Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Braff offers tips, laughs

Northwestern alumnus Zach Braff is more than a famous face. He was a helpful voice on Tuesday afternoon to Northwestern’s aspiring actors and filmmakers in a private question-and answer-session.

After viewing his movie “Garden State” and his short film “Lionel on a Sunday” — which he wrote and directed while a student at NU — Braff, Communication ’97, commiserated about the lack of marriage between the theater and radio-TV-film departments at NU, revealed secrets about the making of “Garden State” and discussed an alleged college hookup.

“Did they show my short?” Braff asked. “I’m sorry for how fucking pretentious it was.”

Braff was not the Hollywood star while on stage at the packed Block Museum of Art theater. He appeared comfortable and collegiate in jeans and a red cotton T-shirt, frequently slouching and shifting positions as he answered questions — even those about his personal life.

“Yeah, I hooked up with her,” he said after a student mentioned her cousin’s name. “Don’t worry, I practice safe sex … No, I’m just joking. I didn’t sleep with her. Tell her I say ‘Hi.'”

The exclusively School of Communication audience did ask more career-related questions, seeking film-industry insight from Braff.

“Don’t listen to people who tell you ‘No,'” Braff said, “I wasn’t a favorite in the film department but we (received the Studio 22 Productions grant to make “Lionel on a Sunday”).”

Communication freshman Kevin Reich said he found Braff’s advice witty and refreshing.

“The stuff he said about breaking into the industry was cool,” he said. “He is fairly famous, and even he had to continue to push to get his scripts through. It was great to hear him say to keep going when someone tells you ‘No.'”

Braff also discussed the challenges he faced in writing, directing and starring in “Garden State.” Students were surprised to find that obtaining high-profile stars, such as Natalie Portman, wasn’t one of them.

“For the same reasons studio execs said ‘No,’ the actors said ‘Yes,'” Braff said. “But it was very, very hard to do all (acting, directing and writing). I recommend having Xanax ready in your trailer with some chamomile tea.”

Working on student films and starting out as a production assistant is a good place to launch a career in film, Braff said.

“You want to obsess about every single possible thing that could go wrong because it will — and with student films, it always does,” he said.

Braff, who departs for Canada to begin shooting a film called “The Last Kiss” on Saturday, also gave a question and answer session at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall Tuesday evening that was open to all NU students.

Reach Amanda Palleschi at [email protected].

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Braff offers tips, laughs