Andrew Malecki is kind of a hard case for high school guidance counselors and anathema to parents struggling to convince their kids of the value of a college education.
Smart enough to do well in most of the subjects thrown his way, Malecki’s someone who badmouthed high school as an obstacle to his real education and says, in categorical terms, that college is an utter waste of time and money. For himself, he emphasizes though his critique is broad-brush.
He’s verbally and artistically gifted, unshakably confident, and less than a year after graduating from Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School doing exactly the kind of cool stuff he dreamed he’d be doing ever since he decided, mid-sophomore year, that no way was college in the cards for him.
Circumstance may someday prove, to others, that Malecki made the right choice in deciding to pursue a career in filmmaking right out of high school. It could even turn out that the teachers who knew him best at R-FH and tried to dynamite him off his chosen path grudgingly agree.
For now, though, his alma mater is more likely to hold a “Bong Hits for Jesus” rally than point to Malecki as a role model.
The kind of iconclasm that Malecki embodies was far more commonplace before the days when kids were mini-vanned through packed schedules of school sports and extra-curriculars, of course. But today, especially in high-wealth suburban districts such as R-FH, Malecki’s an anomaly. He says he was one of only a handful of his classmates to forsake college.
So instead of studying film at New York University, which he once considered, he’s making films at age 19. He’s shot a handful of shorts, and is now editing ‘In Frame,’ a feature-length film he wrote and directed.
To finance his obsession, he works as assistant manager at the Clearview Red Bank Cinemas, where, it so happens, he shot most of ‘In Frame.’
“People make a big fuss about my not going to college,” Malecki says. “But in my view, what I’m doing and college have the same end. You’re learning, you’re getting experience.
“This is college; this is me, learning.”
He’s been on a kind of self-study program his entire life. His father, Philip Malecki, who works as a toll collector on the Garden State Parkway, is a film buff with an extensive collection of movie DVDs and their predecessor laser discs. When he was about three years old, Andrew became enraptured by the films, too, starting with the likes of Abbott and Costello.
When other kids were getting the high-socialization treatment, he was in living room of his family’s unremarkable Rumson Cape Cod, a mushroom feeding off the soft glow of a TV screen.
The first film to really take his breath away was ‘Goldfinger,’ which he saw when he was about six; it’s also the first that he remembers both watching with his father and talking about with him afterward.
“That was pretty much my introduction to great film,” says Malecki, whose voice often modulates from a murmur to near-oratory. “It’s Goldfinger, for chrissake, the greatest of the Bond films. That’s when I really started delving into film.”
Over the next dozen years, the delving led him to a love of Woody Allen and foreign films, particularly those of Jean-Luc Godard. He consumed the images, and studied up on directors, cataloging in his mind their works and influences.
His idea of a perfect movie? ‘Dr. Strangelove.’ “I’m a big Kubrick fan, but that film in particular is literally perfect, in filmmaking, in style, in humor. It works on every single level that Kubrick wanted.”
Early on in high school, Malecki pictured himself pursuing his study through college and graduate school. But he instead opted to make films, and in the middle of sophomore year, did a cost-benefit analysis of college.
Bottom line? Not worth it.
“You go to college to find yourself,” he says. “My problem is that I found out early what I wanted to do, and it didn’t involve going to college.”
Now, his nights are spent at the theater; his days are largely spent in a crawlspace just off his bedroom, where he’s built a tidy little film-editing bay.
“There’s really not much in between,” he says. “I don’t do anything else. I have no personal life. I’m pathetic.” His closest working relationship is with a young woman who types up his scripts and helps him run a small production company he owns called Philmreel Productions (named after his father). He pays her in cigarettes.
‘In Frame,’ is about a lovestuck movie theater employee who’s having some difficulty discerning what’s real and what’s not. Among some of the familiar faces in the film are Max Bernstein of the Inheritance Gallery on Monmouth Street as the theater’s manager and photographer Danny Sanchez.
Malecki says the film will be ready for screening in the fall, and though he has no distribution deals or plans to enter it into competitions, he says with characteristic sureness that he’s “one-hundred percent confident” that it will be seen.
Whether it succeeds or flops, though, won’t be the yardstick by which he evaluates himself or his chosen path into adulthood.
“I don’t think I need to vindicate myself at all to anyone. I don’t think anyone should have to,” he says. “Let’s say this film goes to shit. I’ll be crushed, but I won’t die.”