His eyes narrow as he stares at his computer screen, fingers hovering over the keys as he thinks over his character’s next move. Beside him lies an open copy of Soren Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling,” to his left a striking charcoal rendition of the Blessed Mother and Mary Magdalene.
Christopher Spitzka, 20, a Los Rios film student, has written two screenplays and can explain to you the difference between ontology and epistemology in both Kantian and Heideggerian terms.
“I hope to become a screenwriter and perhaps even a director,” he says, shuddering a little at the potential burden and anxiety of directing.
He stands about 5 feet, 6 inches, and is fairly robust. His eyes indicate his half-Korean heritage, and he closes them thoughtfully.
“I want to learn more about my possibilities and what I can do and how far I can push myself,” he says.
Spitzka’s films center around topics of anxiety, depression and social stigma, among other things — issues often ignored or stereotyped by mainstream media and Hollywood. Spitzka himself was diagnosed with OCD, autism, and depression, and has dealt with situations that left him with PTSD.
“I have had several relatives and so forth with whom I have had emotionally toxic relationships,” he says, fiddling with his glasses as he looks to the side. He instinctively covers his neck to fend off an attempt to comfort him with a small pat. “I was asked to give up my happiness for others a lot of the time.”
From first impressions onward, it is easy to pick out Spitzka as an awkward, sweet sort of person, but also very vulnerable. He apologizes for the smallest of things, is incredibly polite, and rarely asserts himself in any way.
“Chris is a very kindhearted, well-meaning and giving person, almost to a fault,” says Andre Vallar, Spitzka’s roommate and a City College student. “People have taken advantage of this quite a few times in the past. However, I would say that he has, at present, become more assertive than he used to be.”
It’s a typical night at the Spitzka-Vallar apartment. Spitzka smiles as he checks how dinner is coming along. It’s a delicious Korean barbecue, and he asks Vellar if there’s anything else they’d like. The bespectacled screenwriter is especially sensitive when it comes to honoring others’ wishes and trying to see things through their eyes.
It’s not hard to see why. As a middle-schooler in a mental hospital, he was told his experiences and trauma “weren’t how the brain worked.”
“We can’t resolve anxiety, depression or social stigma in easy, systemic answers,” he says. “What we can do is help people by example, by happy examples of people who have gone through and overcome these hardships in their own lives.”
Spitzka finished screenplays center around the life or teachings of the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, whose philosophy of unconditional commitment and emphasis on a philosophy of personal focus and significance has helped Spitzka to persevere. The world of cinema serves as a method of catharsis for him, as well as an avenue of assistance.
“Chris escaped an abusive situation and lives his life in pursuit of art and dedication to others,” says Mackenzie Miller, a former classmate and close friend of Spitzka’s. “He has the ability to bring a fresh perspective into any situation. I have experienced his ideas in a personal way that have changed how I look at the world.”
High school is a difficult time for many, but Spitzka’s eccentric, artsy charm drew many an eye. He struggled socially, however, as he was terrified of seeming “annoying” or being harassed as he was in middle school. Particularly in art class, though, Spitzka was able to thrive. His teachers loved the level of discussion they could share with him, and his classmates were transfixed by the sheer amount of knowledge he contributed.
“Chris caught my attention with his artwork and his comments, both of which were surprisingly sophisticated for someone in their first year of high school,” says Gayle Martin, an art teacher at Vista del Lago High School in Folsom. Her classroom is filled to the brim with different paintings, drawings, and sculptures from past students. “I can’t help but see echoes of Vincent van Gogh in the expressiveness of his images.”
Spitzka begins a new semester of college in the fall, the first since he finished his screenplays and moved into his own apartment. He has experienced some level of success in college, perhaps the most notable, when he received the only “A” grade in an advanced Hitchcock appreciation course, but he knows that he has a lot more to do if he wants to achieve his goals.
“There are days when I despair, thinking about the future and the many uncertainties I face,” says Spitzka. “Mostly, I try to focus on tomorrow and the day after, no further than that, except in so far as I can be inspired by dreams of writing and, perhaps one day, directing a film.”