The screening of Chalk I attended was the only sold-out movie I encountered at Austin Film Festival, and it was on a Tuesday night after the conference had ended. I heard that the previous night's showing of the feature film sold out as well -- and this was at the Arbor's largest screen. Was it because the movie won AFF's narrative feature award? Or was there some sort of word-of-mouth building in town among Austin educators, since teachers were the focus of this film? Before the movie started, Chalk's director Mike Akel asked how many teachers were in the audience, and I saw a large show of hands. It probably didn't hurt that Chalk was filmed in Austin, either.
Chalk uses that mock-documentary style found in The Office to focus on a group of high-school teachers (and one former teacher, now a vice principal) struggling to deal with their jobs in the course of a school year. There's the brand-new teacher, Mr. Lowrey (Troy Schremmer), who can't maintain control of his classroom; a comically ambitious, extroverted teacher, Mr. Stroope (co-writer Chris Mass); the short-haired, strident gym teacher, Coach Webb (Janelle Schremmer); and continually overworked vice-principal Mrs. Reddell (Shannon Haragan). The situations are usually played for laughs, but there are a few touching moments, particularly with Mr. Lowrey as he tries to connect with his students. Since they occasionally look right in the camera and talk to us, we know who has a little crush on whom, who's about to lose their mind, and who wants to strangle certain other teachers.