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The ask came when I dropped my 9 year old daughter off at her school, Haleakala Waldorf on Maui. I was about to hop back in my car when a Waldorf School Board member approached me: “Stephan, I know this is super short notice, but would it it be possible for you to create a short film that we could show at our fundraising event in 5 days? We have big plans and need all the help we can get to each our fundraising goal of $25,000.”

5 days, huh? My inner skeptic was running amok. Could I pull something meaningful off in such a short time span? Something that would actually MOVE THE NEEDLE for the school?

If you know anything about the Maui Waldorf school, then you may know that there is a strong sense of community support for the faculty and administration in delivering an art-centered and vibrant curriculum to its students. Armed with that sense of duty and dedication (because I’ve witnessed first hand what it does to our daughter), I sucked-up whatever reticence that plagued me and instead ventured to produce a meaningful short film with a story that would move the target audience and inspire generous donations.

I got to work. Initially, the board member who approached me was a little perplexed that I spent more than 3 of the 5 days talking to people associated with the school. Why wouldn’t I pack out the camera and get moving on filming? Just start interviewing people who were presumed the right people, you know, the obvious choices: the principle, the marketing person, or board member. 

Instead I talked to over 10 people plumbing for interesting angles, story plot points, a character with strong desire, motivation and uniqueness. Someone whose story would arouse a genuine emotional response and in the end have the mind rationalize the appropriate response: to give. 

The person I settled on was a teacher whose family was  at Notre Dame in Paris just days before it tragically burned down. It was a relevant conflict for the time and very much on people’s minds. 

I interviewed the main character and several helpers in the story, as well as shot all the B-Roll in one day. The edit was done in one day as well and all was delivered for the fundraiser. 

With help of this film, the school shattered its fundraising goal of $25,000 and ended up right around $35,000.