With a position on the AFI board and fans that include Clint Eastwood and Michael Bay, Basinger has been a powerhouse in the film studies profession. As a film professor at Wesleyan for almost 40 years, Basinger is credited with helping turn the school’s film program into one of the best in the nation, as well as developing some of the industry’s most powerful talent, with proteges like Joss Whedon, Paul Weitz and Alex Kurtzman.
What we should know: “Since I’m a teacher, and everybody has teachers and everybody goes to school, there’s not a great deal about my profession that’s a secret to anyone. The main thing is how hard a college professor really has to work, how many hours have to be put in to do a single lecture class. I think a lot of times people think college professors have idle lives, with two classes a semester and an hour and a half lecture two times a week, but it doesn’t really work that way.”Words of wisdom: “The advice I give to everyone for any job is prepare yourself thoroughly, expect to work hard, don’t expect anything to be handed to you, work well with other people, do work, that’s basically it.”
Smartphone habits: “Honey, I don’t take my cell phone across the street. I don’t carry one, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m successful. I stay focused on what I’m doing, no one can interrupt me when I’m having a conversation with a student or a colleague, I’m in control of my own time. I know I’m a dinosaur but I’m a well-organized one, there are very few things that can’t wait five or 10 minutes. We’ve decided somehow that everything is a rush, but that’s not true. “
Work week: “I’m a hard worker, I work seven days a week. Teaching is not a 9-5 job. One of my students might be in a play or giving a concert or playing in a rugby game and I go over to see that at night, it’s part of my job. I work long hours but you have to realize that I’m an older woman, my family has grown, it’s different for me. My worklife and my personal life are very highly integrated. Students I’ve taught have now become my friends and are a a part of my life. I don’t have a problem juggling two lives, my life is coherent and it’s only one life. In a sense I’m always working and I’m never working.”
Life-work balance: “I’ve always been a tremendously well-organized person, I learned that from my mother who worked and was a full-time mother and homemaker. She didn’t have trouble herself balancing those things. She taught me you learn to prioritize, to demand what you need when you need it, and to be flexible when it’s your turn or somebody else’s turn. One of my best weapons is I have a husband who accepts that I have a career, and a busy career, and he has always been supportive and did his half of the home chores and child raising. I’ve been lucky.”
Charitable passions: “I like to support local small arts groups with donations because they struggle so hard to keep alive and they do so much in our community.”