Film Courage: Ken, as a tenured professor in your mid-40s, what made you think you could change careers?
Dr. Ken Atchity, Producer/Author: Well, this is America and you can do whatever you want to do. It’s one of the great things about this country.
What I was doing was very related to a career I’m in now. It was developing stories, developing writers, and of course, teaching a number of things that I no longer teach like classical literature and Italian literature.
I do miss that part, but it was basically an extension of what I’ve been doing all of my life which is developing stories, analyzing stories, publishing stories, helping people publish stories, and now, getting stories produced into movies.
So it’s all united by storytelling. I had no idea which world was sort of the bigger world of ideas, the world of academia that I had been in for 17 years, or the world I went into. And I discovered that the world I went into was really the world of ideas, because it’s a world in which people are tracking ideas across continents to find out who owns the rights to a story. They pay lots of money to acquire the story (at least they used to pay lots of money) and they spend millions of dollars to turn the story into a movie and they’re fiercely competitive about the world of ideas. The motion picture business is the jungle of ideas and it’s survival of the best idea and the best business people.
I always so it’s called show business for a reason. It’s not just about show, it’s about the business of how stories get developed into movies that the whole world can see.
Film Courage: I’m hoping we can go back to maybe before you made this transition to wanting to be in film? Was there something that happened, was there a time in your life that where you felt like “You know what? I want a new challenge.”
Dr. Ken Atchity: That’s a good question because I’ve reflected on it all of my life since then and it was actually provoked by my receiving tenure. I actually belonged to an untenured faculty committee against tenure. One day when I was a Fulbright professor in Bologna, Italy, I got a telegraph from the Dean of the faculty at Occidental College telling me that I’d received tenure in my absence.
And my reaction to it was not very understandable to my friends and colleagues. I became deeply depressed for about a year. And it took me a long time to figure out why I was depressed and it was because I had really never asked to be in this golden cage where nothing can happen to you. It was like the most secure place you could be and I realized at the time that my father’s chief value in life was security. He was a child of The Depression and security was all important to him. And I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t that important to me. I never worried about being secure. I’d published lots of things and I was in demand as a speaker and just never had to worry about it…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).
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MORE VIDEOS WITH DR. KEN ATCHITY
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