Tenured: The Movie

Interior: Classroom

A depressed looking man stands in front of his students and asks them to tell him what the word, “settling” means. He informs his students that there is no wrong answer which leads to a red-haired girl named, Holly, raising her hand to explain that the pioneers settled. The teacher informs her that this is the incorrect answer.

End moment.

Sitting on  my couch, coffee in hand and a DVR’ed episode of 48 Mystery on pause, I did a spit take. Having worked in education in some form for many years, I have lost the ability to count how many times I have wanted to respond to a student in that way. Sometimes the answer is clearly incorrect or in the case of Tenured, totally not what the teacher was getting at.

Settling. What does that mean? Yes, Holly, you are indeed correct. Settling does refer to the pilgrims, but you are also indeed wrong. Very. Settling, in this case, refers to the severe depression felt by the sad and foul-mouthed teacher, Ethan Collins played by Gil Zabarsky. His wife played by Emily Wilson from General Hospital has left him and he is struggling and questioning his life choices. Assistant Principal Gruber played by Kate Flannery–the hard partying and one-time rabies victim Meredith from The Office–can’t fire him because he has tenure and so instead has him put on the school play which he uses as an avenue to vent his frustrations. He does this with help from Kathleen Littlefield’s character, Abigal.

Tenured, which began as seventeen minute short on Funny or Die called Teacher of the Year, explores what happens when the professional and personal life of a teacher collide. When the problems in your life become too much and your students become your therapy or your therapists.

The heart of this film seems to lie in the connection Ethan has with his students. Tenured seems to show why people want to get into education in the first place. When a student writes Mr. Collins’ name on his arm in marker, you can’t help but love the gesture. Teaching is never easy and neither is real life. Teaching doesn’t end when the bell rings and neither does real life.

Tenured was written by Christopher Modoono and Gil Zabarsky. Christopher Modoono is a talented writer, director and producer who co-wrote Tenured with Zabarsky. Modoono and Zabarasky make an incredible team as evidenced by their other short, “12 Floors Up” which Zabarsky is also in.

I also have to take a moment to talk about Christopher Modoono’s Tide Stain Saver commercials which are the best thing ever and I want to watch them over and over while dipping my clothes in mud. Just don’t be like me and try to go to the Tide Stain Saver website. It doesn’t exist. Which made me a little sad on the inside.  I have cut and pasted the link to Modoono’s website below to see his reel and more of his fantastic work.

In addition to Modoono and Zabarsky, the other names attached to this film are Sev Ohanian, Paul Bernon, and Sam Slater. Sev Ohanian is listed as an Executive Producer while Sam Slater and Paul Bernon are listed as producers.

Sev Ohanian, co-producer on Fruitvale Station, was recently named on The Wrap’s Innovators List of 11 Leaders who are Changing Hollywood for 2014. He was right smack dab between Angelina Jolie and Jimmy Fallon which is quite cool. I wonder if he had that laminated and/or framed? I would have. I’d even put it in my wallet and use it as an alternate form of ID.

Ohanian is also responsible for a small project called Seeds which was done through Google Glass. I’ve posted that link because everyone must watch it and if you don’t burst into tears by the end, I question your abilities as a human. This is such a beautiful video.

I would also like to add that Ohanian was recently honored with a Distinguished Achievement Award at the Denim and Diamonds Gala which raises money to enrich the lives of students at Glendale Unified and is an adjunct professor at USC. Go, Trojans.

Like Ohanian, Sam Slater also has roots that go deep within education with the Slater Foundation which raises money for groups that focus on medical research, education, Jewish and pro-Israel groups and veteran causes.


He is also a member of the board of directors for Bridge Boston Charter School and owns Burn Later Productions with Paul Bernon. Also, in his spare time, he works in real estate and investing. Clearly, this man does not sleep.

Paul Bernon and Sam Slater have another movie coming out on April 24th called, “Adult Beginners” which is an awesome title for a movie. I, myself, have been an Adult Beginner for quite some time. Every time I think I have become an Adult Expert, I become a year older and realize I was wrong.


(Adult Beginners Trailer)

Of course, a movie that centers around a school would be nothing without the kids in it which goes for both real life as well. The kids in this film are Maddux Berry, Hannah McCloud, Eden McCoy, Danny Milsaps, and Chase Ramsgate. They more than hold their own with the adults and I know we will be hearing about these kids for years to come.

I cannot wait to see this movie and it’s thrilling to know that the guys behind the film seem to have a love of education themselves. It’s a film that’s funny, touching and endearing and sold out for all their showings at Tribeca. They had to add a showing on Sunday.  That’s pretty awesome.


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