The Music Man of USC Film School

I had the honor of delivering the following remarks at Kenny Hall’s Memorial Service at USC on November 1, 2016. Today, April 11, is Kenny’s birthday. I miss him every day.

My name is Monika Lind, and I was Kenny’s student and TA from 2005 to 2007.

That Kenny had a huge impact on his students will not surprise anyone reading this. He brought light and laughter and wisdom to all his classes. He offered his expertise at every phase of the filmmaking process. He helped all of us make better films. How did he do it class after class, year after year?

Kenny elevated his students by treating us like colleagues. He respected our decisions and expected us to take responsibility for our work. Perhaps he reflected on his own extraordinary competence at age 20 and presumed the same from us. Perhaps he understood that by making room for us to excel, he made our excellence more likely. Whatever the explanation, by putting himself on equal footing with us in the creative process, he helped us to outperform our own expectations.

Like many of you, I had a personal connection with Kenny that eclipsed our creative collaboration. Ernest Hemingway wrote that, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” When Kenny met 20-year-old me, he began the slow work of repairing my broken places. That work took place during happy trips to the Coliseum to cheer on our Trojans and during consoling lunches following heartbreak or rejection. Kenny never rushed my sadness, and he was always ready to celebrate life with me on the other side.

Now some of you know that I have a big personality. I can be brash, sometimes even abrasive. Kenny certainly knew that I was a handful. It didn’t matter, though — any time I alluded to my shortcomings, he would wave them off and tell me, “You’re perfect.”

Kenny made me strong in the broken places by being sure of me long before I was sure of myself. I was looking forward to dancing with Kenny at my wedding next summer, and even though I won’t get that dance, I’m still looking forward, in the many decades ahead of me, to doing for others all the things Kenny did for me. I just hope one lifetime is long enough.

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