I arrived early to the screening block that was to include the short entitled The Secret Lives of Teachers, truancy is not my thing.
The venue, The Action On Film Festival. “Thank you for coming to the screening,” that was Judith Eisenberg who was seated prominently with Aaron Seever beside her.
This type of greeting could only come from someone involved with one of the movies about to be shown. Sure enough, these two are the Co-writers/Co-Stars/Co-Executive Producers of The Secret Lives of Teachers, “It’s the third short that will play,” Judith added.
The first movie to screen as part of this block was Monday by Alejandro Montoya Marin, which I have written about previously.
The lights shined brightly on the empty seats in the theater, that is alright, there is still plenty of time. In a few minutes, more people entered for the screening and the lights went down.
I decided if I enjoyed their short I would review it, if not, I would congratulate them on their work and leave it at that. There is enough negativity in the world right now, why should I add to it, I thought.
The Secret Lives of Teachers is a romantic comedy about two high school teachers who find a connection that blossoms into a love that transcends space and time.
The opening shot is a wide on an empty school parking lot baking under the morning sun, except for one car that is backing in and out to fit just right in a parking space.
From that moment I knew I was going to watch something with a high attention to detail, with a witty comedic style, all reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film. Given the fun, stylized nature of the dialogue, I would describe it is Wes Anderson meets Kevin Smith.
The full 14 minutes of The Secret Lives of Teachers lived up to that expectation and, by the end, had a refreshing change of tone.
One of the most memorable moments would be how we are introduced to Edwin, a history teacher played by Aaron Seever.
A colleague enters his classroom, the students quickly take their seats and pay attention, because we just saw what was going on moments before, Edwin was lost in his own world, playing with a diorama, moving tiny figures around for a war re-enactment. The students in Edwin’s class are free to be at play, as long as their teacher is.
It is rare to see a teacher portrayed this way, revealing the innocence in all of us, which is often repressed.
After a staff meeting, it is decided that Edwin, as the new teacher on campus, is partnered up with Judith Eisenberg as Muriel, to help plan after school activities.
In a bat of an eye, it becomes clear that Muriel and Edwin are a perfect match for each other. With a genuine kindness and shared fascination with the Civil War era, these two are cut from the same cloth, and that thread leads to the Civil War Ball.
Aaron Seever and Judith Eisenberg give an exceptional performance as these two eccentric history buffs who also wear their hearts on their sleeves. These scenes of romance are a natural transition and contrast well with the workplace style comedy that makes up the first half of the short.
Steve Anderson, the director of The Secret Lives of Teachers did a great job, evident in the quality production design, lighting and final presentation of this story. All of these elements work together to create a unified vision.
After the screening I got to hear some behind the scenes incite from Judith Eisenberg and Aaron Seever. They were in acting class for years until they decided to partner up.
During the writing process, these co-writers would improvise the scenes to perfect the re-writes. It took Eisenberg and Seever around six months to write the 12 page script. It turns out that Judith Eisenberg taught Social Studies in the Phoenix Union High School District for 27 years. Her favorite subjects were World History and US History.
No wonder how The Secret Lives of Teachers was able to capture this high school setting with such naturalism and humor. In full disclosure, my mother, Debbie Wiser, is a retired first grade teacher, so I do have a soft spot for all that these men and women do.
Again, the screening was not packed that evening, and it did not need to be. This short made a great impact on everyone who was there, least not for Eisenberg and Seever who no doubt feel a sense of ownership to the project.
Co-writing/starring and producing is a lot to handle, but being a multi-hyphenate is common in indie film these days. And getting to meet with the stars and filmmakers after screenings is what going to film festivals is all about. Many people later complimented them on making such an entertaining and touching story…. I was but one of them.
Curt Wiser is a filmmaker and writer. He is happy to storm the hill, in the pursuit of great films that can be shared with the rest of the world.