General Information Features: Millbrook School - Gold Award

2008 Circle of Excellence Awards Program
Category 14. Electronic Media: General Information Features
Millbrook School
Down School Road: Millbrook at 75
Gold Award

Jill Kane
Director of Communications
Millbrook School
131 Millbrook School Road
Millbrook, NY 12545
(845) 677-8261 X130


Jill B. Kane, Director of Communications, Millbrook School Co-Producer
Daniel S. Cohen, Undara Productions Director/Producer

Description of Project

The documentary film, "Down School Road: Millbrook at 75" was produced in honor of Millbrook School's 75th Anniversary, celebrated during Alumni Weekend in June of 2007. After its initial screening during that weekend, it was also sent to all constituents as a memento of the occasion. A 75-minute film in an oral history format, "Down School Road: Millbrook at 75" reveals the school's 75-year history through excerpts from more than 70 alumni, faculty and trustee interviews whose eye-witness accounts tell of Millbrook's successes and those responsible for them. Among the prominent Millbrook graduates interviewed for the film include writer and editor, William F. Buckley, Jr. '43, premiere biologist and naturalist, Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy '59 and former manager of the Metropolitan Opera, Schuyler Chapin '40. The film became the centerpiece of the DVD produced for our constituents and for posterity, making it a concise archival tribute in one small package.

Planning and Objectives

In total, the production of "Down School Road: Millbrook at 75" took two years to complete by a two-person team: Millbrook's director of communications and one graduate, a highly talented filmmaker, assisted when needed by several students and recent graduates. We started with many months of archival research and discussion, reviewing available archival film footage and photography and selecting appropriate interview subjects. Before any filming took place, we had structured the film around nine basic sections to tell the story, all supported by the overall theme (echoed by so many alumni who return to campus), "Millbrook is exactly the same, only different."

"Down School Road: Millbrook at 75" was intended to be a nostalgic film on a nostalgic occasion. We did not use narration of any kind; instead, the story is told entirely through the hearts and words of those interviewed. As a result, the film created a highly emotional experience for the viewers at the screening and thereafter.

Specific objectives:

  • To honor a great institution at a great event.
  • To tell the 75-year history of Millbrook School - including its major players - in a compelling, informative, personal and entertaining way.
  • To emphasize that the founding principles (in particular, outstanding teaching, the community service program, and the emphasis on students being "stewards of the natural world") are still at the heart of the institution.
  • To show that despite some changes at Millbrook between the generations, those who taught (teach) and learned (learn) here had similar experiences.
  • As part of an ongoing friend-raising effort, to tug at the heartstrings of our alumni, student, faculty and parent audience.
  • To use the film screening and the 21 bonus interviews (posted on our website one per week leading up to the event) to entice alumni to return to the campus for Millbrook's 75th Anniversary celebration.
  • To strengthen viewers' ties with the school by making them feel a part of a very successful group of constituents connected to a very successful institution.
  • To mark the occasion with a fitting end product - a DVD which would serve as a concise and compelling 75-year history of Millbrook School.

The primary audience of "Down School Road: Millbrook at 75" was meant to be Millbrook alumni, followed closely current students, present and former faculty and parents and potential families; the film was produced primarily as a DVD for distribution among the above, but was also shown at a one-time screening to an S.R.O. house.

Use of Resources

$61,465 - Film production (filming, editing, transcription, digitizing old films, scanning of archival photographs, graphics, etc.)

$13,074 - Production of 5000 DVDs (including DVD menu content, design of the cover and label, printing and packaging)

$10,000 - Donated producer's fees (approximately)

In as many ways possible, we were able use our resources (and their costs) for dual purposes; for example, 285 of the scans that were made of archival photographs were also used in a gallery exhibit for that event as were the newly digitized archival films. Hundreds more of the scans were used as part of a commemorative portfolio publication produced for and mailed to all constituents for the 75th Anniversary. And, as mentioned above, excerpts from 21 of the interviews were posted on our website before the event and included on the final DVD.

We were also lucky to have available to us the music of alumnus and singer, Rufus Wainwright, whose songs, "11:11" and "Millbrook" were used as part of the film's sound track, making "Down School Road: Millbrook at 75" an even more personal piece for the Millbrook family.

Preparing for the production of this film and accompanying pieces greatly enhanced and upgraded the Millbrook School archives. Not only did we use the occasion to digitize thousands of our old photographs, but footage from historic Millbrook films as well. These included early film footage of our zoo, and two important historical school films: "Beyond the Schoolroom" (a 1955 professionally shot film about our longstanding community service program) and "A Conversation with Edward Pulling" (1988), an interview with Millbrook's founding headmaster. Now they are all preserved in the latest technical formats for future generations.

Response and/or Results

Our 75th Anniversary attendance was 800 which is an unprecedented crowd for Millbrook (on average only 200 attend Alumni Weekend). We like to think that the build-up about "Down School Road: Millbrook at 75" was partially, if not largely, responsible. In addition, the film received a standing ovation at its screening, and we have received hundreds of rave reviews since. If success can be measured by the positive response of alumni to their alma mater both in person and otherwise, then we have hit the jackpot!

Another tangible result of this film and the event it honors is that on the heels of its 75th Anniversary, Millbrook School expects to have the biggest fund-raising year in its history. We feel that "Down School Road: Millbrook at 75" helped to bring our constituents even closer to their alma mater and were moved to support it with greater commitment.