Film School at Home

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David and Jesse Gilmour had a unique arrangement.

David and Jesse Gilmour had a unique arrangement. hide caption

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From the witty repartee of Annie Hall and va-va-voom of Lolita, to Tony Montana's "little friend" in Scarface, Jesse Gilmour didn't receive your ordinary high school education. After almost flunking out of school, without remorse, his dad, David, decided to make a deal with him: he could drop out, live at home job- and rent-free, and all he had to do, in exchange, was watch three movies a week with his old man. Every teenager's dream, right? What resulted was a unique exchange between father and son — film critic and novice. In watching the films, they found ways to talk about girls and relationships, drugs and alcohol, and how to approach life's big decisions — at a time when most teenage boys pull away from their fathers.

Former film critic and Canadian talk show host David Gilmour wrote about the experience in a new book called The Film Club, and he and his son, Jesse, join us today to share their stories.

Have you ever learned something important from a movie, or a scene from a movie? Tell us about it! And what would your film school curriculum be?



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Yes, Ishtar, yes yes yes! I am the ONLY person I know who just loves that movie, and my affection for it has never wavered. Thank you David Gilmour!

Sent by Claire Gavin | 3:15 PM | 5-6-2008

Maybe if David had finished high school he would have a better feel for grammar, e.g. "Me and my dad did such and such..."

Sent by Dick Gunn | 3:20 PM | 5-6-2008

Thanks for showing us such a novel idea to keep kids educated. I'm a film buff, I use to listen to Mr. Gilmour when I was living in Canada, and I totally understand what one can learn from watching films - a lot of them, and from a variety of sources.

Sent by Margaret | 3:20 PM | 5-6-2008

I wonder if there were any "chich flix", if you will that you watched as father and son? Beaches, Steal Magnolias?

Sent by Anthony | 3:26 PM | 5-6-2008

David just made a comment that made me sad. Why would cringe when someone says there child is there best friend. How sad that after all of the fun and closeness you've created with your son your still too proud to say your son is your friend. I'm married and I still say my mom is one of my best friend. She was always my "mom" when she needed to be. She was always my friend if I didn't have a schoolmate to hang out with I knew I had a friend in her. I hope one day you can muster up the courage to admit your son is your friend! Best of luck to you both!

Sent by Ashley | 3:31 PM | 5-6-2008

I had hoped that this might be a discussion about high school, and how did doing the film club replace, and perhaps, surpass the high school education.

Sent by Milt Lee | 3:32 PM | 5-6-2008

Very interesting discussion and agreeably an opportunity not often available for father and son.
I was wondering - Does Mr. Gilmore provide a complete list of the films he and his son viewed and what kind if any additional secular education did Jesse get subsequently or what is he currently doing in his life?

Sent by Sherry | 3:33 PM | 5-6-2008

What are your thoughts about 1962 and why it was such a great year for American films?

Sent by Ed Koehler (pronounced kayler) | 3:34 PM | 5-6-2008

I'm curious if Jesse and David watched 'Broadcast News.' It's a long shot - but it so subtle in its lesson on ethics. Great performances. I saw it when I was 15.

And like David said - movies can affect people, for better or worse. This movie asked me to consider who I wanted to be: Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks, or William Hurt.

The former, even today, is who I aspire to be.

A. Allen
Tucson, Arizona

Sent by A. Allen | 3:34 PM | 5-6-2008

high school education is so limited. anything anybody does to break out of the restrictions of the public school system deserves accolades!

Sent by lizzzz | 3:37 PM | 5-6-2008

Correction to a previous poster... David is the father, his son JESSE did not finish high school. (But he eventually did go back and is on his way to film school)
As a young educator I am excited to hear this story. So many kids struggle through a traditional educational system and many walk away with nothing but a piece of paper. This young man is able to particpate in conversations about life issues. Jesse is one child that was not left behind.

Sent by elz | 3:40 PM | 5-6-2008

I was home schooled until the age of 14. Then my father game me a library card, a backpack and a computer. I then spent the next four years of my life reading everything I could get my hands on. Exploring the mountains of Alaska and taking my computer apart then putting it back together again.
Through it all the real mainstay of my education was movies. Any movie that had an insight into life and extended ones prospective was very valued in my house. 20 years ago what my father did was hard for many people to accept and I can still feel their judgments and fears even now in some of these comments. I can't thank my father enough
for giving me such an original childhood.
I find it hard to accept that we as a people value originality less then conformity. Anyone who breaks that bad habit in my eyes is a true hero.
I'm now split my time as a private yacht Captain and a non-profit grant writer.
I only hope that I can raise my own children as originally as I was.

Sent by D Creighton | 4:03 PM | 5-6-2008

I'm not exactly sure what the point of this topic was. Was it that we find it permissible for children to forsake actual education for "worldly wise" films that don't teach basic skills like English and mathematics? Mr. Gilmour was completing his son's homework to keep him in school; what about telling the kid he can't go out or watch television - or movies - until he does his homework? That's how I grew up.

As a college-level English instructor, I see daily the results of decades of non-parenting and how it leads to poor social skills and worse life skills. What good will Jesse Gilmour's knowledge of "The Exorcist" or "Ishtar" do him when he needs to find a job? His father might have considered that when he made this "deal" to let his son drop out of school. My parents were ensuring my financial and social stability when they insisted I complete homework and get good grades. I didn't like them for it then, but I sure love them all the more for it now.

Sent by Robert Geise | 4:53 PM | 5-6-2008

For some children, there comes a time when a parent cannot "make" them do anything the child does not want to do. My son happily goes to school, pays attention in class, then comes home and will not do homework. Believe me, my husband and I have tried everything imaginable to try to get him to do schoolwork -- punishing him, cajoling him, encouraging him, explaining the consequences of not doing homework, denying TV and video games. Short of doing the work myself, there is no way to get this kid to do homework. Luckily, for some classes, paying attention in class and doing well on the tests (as long as there are no essay questions) can lead to a passing grade. You can't graduate from high school that way, though, so we keep hoping that someday he will see the point of doing the work so he can get decent grades. He is a smart kid -- he scored high enough on the PSAT to qualify as a national merit scholar semifinalist, but doing the work to earn passing grades is not something he is able or willing to do at this point in his life. I applaud this dad for finding a way to reach his son so he would be willing to learn something besides how to skip school and lie to his dad.

Sent by Allison Wilcox | 5:46 PM | 5-6-2008

Alot of people hate school particularly high school. I dropped out also and went on to a fairly rewarding and profitable career in software development.

Not having the opportunity to fully appreciate the works of J.D. Salinger isn't something that I feel the lack of ever.

Other countries have different systems. You can graduate at 16 in some places. I don't know why we don't do it like that. Considering the number of kids who drop out, we should consider alternatives.

Sent by Ed | 6:18 PM | 5-6-2008

I would give anything to have another chance to open up my son's curious mind. I asked the usual questions that invite white lies "Have you done your homework?" I made him wonderful breakfasts to start his day right, I was there to drive him to and from the school of choice. And, I was there when he looked like he was losing an uphill battle with boredom. He has a beautiful inquisitive mind. And, he drowns it in alcohol. He is 22 years old. I have felt I saw all the opportunities to intervene with something original, and didn't. Now listening to you both, I am reminded to once again look at my son's heart and listen to my own.

Sent by Barbara | 9:43 PM | 5-6-2008

The comment below about Jesse's grammar... like that will help him make better films! I applaud David Gilmour for what he and his son chose to do. School isn't for everybody. I worked for a company owned by a man who never graduated high school. He now flies himself cross-country in his own private jet. I dropped out of college after 2 years because it wasn't something that I felt I needed to finish. I went and did things that I wanted to do. I started a business, it failed. I worked in the motorcycle industry and loved it. I quit to become an actor. I decided it was time I finished college. I now fully appreciate an education... which I wouldn't have back when I was younger. I have family members who rushed to graduate in 3 years with a business major. He got straight A's but doesn't care one bit about any of it anymore. Educate yourself at your own pace, that's what life is all about. And the fact that Jesse is now going to Prague to go to film school is wonderful. He'll be doing something HE wants to do instead of finishing high school back then and doing something everyone else thinks he should do. I've purchased the book and I can't wait to read it.

Sent by Paul D. Nguyen | 2:21 AM | 5-7-2008

As a teacher I can say that formal education crushes the natural love of learning in ninety-percent of our victims. If you can discover the love of self-directed knowledge, as did this father and son, then learning lasts for a lifetime.

Sent by Patrick Crawford | 11:00 AM | 5-7-2008

Wow, I'm floored. Son was bored with school. Dad did homework for couple of years for him. O. So, son was bored and best possible thing to do for son was to let him quit school

Can son put this on his resume? Can son use this experience to qualify for HS diploma? I really don'think so. So..
What to do, what to do

Dad needs to grow up and actually be a "parent".

Son needs a parent to help him grow up.

If my children wanted to quit school, stay at home and watch movies my answer would be, "Gee, I don't think that's a real good idea" "School's boring?" "Well, that's a shame" But sometimes life is boring.

Get to work

Sent by Joseph Diorio | 2:33 PM | 5-7-2008

This I must read. The posted excerpt alone illustrates such great love this father has for his son. His willingness to go where others would scoff and criticize, to go where he himself felt some discomfort is so brave, passionate and inspiring. Thank you.

Sent by John | 4:43 PM | 5-8-2008

Maybe you should read the book before you criticize the author's parenting techniques.
He taught him the most valuable thing-
to be self motivated, curious and hve a meanigful life. Eventually, that wil be obvious on his son's resume.

Sent by Anne | 2:00 PM | 5-9-2008

We must find a new paradigm for our schools. I highly recommend "The Sudbury Valley School Experience," a book that describes a school community where students are free to develop their unique talents, initiate all their own activities and create their own environments. Students are trusted and treated as responsible and unique individuals. There are Sudbury Valley schools all over the world and the administrators who design curricula in public schools would benefit from familiarizing themselves with this concept. If Jesse had attended one of these schools, he would not have been bored and frustrated.

Sent by Katarina | 8:09 PM | 5-9-2008