know what will. UB honors Harvey Weinstein with this honorary doctorate of humane letters not only in recognition of the degree he pursued here 30 years ago, but as a tribute to his extraordinary efforts to broaden the horizons of film audiences everywhere.
CLIPS OF MIRAMAX FILMS ARE SHOWN, INCLUDING PULP FICTION, SCREAM, THE ENGLISH PATIENT AND SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.
ANCHOR: Greiner's nomination letter to Weinstein states, "The University at Buffalo is proud to [confer on] you this honorary degree in recognition of your invaluable contributions as a pioneer in independent film distribution and as a powerful advocate of artistic innovation and exploration. Thanks in large part to your extraordinary boldness, drive, and instinctive eye for cutting-edge creative excellence, Miramax Films continues to broaden and diversify the field of American film by providing a niche for provocative independent films as well as enlarging the American audience for foreign cinema. You are an important part of the cultural history of Buffalo and UB as well, and we are proud that these were the venues in which you first ventured into entertainment promotion and production."
SOUND BITE AFTER WEINSTEIN ACCEPTS THE DEGREE.
WEINSTEIN: I've received some honors in my life. I've been lucky that way. But I can't tell you how emotional this feels.
LONG SHOT ART GALLERY INTERIOR AS WEINSTEIN ACCEPTS CONGRATULATIONS. DOLLY OUT TO STUDENT ACTIVITY IN CENTER FOR THE ARTS CORRIDOR. DISSOLVE TO EXTERIOR CAMPUS AS STUDENT LIFE CONTINUES ALL AROUND. FADE TO BLACK. ROLL CREDITS.
Jim Bisco is a Buffalo-based writer whose credits include extensive scriptwriting and a screenplay for the 1980 film, Tuck Everlasting.