The First Impression
Christine Harris

T he nation of critics would lament, "He died before his time. A great talent has been lost." While resting in the comfort of his bed, he had these thoughts. He laughed loud and hard, and the pain of the cancer coupled with the pain of his amusement sent him into a fit of tears.
At the age of 24, Jeff Peterson knew he had created a work of art. "Brilliant!", the public exclaimed. Box office sales had surpassed all expectations. A new chapter had begun in the history of cinema. The ripples of his achievement were felt throughout the vast sea of other artists who were also trying to make their mark. That year, the directors' guild reported the greatest ever decrease in membership. What was the point?
His second film was noticeably inferior to the first. He knew this, but again the critics cheered, "A true masterpiece." His pride tested the power of the spell: he purposefully created a mediocre third film. He was not afraid that a negative response might end his career; he only wanted the truth. "Genius!", the nation cried. He was proclaimed the greatest film maker of the 1950s.
His suicide note read, "Slide a thin piece of celluloid into my mouth, then, after a short time has elapsed, remove it. The impression that is left is what I want to be remembered for." As the medical examiner removed the piece of film from Jeff Peterson's mouth, he commented, "There is nothing."

First published: October 31, 1998