By Bill Garry
When Miss Faulker is patrolling the halls, students better watch out. In her sensible brown shoes and her prim brown pantsuit, Muriel Faulkner is the very model of a repressed high school Home Ec teacher. She does not suffer fools -- and that includes every one of her fellow teachers -- gladly. It is no wonder that her nickname is "Stitch Nazi."
Aaron Seever and Judith EisenbergOne day, she interrupts the new history teacher's dopey toy soldier reenactment of the Civil War to give him a warning: keep his students in his classroom or else. She has no idea that her life is about to change.
How her life changes is the subject of The Secret Lives of Teachers, an independent short film now playing the festival circuit. It's a comic love story filled with real emotions and skilled filmmaking.
Director Steve Anderson, along with director of photography Gareth Taylor and editor Laura Weiss, fill this 12-minute film with beautiful shots and short cuts that tell the story through the feelings and moods of the characters. The laughs come from character, not camera angles.
Providing many of those laughs are supporting actors Sean Dillingham (as sneering Coach Frank), Harris Kendall (tight-ass teaching supervisor Kathy Belovarac), and Dennis Frederick (Harry, an apathetic burned-out teacher.)
Sean Dillingham, Dennis Frederick and Aaron SeeverAaron Seever is Edwin Nelson, the history teacher. He uses the polite determination and earnest innocence of the Civil War era to unravel the Stitch Nazi. Be warned: you will never look at Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln the same way again.
The star of the film is actor Judith Eisenberg, who inhabits both a repressed and a liberated Miss Faulkner with a charismatic screen presence. She registers shock, disapproval, and surrender with just a look. And when the film takes a turn into a bodice-ripping romance novel, you believe it and root for it.
Even tight-ass Belovarac roots for it, and that is one of the pleasures of this film. The fully-formed main characters change and grow. (Except for Frank and Harry who are stuck in adolescence.)
Kelly Lester's costumes also play a starring role. Her beautiful work is comic when it needs to be, sexy when it needs to be, and sometimes both at the same time.
Bruce Bray's original score perfectly matches mood. His military marches underscore the battleground of modern high schools, and his sentimental strings underscore the adult relationships being explored.
Mr. Seever and Ms. Eisenberg collaborated on the script and also served as co-producers. This short is a satisfying and complete film in and of itself, and a true showcase for their talented team.