Director's cut: the perks of being a Peddie student

Lights, camera, Zoom! Peddie Film Club members had a special opportunity to have a virtual conversation with author, screenwriter and director of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Stephen Chbosky. “Perks” is a coming-of-age story told through letters written by the 15-year-old protagonist, Charlie, where he recounts his past struggles with mental health, abuse, trauma, grief and more, while currently navigating being a freshman in high school. The story is one about friendship, resilience, strength and courage, and it holds sentimental value for many teenagers and young adolescents.

This behind-the-scenes opportunity came to be thanks to Board of Trustees member and Director of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Roger Durling ’82. Durling has provided multiple opportunities for the Film Club to interview directors in the past, including David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and Academy Award winner for Best Director in 2017, Damian Chazelle (“La La Land”).

Co-leaders of the Peddie Film Club, Imogen Dale ’24 and Chris Solidum ’25, crowdsourced questions from fellow club members and the rest of their peers; Chbosky declared their questions “awesome,” “brilliant” and “profound.” Fun questions were asked as well, such as what inspired him to write the novel, why he chose to incorporate “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” into the novel/film, favorite songs on the soundtrack, which character he most related to, future novel-to-film dream adaptations and many more. Chbosky praised the students’ questions, stating that they asked multiple questions he’s never been asked before, even after doing thousands of Q&As over the years.

On his personal connection to writing coming-of-age stories, Chbosky shared that “finding your own identity is one of the most heroic things that any person can do … in terms of an internal journey.” Expanding on that, Chbosky stated he “loves reaching an audience when they are maybe at their most open … because I continue to feel that open.”

When asked about advice for the young, aspiring filmmakers in the room, Chbosky responded that they should start out by “bury[ing] the word ‘aspiring’ in the ground, and never say it again.” He said that Hollywood is not a far-away dream or a “mysterious castle on the hill that you can’t figure out how to get to – it’s not true.”

“If you make films, you’re a filmmaker. If you direct films, you’re a director. If you edit films, you’re an editor. If you write films, you’re a writer,” he told the students.

The club leaders expressed being able to relate to Chbosky’s work, especially the music choices and references in his books. “I just wanted to know more about his thought process and what goes into making a film,” Dale said.

Durling said Chbosky was the perfect filmmaker to bring to the Peddie Film Club because his themes and settings are familiar to high school students.

“The Film Club at Peddie is so important and I am happy I can help them have access to a lot of filmmakers,” Durling said. “It’s valuable for the students interested in studying film to have a chance to ask questions and get answers from someone like Stephen.”

Solidum and Dale said they were grateful that Durling was able to make the connection to have Chbosky speak to their club. “The opportunities that we have here are absolutely insane,” Dale said. “It just feels surreal to be able to get advice on how to be a filmmaker from award-winning, award-nominated, top-of-their-field filmmakers.”