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Wis. Film Fest 07: Jason Dean on "Chalk"

Post by Jason Dean on 4/13/2007 12:18pm

wisfilmfestchalk041207.jpgWhat do you get when two high school teachers get together and make a movie about the “front lines” of teaching?

The answer is Chalk, the mocumentary that kicked off the Wisconsin Film Festival Thursday.

Stating that 50 percent of teachers quit within their first three years, the film follows three teachers and an assistant principal through a year at Harrison High.

Each teacher has different styles and ambitions. Mr. Lowrey is a first year history teacher who is struggling to learn the ropes after working as an engineer. Mr. Stroope is a third year history teacher who is intimidated by his smarter students and openly campaigning for Teacher of the Year. Coach Webb is in her second year, and her assertive demeanor rubs some colleagues the wrong way. Mrs. Reddell is struggling in her new role as assistant principal after teaching the past five years.

Chalk provides insight into the teacher’s professional and personal life. Mr. Stroope enjoys target shooting, and compares it to teaching. Mrs. Reddell agonizes that she will be home late again, stating her and her husband have not had sex in weeks. Mr. Lowrey visits the mother of a student and gains knowledge on how to talk to his class. The math teacher comments, “I wish I had the guts to leave.”

Mike Akel and Chris Mass wrote the movie while teaching in Austin, TX. The students in the movie are student from their class that excelled, or at least showed up. Mass states that about 95 percent of the film is improvised.

The sold-out show at Wisconsin Union Theater was attended by a large number of area teachers. After watching the film, one commented the film “really captures what high school is really like.”

Chalk is very funny and kept the crowd laughing for close to 90 minutes. I gave this movie a 4 on my Steep & Brew ballot. It’s the best movie of the Wisconsin Film Festival so far, but there is a long way to go.

To find out more about this movie, go to

Jason Dean

Contributing Writer/Editor

Jason Dean is a lot of things, and some are even good. He's a freelance writer and web designer in Madison. His writing has been published or linked to by various sources, including Isthmus, The Capital Times, 77 Square, Slashdot, and CNN. More of his ramblings can be found on his websiteTwitter feed or his Facebook fan page.