Zombieland Comes to PCDS
by Upper School English teacher Andrea Decker
For days—weeks! —previous, students had been abuzz: Were they really coming? What would it be like? Would they be scary? Many PCDS students had heard stories of such creatures, but had never seen one in, ahem, the flesh. And then, on the morning of Friday, November 19, there they were: real, live, believe-it-or-not, walking and talking … Hollywood screenwriters.
Rhett Reese, PCDS class of 1987 (pictured in center), and Paul Wernick, who attended our Middle School (pictured at left), are the screenwriters of the acclaimed movie Zombieland, among other projects. They were on campus as part of PCDS’s Writers’ Workshop series. This year, as part of the 50th Celebration, Writers’ Workshop is highlighting the significant and varied accomplishments of PCDS alumni writers.
Reese and Wernick began their visit with a Writers’ Workshop luncheon in Hormel. Though Writers’ Workshops are traditionally a student favorite, record numbers turned out to hear about the arduous road (marked with rejection, luck, and revision) that led to the making of the critically and popularly acclaimed movie. Following a gracious introduction by senior Jace Knudson, a film-school applicant and Video Production Club member, Reese and Wernick regaled students with bonafide Hollywood insider tales: How they enlisted the notoriously choosy (and elusive!) Bill Murray for the starring cameo, for instance. The writers fielded questions from the hundred-plus students in attendance, and offered advice about the persistence and thick skin required for a writing life.
After lunch, Reese and Wernick held a special session with members of PCDS’s Video Production Club, which is led by Mr. Dummer, and members of the Senior Video team. These students, all of whom have demonstrated interest in and devotion to the craft of filmmaking, enjoyed a roundtable in Brewster Library with the filmmakers. Each student presented a concept for a short film, and the filmmakers workshopped ideas and strategies. Sophomore Garron Rodgers presented his short film concept in storyboard format, and was treated to extensive and specific feedback from Reese and Wernick. Many of these short films will now go into production in the Video Production Club.
Friday afternoon, the screenwriters were given a brief rest and opportunity to poke around their old stomping ground (much changed, according to both) before returning to campus for the highly anticipated finale of their visit: a screening of Zombieland in Dorrance Auditorium, followed by a casual Q-and-A with students and faculty. Before the movie, the quad was converted into an al fresco café, with Chef Bob and his staff serving a special Zombieland dinner of barbeque sandwiches, salad, drinks, and Twinkies (if you don’t know why, you must be among the very few who haven’t seen Zombieland!). After dinner, students and faculty took their seats, hot popcorn in hand, and settled in for a viewing of the film. Senior Jeremy Abdo, student body president and Video Production Club president, introduced the screenwriters. Attendees were treated to more behind-the-scenes stories as well as hints about upcoming sequels.
The visit was mutually inspiring. Students left Dorrance abuzz with ideas and plans for their own glowing futures and our generous and entertaining guests left knowing that the next wave of PCDS alumni-to-be will no doubt accomplish great, creative things as well.