Guest Posts

Broken Refrigerator = Creative/Collaborative Challenge

William with UCLA bag

My name is William McDonald and I am chair of the Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media.

And I have something very important to tell you:

My refrigerator broke down last week. Let me repeat that:

My refrigerator – in this heat – broke down – last week.

Last Thursday had been a long, hot day, made longer and hotter by a commute home that ordinarily takes 40 minutes, but took two hours.

Then, around 9:30 that evening, my lovely wife Pamela and I noticed food and drink we were taking out of the fridge were not very cold.

Fearful of what this might mean, I was willing to believe ANYTHING to not deal with a crisis at this point of the day.

“No, really, sweetheart, lemon popsicles don’t freeze as firmly as other flavors. It has something to do with the lemons…”

"I think I will hide until they figure this out."
“I think I will hide until they figure this out.”

I was willing to believe ANYTHING.

But finally, we had to accept reality: a refrigerator had shattered our more relaxing plans. Instead, I drove to the store to buy 40 lbs of ice and filled the four large ice chests tucked away in the garage.

Pamela began shoving food into the ice chests or tossing it into the garbage can.

Now, Pamela and I have been married for 20 years, as of this last July…

We have been a couple for 25 years…

And we have been making films together for 28 years.

Shooting "Something Like a Sabbatical" Read more here: Shooting our latest documentary “Something Like a Sabbatical” Read about it here:

We have a mature relationship and are much practiced at dealing with crises.

So to deal with our dying refrigerator, we called on our maturity as adults, our training as filmmakers, and tapped into our profound love for each other…

By now I am wishing a spaceship will deliver a new refrigerator!
By now I am wishing a spaceship will deliver a new refrigerator!

This is what really happened…

We WERE a little snippy with each other as we dealt with exhaustion, turmoil, and melting ice cream.

Items secured in the four ice chests, we went to bed with the EXCITEMENT of knowing we would return to the crisis in the morning.

Both of us were really hoping the fridge would somehow miraculously fix itself and be working again when we awakened.


It was still broken when we woke up!

Once again, reality set in.

We had to deal with the circumstances in front of us.

6 AM.


Pamela jumps online to seek solutions.

The earliest a repairman could come was Tuesday.

No good.

We began looking online to purchase a new fridge…

BECAUSE we could have a new fridge delivered on Sunday morning.

Here was the answer:

We will just buy our way out of the problem and pay $1000 for a new refrigerator to replace our…


After 2 hours of trying to find a suitable replacement…

For our 1947 bungalow with the original kitchen cabinetry…

97% of refrigerators will NOT fit in our kitchen…

We found a refrigerator that would fit.

Problem solved.


We took a three-minute break before pressing the “Purchase” button.

We looked at each other.

Upon Pamela’s recommendation, I jumped on YouTube to explore DIY repair options as she expressed faith in my general mechanical competence I often display around the house.

Relatively quickly I diagnosed the problem…

The evaporator fan was not working.

Having worked on refrigerators before, I disassembled the back of the freezer to remove the broken fan, made a few quick calls, found a replacement fan in a parts store 10 minutes away…

I came back home, installed the new evaporator fan, plugged in the fridge, and VOILA!

It worked!

We put a couple of refrigerator thermometers inside and hoped for the best. After an hour, Pamela reported that the temperature had dropped to normal levels in both the fridge and the freezer.

I had fixed our refrigerator for $80, lots of stress and anxiety, and a bit of mechanical aptitude.

WHY am I telling you this story?

In the creation of anything, be it scholarship, a book, a play, a movie, a television show, a performance, a costume sketch, a lighting plot…

You will deal with the following:

A plan
More than one crisis
And a whole list of other obstacles.

We face the Broken Refrigerator dilemma every time we engage in the act of creation.

We will deny reality..

We will attempt to buy our way out of the problem…

We will curse the Universe for putting us in its crosshairs…

In the end, only collaboration, sweat, intuition, inspiration, faith, desperation…

Perhaps mechanical aptitude…
Will lead you along the path to your goal… Whatever it is.

When all else fails…

"I knew all along it was the evaporator fan."
“I better not tell them that I knew all along it was the evaporator fan.”



  • Carolyn Goodart

    I had to answer the anti-spam quiz “ice” after reading Bill’s refrigerator saga! And it had to quit on you during all this heat! It made me think of all those people in Long Beach where the power keeps going out. I think Bill saved the day! Sorry all this happened to you, but I think you all handled it well. Maybe Jiji set a good example with her calm attitude.

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