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John Irving

National Book Award

At the time, they didn't have the language for it that we have perhaps an over-abundance of today. Dyslexia, learning disabilities, whatever they are. I had something of that nature and never knew I had it until one of my children was diagnosed as being slightly dyslexic, and when they showed me the results of how they determined that he had a learning disability, I realized that they were describing exactly what I had always done. What it amounted to, in essence, was that I would ask my friends, "How long did the history assignment take you? How long did the English assignment take you?" And if they said, "Oh, it's 45 minutes," I would just double the time, or triple the time, and I'd say, "Well, it's an hour and a half for me." I just knew that everything was going to take me longer. Right?
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John Irving

National Book Award

So much of a sport like wrestling is drilling, is just repeating and repeating and repeating, so that you've done this thing so many times that if somebody just touches your arm on that side, you know where to go. You could do it with your eyes closed. If you're off your feet and you're up in the air, if you've been there enough, you know where the mat is. You know it's here, it's not there. You just know where it is. You don't have to see it, but you've been through that position enough so that you're not looking for the mat. You're not thinking, "Is it up here? Is it down there? Am I going to land on my head? Am I going to land on my tail?" You know? I think sentences are like that. If you're comfortable enough with all kinds of sentences, with verbs and their gerundive, with active verbs, with short sentences, with long sentences, you know how to put them together. You know how to slow the reader down when the reader is at a place where you want the reader to move slowly, and you know how to speed the reader up when you're at a place in the story where you want the reader to go fast. And it's drilling, it's repetition. Most people would find it boring, like sit-ups, you know? Like skipping rope. But I always had -- I could put my mind somewhere else while I skipped rope for 45 minutes. You know, people think you have to be dumb to skip rope for 45 minutes. No, you have to be able to imagine something else. While you're skipping rope, you have to be able to see something else. You have to imagine that your next opponent stopped skipping rope 15 minutes ago. Then you keep going.
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Sir Peter Jackson

Oscar for Best Director

We went through this process of sending the scripts to everybody in L.A., everybody in Hollywood, some people in London. Only two people replied, which was New Line and Polygram, and Polygram were being sold at that stage. They're an English company, and they said that they'd love to do Lord of the Rings, but they couldn't deal with it until the sales process -- they were going to have a new buyer soon, a new owner -- and until that all settled down, and we said, "Well, we've only got four weeks," and it was three weeks now. "Harvey has only given us three weeks. We've got a ticking clock." So they immediately sort of dropped out, leaving us with only one option. I mean, everybody else passed, passed just on the notion of it.
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Sir Peter Jackson

Oscar for Best Director

I just wanted to get out of school as fast as I could, not because I hated school, although I didn't like it. I wanted to get out of school because I wanted to buy a 16 millimeter camera. This was all about the equipment. It was all about the frustration of trying to make films, but not having the best gear. My parents had got me a Super 8 sound camera for a Christmas present during my teenage years, which I used, but we're now getting up to a point that they couldn't expect to buy me a 16 millimeter camera for a Christmas present, and I needed a camera, which meant I needed to earn money. I just had to earn money, and so I just wanted to get out of school and into a job, any job, so that I could start saving up for the next piece of film equipment that I wanted. I did leave school at 16. I got a job at a newspaper as a photo lithographer, and during that seven years I was there, I basically spent two of the years saving up for a 16 millimeter camera, which cost several thousand dollars, and I was only getting paid 75 bucks a week. I lived at home with my parents all this time because I couldn't afford not to.
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Sir Peter Jackson

Oscar for Best Director

I could only film on Sundays 'cause I had a full time job, and I had to work a sixth day overtime at the newspaper I was working at, just so I could earn enough overtime pay, 'cause now to pay the expenses of this film. So the short movie expanded and grew, and I thought it would be ten minutes long and then -- film it over two or three weeks -- and then what would happen is I'd sit all week in this boring job that I didn't particularly like, and my mind would just be thinking about the movie the whole time, and I'd come up with new ideas of things I hadn't thought about for what we were going to shoot next Sunday. So next Sunday would roll around, and I'd have a whole different bit of plot that I'd figured out that I wanted to do on that particular Sunday. And so the short film grew and grew and grew and expanded out over this period of time, and eventually we ended up shooting it for four years -- Sundays for four years -- and I had none of it cut.
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Sir Peter Jackson

Oscar for Best Director

Sir Peter Jackson: We wanted two unknown girls to play the two teenagers. They were 15 and 16, and so we had Melanie Lynskey, who's a New Zealand girl, to play Pauline, the Kiwi girl. Fran just found her in a class in school. She literally -- Fran got so desperate, because the casting directors weren't showing us people that we liked, and so she got in a car and drove to schools and asked if she could go into classrooms, said that she's casting for a film, and she would just stand in the classroom and ask a girl to stand up, and then just say, "Could you come with me?" and then she'd go and audition her.
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Sir Peter Jackson

Oscar for Best Director

Fran is very good at revising. I usually just let her sit down with the pages. There's always a time where she sits down by herself with the written pages and starts revising and starts changing, because that's where a lot of the skill of script writing is. It's not in actually getting the script written, it's the revising afterwards. It's the endless, endless revisions, and Fran's strength is that. She's fantastic at picking the weaknesses out of a script and just revising it and revising it and revising it 'til we're happy with it.
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Donald Johanson

Discoverer of Lucy

Donald Johanson: No. I suspect that if I had not met Paul Lazer, if I had not had his remarkable influence, I would certainly have been doing something else. I think that, in fact, as I look back there was a very interesting thing which happened when I was a senior in high school. My first two years of high school, I was not a very good student. I was much more interested in what was going on outside of school. I was not stimulated to perform by the regular curriculum of high school. We didn't have astronomy courses. We didn't have courses in natural history, and there were so many other things I was interested in that school work sort of got in the way and I did very poorly my first two years. After my sophomore year, Paul told me, "If you want to go to college, if you want to pursue an advanced degree, in whatever field it is you want, you need to get cracking in your school work." I worked very hard the last two years of high school. In fact, I graduated something like 26 out of 300, did very well, but I did very poorly on examinations, Scholastic Aptitude Tests, for example. The reason I did so poorly was because I had read papers which of course, most students had not read, about the fact that these tests are highly biased. It really depends on one's background. Taking a scholastic aptitude test that's designed for a white Anglo-Saxon group of people and applying that to another group of people, these other people come out scoring very low, and the interpretation is that they're not very bright. There's a sense that they're not terribly good, certainly weren't at that time, very good ways to accurately reflect one's intellectual capabilities, so I didn't take them very seriously. As a result I did very poorly on them. There was a tremendous effort, or emphasis, placed on these examinations for entry to college. And when I went to the high school counselor, Mr. Olson, to discuss my college applications, he said, "Young man, I think you should apply to a trade school." He said, "You're not college material." And Paul, at that point -- I came back with this story. I was practically in tears, as you might imagine. Paul reiterated that these tests are not accurate tests of one's capabilities and intelligence, and that I should apply. And I applied to several colleges and did get in. That sort of influence was terribly important to me because if I had not met him, and didn't have that sort of influence in my life, I might have ended up going to trade school, becoming a plumber, or an electrician, or something else.
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Donald Johanson

Discoverer of Lucy

When I was a student, and college became more and more expensive, I too had to get a job. I too had to work between midnight and four o'clock in the morning because we got 25 cents extra an hour by working the graveyard shift. So I worked for the physics department for two years and was able to finish my undergraduate work. And instead of complaining about that -- instead of complaining about the fact that my roommates were all going out on Saturday night, they had say, a second-hand car, or they all went home for vacation when I stayed to make extra money so I could make it through the next semester -- I faced it and embraced it as part of the learning experience. The learning experience of life.
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