A Tour De Force

parking lot

In the car on the way home from the Maynard Fine Arts Theater on Saturday, January 26, Danny and I were elated.  

We had just seen the movie “Drowning in Pennsylvania”, which was written, produced and acted by Sudbury Valley students and alums. It was a substantial project that took many months and countless hours to produce. Caleb Spilios wrote the script, and Ethan Charles was the producer and the main protagonist. But many others worked to make this film, all lending their knowledge, skills, time and effort. The cinematography, the amazing music, and the acting were of a caliber that clearly showed that these young people had worked tirelessly for many years to learn and hone their respective skills to a very high level of accomplishment.  

It brought to mind what Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book Outliers: The Story of Success: “The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” He goes on to examine two examples: The Beatles, and Bill Gates. In my mind this fifty minute movie, which was made by people in their teens, showed that they have put in their 10,000 hours to teach themselves the art of film. And it was no accident that they were associated with our school. As one former student put it succinctly, “The school gave me the gift of time to let my own interests rise to the surface.”

So, all the way home, Danny and I felt that the SVS philosophy was once again vindicated by the students who made this movie by themselves. From writing the script, to composing and performing the music, producing, acting, arranging the sets, filming and editing the movie, and arranging its showing in a commercial movie theater, the whole enterprise represented an immense effort and focus over many months. It showed us again that children who are allowed to use their time at school as they deem right for themselves will grow up with many skills which they use to realize their dreams and passions. It feels good to make a place for them to do it.


The views expressed on this page are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Sudbury Valley School.