Education

Film: ‘Anatomy of a Snow Day’ Looks at When a Storm is Enough to Close Schools

By Mark Walsh — January 27, 2015 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

This week’s blizzard didn’t sock New York City as hard as predicted, but fears about the storm were enough for a rare closing of schools in the nation’s largest district. So the snowstorm was the perfect peg to write about a short film I viewed back in November, but for various reasons didn’t get around to writing about until now.

“Anatomy of a Snow Day” is a fun, 40-minute documentary by a 12-year-old who was already an acclaimed filmmaker and has appeared on network morning news shows and on Jimmy Kimmel. It was produced last year—not this week—when the Big Apple was hit with a number of winter storms. It’s the perfect film to watch if you’re home from school this week, or stuck at home with your kids.

TRAILER: Anatomy of a Snow Day from Maxwell Project on Vimeo.

And the full film is here, and available free on Vimeo:

Anatomy of a Snow Day from Maxwell Project on Vimeo.

Zachary Maxwell, the gap-toothed filmmaker, wakes up in his family’s Manhattan apartment one snowy morning expecting to learn that schools have closed. When he learns that they haven’t, he sets off to investigate what goes into the decision by New York City municipal officials on whether to shut down schools or not.

We learn that, as of early 2014, the city’s schools had closed only 11 times since 1978, despite 55 severe winter storms. (They ended up closing on at least one day last winter, and of course on Tuesday in anticipation of the blizzard of the century.)

Although Zachary at first wants to have a day off from school for the obvious reasons any kid would, his inquiry eventually leads him to take pride in the city’s high bar for closing schools.

“New Yorkers are tough,” Zachary told me in a phone interview late last year, after “Anatomy of a Snow Day” had been screened at the DOC NYC film festival. “Even if we have to work our way down to school, we have a lot of resources to do it.”

The heart of “Snow Day” is Zachary’s dogged efforts to try to get an on-camera interview with New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “What was this in regards to?” a press aide asks him, after he has explained repeatedly in calls, letters, and emails just what it is in regards to.

Press aides to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who at the time was just days into taking office, are more open to helping the filmmaker, and Zachary eventually gets to sit down with the new mayor. “New Yorkers, by nature, aren’t thrown off by challenges,” the mayor tells him in an interview at City Hall. Another city official tells Zachary (quite correctly) that in Washington, by contrast, “a little bit of snow, the whole city shuts down.”

“Snow Day” wasn’t Zachary’s first film. In 2012, he made “Yuck! A 4th Grader’s Short Documentary About School Lunch.” The 20-minute film details Zachary’s efforts at sneaking his camera into his public school, where the lunch selections were not living up to their menu descriptions.

Yuck: A 4th Grader’s Short Documentary About School Lunch from Maxwell Project on Vimeo.

The film got Zachary on “Good Morning America” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” The New York Times called him “The Michael Moore of the Grade-School Lunchroom.”

Zachary told me his role model is the documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”).

“A lot of filmmakers focus on what is bothering them, or what is interesting to them, and right now, I’m a kid,” says the 7th grader.

Zachary’s father, C.J. Maxwell, is a lawyer who is interested in film production, and he helps his son with filming and post-production.

“It’s fun to work on this together, while he still likes me,” the father said. C.J. and Zachary are developing lesson plans that teachers could use with “Anatomy of Snow Day” to teach topics such as weather, science, and journalism.

Zachary agrees that he and his father have bonded over their film projects. “This was always a hobby of ours,” he said. “As I got older, I could hold the camera myself. And as I got even older, I found I could tell stories through filmmaking.”

Zachary’s says his next project is puberty, meaning as a film subject as well as a matter of personal development.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)