The entire inaugural class of the MFA Social Documentary Film Department recently collaborated on the creation of a short film for Chess-in-the-Schools, a non-profit organization that works with New York City public schoolchildren to help improve academic performance through the teaching of chess skills. Winning Moves was recently screened at the organization’s annual benefit dinner, attended by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
Faculty member Michael Kantor, who teaches the department’s Producing course with Robyn Hutt, made the connection with Chess-in-the-Schools: “It seemed like a perfect match,” he says, “a collaborative student project and a not-for-profit that would benefit greatly from this effort.”
Students Peter Vandall and Bao Nguyen were co-editors on the film. “We were glad to be able to get our feet wet with a ‘real-world project’ and help out the organization at the same time,” says Vandall. “We were divided into six groups and were sent to different schools around the city as well as the organization’s headquarters for vérité shooting and interviewing. We all had the chance to contribute in every capacity—directing, producing, sound and editing.” Nguyen added, “It’s amazing how focused and studious the kids were and to see how concentrated they all were on the game. Everyone knows that New York City is a melting pot, but to be able to go into all of these schools and see students from so many different backgrounds all coming together through a single activity—and how much they were enjoying it—was a really great experience.”