Lach Davidson: French International Alumnus Returns for Film Project
When Lach Davidson started planning his final project for film school, the inspiration came from a letter written by one of his middle school teachers, Minda McCandless. So naturally, as the film came together, he reached out to Minda and French International.
Lach’s film, “In the Beginning,” follows the journey of a fictional character with dyslexia as he navigates the US education system. The story includes pieces from Lach’s experience as someone with a learning difference.
“I think a lot of times kids feel isolated when they come across challenges in class. The story was meant to create a universal character that a kid like that could relate to,” Lach said. “Maybe they would realize, ‘Oh shoot, that happens to me. I’m not on my own in this.’”
While Lach took pieces of his experience to create this film, the initial inspiration came from French International Middle School teacher, Minda McCandless. When Lach was a junior at Central Catholic High School, he was on a school retreat. During the retreat, students received letters from people in their lives. Lach's was from Minda. The contents of the letter are personal to Lach and Minda, but the central idea aligns with Lach’s film.
“Essentially [the letter] matches the themes of my story where sometimes you feel isolated,” Lach explained. “That was the theme of the letter to keep going and keep being yourself.”
Minda has been a teacher at the Middle School since it opened in 1998. She’s had hundreds of students over the years and has learned from all of them, but Lach is one who had a significant influence on Minda as a teacher.
“I learned more from him about kids, connection, resilience, and differentiation than I ever learned in ‘teacher school,’” Minda explained. “Lach’s influence keeps going—with his film and bringing light to managing dyslexia in an educational setting, he continues to impact students, parents, and teachers, me included.”
“In the Beginning” follows the protagonist as he grows up and goes through the school system. Lach planned on shooting the scenes where the character was younger at a grade school in Los Angeles, but the location fell through. His plan B was French International.
Lach worked with Alice Beauvallet’s kindergarten class and Minda’s sixth-grade Individuals and Societies class.
“I had very limited experience working on films with kids, but they were super willing and they killed it,” Lach said.
For Minda, working on this project with her former student was an emotional experience.
“Seeing grown-up Lach and witnessing his true expertise at film-making, and knowing that I had a role in his idea, juxtaposed with me becoming the learner and him the teacher paired with my current class of kids at the same age I had Lach and knowing I have kids in classes with similar struggles, I kept tearing up,” added Minda. “It was both other-worldly and full-circle at the same time.”
It was a full-circle experience for Lach as well. He got to highlight and recognize a teacher who helped set him on his path to becoming a filmmaker. He was also able to work with students and share his knowledge of the film industry. Lach also reflected on how his experience at French International still impacts him.
“At [French International], I learned how to think, how to break down a problem or situation, and when something doesn’t work to systematically go back to figure out why,” Lach explained. “I’m wrong about stuff often so this tool has played a big role in getting me where I am today.”
Lach is finishing this project and plans to debut the final film in October.