June 26th, 2009

School of the Dead

When teachers polled middle school students at I.S. 145 in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY, they found that most of the students felt that the ‘Horror’ section in the library was under-stacked. So it was only natural that when three 8th grade teachers—Jared Beloff, Chad Dictenberg and Chris McLaughlin—received a $2,500 UTF Mini-Grant to integrate Media Arts with the English and Creative Writing curriculum, they decided to have the students serve as cast and crew on a feature-length zombie movie titled School of the Dead.

The students worked on all aspects of the film — storyboarding, writing, directing, acting, makeup–and even blogged about the experience of their long weekend shoots.

As for the subject matter, teacher Jared Belhoff said:

We analyzed these metaphors and came up with a story that actually is about “coming of age” in a society that is apathetic and uncaring; the zombies illustrate a sort of apathy in students and teachers that can quickly turn toward unreasonable or uncontrollable hunger. Our protagonist has to realize that he needs to care about the direction he is going in life and also to begin to care for others in order to survive in this world.

The project was a huge success, complete with a premiere party at I.S. 145, and since they were able to purchase equipment with the grant money, they will be continuing with filmmaking in the future. It may have also launched a number of careers — six of their students have applied and were accepted to the Middle School Film Festival program sponsored by the Department of Education and New York Film Academy this summer.

Watch the trailer below:

Interview with Moviemaker Magazine [6/11/09]
The student’s  blog, The Zombie Groan [Student blog]
Ghouls Out For Summer [NY Post, 6/23/09]

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