Del Reisman – 1924-2011
It is with great sadness that Del Reisman, a dear friend and wonderful teacher, has passed away.
I graduated from college in 2000, and immediately moved to Los Angeles to attend the American Film Institute as a screenwriting fellow. Screenwriting students at AFI take many courses, none so important as our workshop class, in which we are assigned a mentor, who advises us on our writing endeavors. The 40 or so screenwriting students are divided up into groups of about 3 or 4, and my group, after a year of one mentor (who, in the spirit of Del, will not be named, more on this in a bit), decided that we needed a change. We requested a new mentor and in that new mentor, we got Del.
Talk about a night and day difference.
While our previous mentor was full of cynicism and bitterness, tearing our group apart, Del was full of hope and encouragement, pulling our group together. I was personally fired up that I would be learning under a man who wrote for “Airwolf,” but what we got with Del was so much more.
Del never had a bad word to say about anyone. He took Dale Carnegie’s school of thought to task. My writing improved under him not only because of his intelligence and good cheer but also because of his positive attitude. It was no surprise to any of us that Chris Raymond, one of his students (and a great fella in his own right) won the Screenwriting Award at the end of the year at graduation.
After I graduated from AFI, Del and I kept in touch.
We met for lunch often, usually at the Grove, which was nearby the WGA headquarters, where he kept an office. He always insisted on picking up the check, which once in a while, he let me get. A few times, my parents came out to visit, and he and my Dad got along very well; when the check came while having lunch with me and my Dad, I knew they’d fight over it; I convinced Del to let my Dad get it because, well, Del had been there for his son for so long.
My Dad always asked me about Del, and vice versa; my old man knows a good person when he sees one, and Del was no exception.
As time went on, and my career shifted to business school, Del was still there for me; he wrote me a recommendation that helped get me into Pepperdine. It didn’t matter to Del; he always believed in me, and everyone around him.
Del was beloved by all. He had not one bad word to say about anyone. And everyone I’ve ever met had nothing but nice things to say about him in turn. He was truly an example to follow. We spend so much time in our society today, gossiping, talking trash, Del’s example would put us all to shame.
Oh, by the way, Del was a World War 2 vet. This was something he did not discuss, though I heard things occasionally from him, he did not brag that he flew bomber missions fighting the Nazis, because that is what men of class do, or not do; they do not brag, they do not need to talk of their exploits; they just live their lives and let history make their own judgments.
Del vigorously defended the role of the writer in Hollywood. For a time, he served as the President of the WGA. There are so many horrible people in the movie business; Del was the exact opposite of that.
Del loved the movies. I loved talking about movies with him, he always had intelligent things to say about film. He always reminded me why I moved out here in the first place, not for power, or money, or fame, but because we love the art form that is film. I will miss doing that with him.
Del was the greatest teacher I ever had, and one of the best, if not the best, human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. The term, “one of the best guys I know,” is tossed around a lot; with Del, it’s an understatement. Once again, he never had a bad thing to say about anyone. He always had a smile on his face. He always found something nice to say about everyone around him. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Every man is my superior in some way,” and Del certainly walked though life that way, never mind that he was quite superior to all of his, in my humble opinion. He just didn’t act that way. The way a real man should.
I speak for all of us, Del, we will miss you. You will never be forgotten. I will miss you always, and never forget what you taught me, in the classroom and out, and will do my very best to live my life in your example.