Listen, you’ve come a long way since you began teaching here. You quickly picked up the subtleties of surfing, you’ve proven to be a reliable introductory-level teacher, and everyone here of course respects your lengthy and influential catalogue of cinematic achievements. Now I’m sure you’ve heard that Darren’s leaving next month, and I know you’re interested in his position, but I’m afraid here at Pacifica School of Surfing we don’t just promote someone to head surf instructor simply because they directed the film Goodfellas.
I feel bad letting you down like this, because you’re a great guy and you made arguably the most nuanced and exciting organized crime film of the last 30 years, but frankly, directing the engrossing, award-winning saga of a New York gangster’s rise and fall and surfing are two very different things. And as the owner of a trusted surfing school, that’s something I just can’t look past.
I grant you that the shifting, episodic narrative of Goodfellas, the innovative editing techniques, and the uncanny, deeply atmospheric period recreations of 60s and 70s era New York helped create one of the most gripping and distinctive pieces of cinematic storytelling I’ve ever seen, but that’s not what this job is about. This job is about making between one and eight first-time students feel comfortable and confident on their boards during a 75-minute preliminary surf lesson.
You certainly work well with people. There have been few complaints about your instruction, and even fewer complaints about the deft way in which you juggled and juxtaposed the often conflicting narratives of gangster Henry Hill and his wife Karen, not to mention the sensitive and authentically wrought performances you managed to coax from Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco, neither of whom had ever been called upon before to carry a film of such nuance and depth. However, when it comes to teaching people how to surf, your talent for managing a skilled ensemble cast that mixed veteran stars with relative unknowns simply doesn’t carry as much weight as, say, being a world-class surfer and having decades of surf instruction experience at all age levels.
And frankly, there are certain situations a head instructor will encounter that I’m not positive you’re ready for—like teaching expert-level tricks or coming to the aid of a panicking student caught in a rip current. Your work behind the camera on Goodfellas, though impressive, falls below the requirements for a position of such responsibility, and yes, I’m even including the flawless three-minute tracking shot at the nightclub, which ranks among the most captivating and technically demanding set pieces in recent film history.
I want to emphasize that we have no issues with your directorial skills; in fact, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say you’re America’s greatest living director. But I wanted to let you know that I plan on promoting Kevin instead. He’s been out there hitting the breakers six days a week for many years. He’s brought hundreds of students to a level of mastery, and he even teaches surfing to disabled students on the weekends. Granted, Kevin did not guide Joe Pesci to an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and quite honestly, I don’t think he has it in him to direct a major motion picture at all. But the bottom line is I don’t need Kevin to direct a decades-spanning Mafia epic. I need him to be adept at surfing in any conditions and to be able to fill in for a beginner, intermediate, or advanced course at a moment’s notice, which remain my main criteria for filling the top surf instructor position.
I might also add that the bulk of your experience is in longboarding, and our head instructor needs expertise in both shortboard and paddle surfing to fill the post effectively.
Also, this might be the right time to tell you that we’re beginning to get the sense that you’ve been using the fact that you directed Goodfellas to move up the ranks. Plus, I probably don’t need to remind you that you left the school for five months to film The Departed a few years back, and I’ll admit you came back a little rusty, although never better as a helmer of hyper-violent, wickedly funny crime melodramas.
So looking ahead, I’d advise you to diversify your skill set if you want that top position. Placing in some tournaments would help, and I’d focus a little more on beach practice before you head into the surf with your classes. Nor should you add, as you’ve suggested, any surfing scenes to subsequent director’s cut DVD releases of Goodfellas—that’s putting your foot through a Rembrandt as far as I’m concerned and it will not affect your standing at this school.
It goes without saying that if the school ever needs someone to sympathetically and resonantly depict Italian-American life with strong themes of guilt and redemption and expert use of slow-motion cinematography, you’re the first name on my list. I literally don’t know which other instructor could help us there. But for now, I have to turn you down for the head instructor post.
And let me reassure you that Michael is not any closer to a promotion than you are simply because he won Best Director for The Deer Hunter.