One of the common questions we get at PLC is, “if everything is optional, won’t teens simply avoid the things that are hard or aren’t fun?” Konstantin’s path is one of the best answers to that question. Konstantin has dyslexia which made reading, writing and math very difficult for him. He attended a specialized school for dyslexia during middle school which helped, but he was looking for more freedom and flexibility to do the thing he really enjoyed – filmmaking.
Instead of hiding from his challenges, Konstantin decided to take them head on because he came to realize that dealing with them in some way was necessary to achieve his bigger goals of going to film school and becoming a successful filmmaker. How did he do it? He addressed his challenges in reading in writing through his interest in filmmaking. He set up a one-on-one tutorial on scriptwriting with a PLC volunteer. He read movie scripts. The traditional way of doing English class would not have worked for Konstantin, but this did.
Konstantin’s other major challenge was math. The first year and a half that he was at PLC, he made some half-hearted attempts to work on math with various staff members or volunteers – none of them very successful. Once he realized that he wanted to start taking classes at the community college in filmmaking and perhaps use that experience to transfer to a four year school, he realized he would have to deal with math in a more substantial way. He took the placement test for math at the community college and was placed in the most basic remedial class they have. He worked diligently, going to class, getting extra help on the homework, studying for tests with PLC volunteers. He passed the class with a B. He took another math class the next semester and also got a B. This from someone who had difficulty with basic arithmetic.
What happened with Konstantin is often what we see from many other young people we work with. When difficult or mundane tasks or activities are tied to a larger purpose that the young person has chosen for himself, they are willing to take on those challenges.
Following his three years at PLC, Konstantin worked in Nepal with Conscious Impact in their earthquake relief efforts, traveled in Vietnam and Cambodia, and interned on a film set in Berlin, Germany. In Fall 2017, Konstantin started at Savannah College of Art and Design in their Film and Television program.
“I’m a filmmaker.”
Konstantin had wanted to be a filmmaker well before he joined PLC, but when he decided to not continue with traditional schooling, he soon realized that he could just start being a filmmaker now. Konstantin founded a production company, Dino Productions (website, facebook) and then went on to make a number of films:
- February 2014, The Paradox Cowboy: A short demonstrating various filming techniques.
- April 2014, Ace, Part II: Konstantin shot this in the workshop at PLC, using staff and members as actors. It’s a sequel to Ace (February, 2014)
- August 2015, New York: A short demonstrating various filming techniques.
- November 2015, PLC Documentary: This was Konstantin’s first time making a documentary. He took about 3 months to go from concept to finished product.
- January 2016, Terrifying Teacher – a collection of my worst teachers: Shot at Konstantin’s house, using PLC student and volunteer as actors.
- November 2016, T.V. – Don’t Listen: Made as part of Mercer County Community College class Intermediate TV Production. The professor commented that it was one of the best student films he’s seen.
Midway in his gap year, Konstantin was featured in an article on centraljersey.com, Pursuing a passion for film, excerpted here:
Konstantin von Schroder has had a deep interest in film, but found that traditionally structured education didn’t work for him. However, the Princeton resident discovered — and has flourished in the freedom and flexibility of — an innovative educational approach. It has allowed him to pursue his passion for film and create his own path through high school and beyond.
Rather than posing the traditional question, “What do you want to be in the future?” staff member and mentor, Joel Hammon, asked, “What do you want your life to be like right now?” Mr. von Schroder knew by this point what he wanted to be. What interested him was acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to get him there.
Recognizing Mr. von Schroder’s interests and strengths, Mr. Hammon saw that what might help him most was actual filmmaking, rather than studying film theory or history. Mr von Schroder knew that he was a hands-on learner. Together they saw that setting up a company to produce films (www.dinoproductions2.com), to actually make them, would be the best way for the young filmmaker to progress.
The flexibility of learning outside of traditional school provided the freedom to propel Mr. von Schroder in the direction he wanted to go. Rather than being locked into a preconceived curriculum, PLC was ready to discuss a student’s ideas and needs and help him or her discover the best way forward.