Let me tell you the story of Simon's camera.
Usually, for birthdays, we buy a big LEGO set, supplemented by equally desirable books and toys priced a bit less. The kids enjoy this.
I wanted more for Simon this year as he turned 12. He'd been showing a real interest and skill in filmmaking, borrowing the camera previously ruled untouchable for the kids and eventually becoming, basically, Simon's camera.
That he'd talk about a hobby other than LEGO showed a spark of something I wanted to encourage. That he'd plan out shots for the movie version of a favorite book...that was something new.
Funds were limited, but I found a video camera online within our range and asked Simon if he'd mind a present equally big but not LEGO this year. The conversation took a windy road, dead ending when I asked if he wanted to know my idea before agreeing to it. He did. I let him read the specs online. "Waterproof up to 8 feet" did the trick.
Now he has a video camera. We're still working out the computer software aspect, but meanwhile he's gotten some nice footage, and is dreaming of what to splice where.
A couple of days ago, we were at the school open house and a friend filmed Simon with an iPod. Seconds later, he showed Simon the clip, which ended with a giant boulder landing on him. No splicing, no hunting down footage, no wait, just an amazing looking boulder with perfect comic timing.
Special effects app. Boom, just like that.
Now, let me tell you the story of seeing Spider-Man.
Normally we're cautious around PG-13 movies. We won't see The Hunger Games despite Simon's devotion to the books, but The Avengers we saw twice, as its wit lightens the violent aspects of the film.
Spider-Man we thought we'd see before it left the theater. Simon and I went today. In the end, it wasn't his favorite--he's not used to dramas--but seeing it was a big deal, and he is able to zero in on some key filmmaking devices. Too, the origin story--nerdy smart kid overcomes, fights for justice, faces the consequences that a conviction brings--was an important one for a kid Simon's age.
Overall I was thinking this was a key step for him to grow as a person and, potentially, an artist. What I'm saying is there was some thought and planning to taking him there.
And then I saw all the other (too young) kids in the theater, and thought about all the classmates who had probably seen this months ago.
And the knee-high kid who said to his mom as credits rolled, "Can we watch a movie in the car?"
Let me tell you, I see how you can swallow shovelfuls of food without chewing and shit it straight out, or you can savor each bite.
And yet I was honestly saddened by the falling boulder. "Sorry, Simon," I said. "Sorry his camera is cooler than yours."
He laughed. He got the joke; he wasn't jealous. Maybe that kind of kid is the best present of all.
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