Thin Line Fest short Elgin Park tells the story of Michael Paul Smith, the creator of Elgin Park. This fictional town depicts 1950s miniatures and model cars, like a better version of Michael’s childhood. After photos of Elgin Park were featured in a car magazine, Michael’s creation began to garner lots of attention and helped people find their own callings.
Growing up, Michael struggled with bullying. The torment escalated to the level that his teachers would release him 15 minutes early from class every day, knowing the ridicule he was facing. That adversity is deeply rooted in Michael to this day, making him a recluse. In the film, Michael says that all he wanted as a kid was for his peers to tell him, “We like you. You’re interesting.” I think that’s something we can all relate to. We’re all different and unique in our own ways- some of us are accepted for those differences, and unfortunately some of us are not.
Michael’s story reminds me of how I was treated by my schoolmates in junior high. I was made fun of and bullied. I grew up in a family of five kids, divorced parents, and we lived with our mom, struggling to make ends meet. We were too poor to afford to buy new clothes that fit properly. So as I grew tall, my pants were floods- something easy to make fun of. People would go out of their way to make fun of me. I know the pain Michael faced growing up, not being accepted by our peers is never easy.
I found my way out through separating myself from those people by taking upper-level classes. (Turns out the smart kids had better things to do than make other people’s lives a living hell). After years of searching for his calling, Michael finds his way out through creating Elgin Park- a dream world, based on where he grew up (minus the bad stuff).
“Elgin Park is never a lonely place for me,” Michael says. “My tagline is, ‘The keys are in the car. There’s a full tank of gas, and the food is good at the diner. That’s Elgin Park.”
I enjoyed this documentary. It’s always uplifting to see someone overcome negativity and make something positive out of it. Catch Elgin Park’s Texas premier in the Shorts Compilation #2 playing Friday, February 20 at 5 p.m. at Campus Theatre. Shorts Compilation #2 will also feature: Brian’s Dots, To Be a Poet, the Bottom Rung and The Curse and the Symphony.