Image of the title screen from PDS Advanced Media's documentary, "Twenty Six"
Princeton Day School's Advanced Media course, taught by Upper School Art teacher Jerry Hirniak, spent the past few months developing a documentary film based on the award-winning PDS production this fall of 26 Pebbles, which is based on first-person accounts of the events surrounding the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. The documentary, titled "Twenty Six," features interviews with members of the PDS production of 26 Pebbles discussing both the personal and potential societal impact of the play.
Photo from the fall production of "26 Pebbles," courtesy of Matt Pilsner.
Director of Visual and Performing Arts Stan Cahill stated, "It's very important for folks to see a story like 26 Pebbles told by students because the students have the most at stake here." The very first image of the documentary sets the tone with the sobering message, "After Sandy Hook we said never again... and then we let 2,498 mass shootings happen (as of June 2, 2020)." As the student performers in 26 Pebbles explain in the documentary, the production opened their eyes to perspectives and realities that strongly impacted everyone involved as well as those who attended the production.
Advanced Media teacher Jerry Hirniak stated, "My Advanced Media class worked these last months on a documentary loosely based the PDS production of 26 Pebbles. This class has taught me what this virtual environment can be at its finest. Each time we met...three to four times a week... classes lasted two to three hours, the level of engagement was phenomenal, and we had the guidance of Mr. Seth Mellman through the entire process. I want to extend a very special thank you to the team of Makayla Gayden, Aaron Baseman, Zakir Zaidi, Carl Coetzee, Matan Blitz and James Granato with the invaluable assistance of Mr. Mellman. After the video has been viewed by the Upper School, we will meet virtually in a Q&A meeting open to any interested US community members."
Junior Zak Zaidi, a member of the Advanced Media class, added, "These are small steps that can truly unite us on what is most important—family, friends and our community. We hope this film helps to remind people of this and also inspires people to have the courage to stand up and help make a difference."