Your Results May Vary

Last spring I attended the world premier of The King of Hearts. It’s a production of Reel Films, a cooperative endeavor organized by Benjamin White-Patarino along with two other creative and energetic fellows who met as students at Fairview High School here in Boulder. I wrote a post about the event on my old blog; here’s the movie trailer:

Recent experience with apparent censorship of local high school filmmakers (see posts here and here) got me thinking about Benjamin’s movie. The story begins with a murder taking place just outside the high school; the student-actors shoot pistols and tommyguns at each other on the night streets of Boulder. How did Benjamin and associates get permission to show this violent film at the high school? Did they do so with the administration’s blessing? Did they have to wait until after they’d graduated and become ex-students before the film could be shown? So I emailed Benjamin, who’s now studying film at university, about his experiences. It took awhile for him to get back to me, what with studying for exams and all. With his permission, here’s what he had to say in Wednesday’s email:

If you are still interested in hearing my story, I’m glad to tell you, though I’m afraid it is extremely mundane. First, though, I’ll provide a bit of pre-history.  In April 2008, a friend, Christopher Wu, and I organized a student film festival at Fairview with the assistance of Student Council [Christopher is also a co-founder of Reel Films].  The idea was to provide a place for student filmmakers in the school’s film production class to show their work.  The festival also featured an art display and auction put on by IB art students.  All the money raised from admissions, the auction, and Donations was put toward a fund that had just been started in honor of the student who died last year (the money was to be used to buy AEDs and train a few people in their use).  When the festival finally took place, it included perhaps 30 short films, not all of which ended up being played on account of a lack of time.  However, among the short films played was one that was of a very graphic (for a school festival) nature.  This film, which was called something like “Zom-B Attack” featured overt sexual references, graphic violence, swearing, and a scene in which two “girl zombies” make out for an extended period of time.  No efforts were made to block the film (Made by a group called “A-Doosh A-Bags Films”) from being shown or to leave out any scenes. I think this puts my story in context, given that “The King of Hearts” had no such content.

So, when I was looking to play “King of Hearts” at Fairview, I had a pretty easy time.  I met with the principal, and he readily gave his support (we ended up having a fun, hour-long conversation about film and ethics).  Mr. Stensrud even gave me permission to put up more flyers advertising the film than were typically allowed (the school typically allowed four to be put up; I was allowed to put up about 20).  However, Mr. Stensrud did not ask me about the content of the film.  After gaining administrative support, I talked to representatives of Student Council to gain their blessing, which I did.  Finally, I worked with Mr. DiBlasi [drama teacher at Fairview] to get equipment for the premiere, such as the speakers, a DVD player, and a cart to hold the projector (Chris Wu provided the projector).  That was literally it.  The Fairview administration and faculty were extremely supportive of me the whole way through and made the entire process as simple as could be. Needless to say, I find the matter at [the other high school] to be peculiar.

My story is probably too boring for any kind of weblog post.  Let me know if you still want me to post it on your weblog, though I am hesitant to do so, since there seem to be lawyers spying on your page.  I would hate for them to see my post and then get my friends in the Fairview faculty and administration in trouble for not having censored me or something silly like that.  Of course, if “King of Hearts” were in theaters, it’d probably only be PG or PG-13 at most, so I doubt there’d be any trouble, but I don’t want to repay the hospitality and goodwill of FHS with legal controversy.

I am curious to see how this all turns out, so keep me posted!

So, no worries for Benjamin and colleagues at Fairview. What accounts for the apparently more restrictive policy imposed on student films by another high school in the same school district? Or is there still something I don’t understand, some information not yet revealed that would make more sense? The longer this mystery remains unresolved, the more eager I get to discover the truth. Maybe I should hire street-toughened Private Detective Jack Hunter to investigate. I know his card is around here somewhere…


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One Comment on “Your Results May Vary”

  1. Robert LaRue Says:

    Of course there have been episodes of outrage and censorship at Fairview! Ben took exactly the approach most appreciated by administrators… ask, discuss, consider, and usually approve. The old adage “forgiveness is easier than permission” is more frequently the guiding principle for flying new projects at school… though often with unpleasant results.


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