I went to college at Northern Illinois University, a large state college outside Chicago. At NIU there was a building right in the middle of campus where large gen-ed lecture classes were held. Cole Hall probably held around 1,000 people when full, or at least that is how it seemed at the time. I spent the better part of my first two years in here taking electives before figuring out what the hell I wanted to do with my college life.
This room is particularly noteworthy because it is in Cole Hall that I took my first cinema studies class, and this it was in Cole Hall that my love affair with filmmaking began in earnest. I learned about shot selection ad screenwriting and mood and everything else that is awesome about movies, taught by a teacher whose name I can’t remember but she was herself a filmmaker and as passionate about it as the subject deserved. It was in Cole Hall that I saw so many films that have shaped my impressions of filmmaking every since. Annie Hall, where I distinctly remember a long discussion about the long shot of Woody Allen walking down the into the camera discussing anti-semitism (“No, Djew?”). The Killing Fields – haunted to this day by the scene of Sam Waterston walking through the mass graves, enthralled by the idea of the importance of journalism in our daily lives. North By Northwest – walking out with my mouth wide open, convinced I had just seen the best thriller ever made (I was right.) Rope – Easily seduced by Hitchcock’s gag, loving the fact that he had another side than straight thrillers. The Graduate – it holds up for me less well as more time passes, but for a lost wandering soul facing the real world, this was like watching my life unfold at 24 frames a second. Titticut Follies and High School – Again, the films don’t hold up that great now, but the lively discussions that followed only helped to cement a love of documentary in my heart. Meet Me In St. Louis – As a surly punk rocker I had little use for the musical, and I remember being overjoyed when my friend stood up and yelled “JUDY GARLAND DIED ON THE TOILET” before walking out in a huff. OK, she didn’t yell it, she whispered it to me, but my story is better and that’s how I always tell it. It was decades before I finally allowed myself to admit that musicals could be wortwhile (thank you An American In Paris). Citizen Kane – Where I walked out 15 minutes in with one of the most brutal sinus headaches I ever experienced, and never caught back up with it until 15 years later.
It was outside Cole Hall that I got yelled at by a member of the student council for hanging up Naked Raygun fliers on university property. It was in Cole Hall that I first saw the infamous “Yeah, Right” birthday shirts (another story for another time.) It was around Cole Hall that I took my first photographs for my first photography class. Inside Cole Hall I first met a girl I carried a brutal crush on for years afterwards. She was wearing cut off jean shorts with long underwear. I said, “Don’t you look punk rock” and she told me to go fuck myself. Cole Hall was right in the middle of campus, steps away from student union, and because the auditoriums were so huge there were always people gathered around it. Cole 100 and Cole 101.
This is probably why some fucking dickweed chose it as the spot where he was going to unload a shotgun today, killing four people and critically injuring six more. He carried in three guns, dropping them as they emptied before turning the last one on himself. The gunman fired from a stage at the front of the classroom, the stage that sat in front of the screen that opened up new worlds to me. Happy Valentine’s Day.