Alumnus Tyler Rabinowitz’s remembers Melissa Mathison: “I want you to think of who makes your heart glow.”

Tuesday Nov 10th, 2015

Blog > Alumnus Tyler Rabinowitz’s remembers Melissa Mathison: “I want you to think of who makes your heart glow.”


We were heartbroken to hear about the recent passing of Melissa Mathison, screenwriter of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. This movie has a special place in all our hearts, but we were particularly touched by this account from 2011 YoungArts Alumnus and U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts Tyler Rabinowitz (who we can attest brought his DVD of E.T. to YoungArts Week 2011, and everywhere he went). Tyler posted this on Facebook, but we got his permission to share it on our blog, too, because it was just too beautiful. Thank you, Tyler, and thank you, Melissa Mathison, for all the love, art and inspiration.

I’ve never felt compelled to share something so extensive on here before, but the world lost a very special voice yesterday and I would be mistaken if I didn’t share.

Whenever anyone asks why I do what I do, or how I became passionate about filmmaking, it doesn’t take long for me to share E.T. is my favorite movie of all time…that it changed my life.

Four years ago, I was a starry-eyed freshman at NYU when I learned that screenwriter Melissa Mathison was teaching a course in our film program. Because I was a freshman, I wasn’t eligible to take the course, but because I was an NYU student I had access to her e-mail address. Two hours and one novel-length, heartfelt letter later, I nervously hit the send button on an e-mail I figured wouldn’t be answered. But minutes later, I received a response: “We need to meet in person. 12:45pm tomorrow on the 11th floor.”

We sat on a bench near the elevators, and we talked about E.T., about life, about what matters to us. She told me that her favorite scene in the movie is when Elliot and E.T. first get to know each other and Elliot shows E.T. how the world works, because when trying to connect with others we so often overlook the importance of understanding where someone came from and where they are going. I told her how I identified with Elliot, how afraid and isolated I felt when I was younger, how his discovery of friendship through E.T. felt like my discovery of a creative voice through filmmaking, how I felt like I grew up with them. She told me that for four years she wanted me to be adventurous, to do what scares me, to look at my time at college as if I’m hopping onto a bike with my creativity leading the way. She told me to let it take me over the moon and beyond, to places I never thought it could.

As we parted ways, I stopped and looked back. I almost forgot to ask the question I needed to know:

“Sorry Ms. Mathison,” I said. “But when E.T. dies, how does he come alive again?”

She grinned. “I want you to think of who makes your heart glow. Every time you think you feel defeated, every time you think you’re about to fall, I want you to hold onto them. Let them lift you up. Let them show you what it feels like to fly, to feel fully alive.”

My heart is all at once as heavy as it has ever been and soaring higher than I ever thought it could. It may have been a brief moment in time, but it will be right here with me forever.

Tyler Rabinowitz is now wrapping post-production on a relevant short film, Alientologists, which features choreography by another 2011 alum Caleb Teicher. Stay tuned for the full just-as-heartwarming-as-this-post short film, but for now enjoy the trailer: