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Gateway Film Center to screen a lesson in Tom Morris’ first feature film ‘General Education’

Courtesy of Jason Kasperski

More than twenty years ago, in his film “Hook,” director Steven Spielberg made a little kid from Ohio giggle and taught him that all children – even Peter Pan – grow up. That same kid grew up and chose to become a filmmaker, just like Spielberg.

Tom Morris’ debut film “General Education” is scheduled to be screened 7 p.m. Friday at Gateway Film Center. The film was released in select theaters and made available on iTunes on Aug. 24.

Morris was born and raised in Hubbard, Ohio. After graduating from high school, he moved to Ventura, Calif. to major in film and video production at Brooks Institute. He graduated in 2010 and founded Pelican House Productions, an independent motion picture production company, with his friends Elliot Feld, Jaz Kalkat and Kevin Liang.  

Morris said Pelican House Productions has a goal of entertaining people while also teaching them a lesson.

“We try to blend real-life situations with comedy, leaving you a message,” Morris said.

He added that goal was accomplished in the company’s first feature film, “General Education,” which was directed by Morris and co-written by Feld, Kalkat and Morris.

“General Education” is a comedy in which high school senior Levi Collins tries to hide from his parents that he failed a course and didn’t graduate. Levi has a tennis scholarship awaiting him at the local university and tries to secretly attend summer school so he can graduate in time and go to college. We find out Levi’s dad is forcing him to play tennis, despite Levi’s dislike for the sport.

Levi’s plan to secretly attend summer school is part of the film’s comedy, while the family conflict and decision between playing tennis and pursuing a general education teaches the lesson about learning to grow together as a family, according to the film’s website.

“Obviously, there is something funny and gives you something to think about,” Morris said. “If you’re a younger audience member, you can take some time and think about your future or college stuff like that, and then an older audience can look back and think about their kids.”

Morris said even though his real life is not as dramatic as the film, “General Eduction” mirrored his personal experience.

“When I was little I was watching ‘Hook,’ thinking that making movies is the coolest thing ever,” Morris said. “But I really started thinking about it when I was in high school, and I told my parents that I wanted to go to California and dive straight into the film industry. My dad was a little bit hesitant, thinking that I should stick around and go to school somewhere in Ohio, but he said OK.”

Morris said the four production company members combined their own personal experiences to help develop the plot of “General Education.” He said, for example, that the company incorporated tennis in the film because of Feld’s experience with the sport.

“Elliot and his sister played tennis,” Morris said. “They were really good tennis players. But at the certain point in high school, (Levi) changed his mind and told his dad that he doesn’t want to play tennis.”

Morris said that despite being physically tired from production, he enjoyed the whole movie-making process because he is doing what he wants to do.

“It was like a bullet, so fast,” Morris said. “We had to shoot in such a quick period of time, only 18 days. We needed to wake up at 5 a.m. and go to bed around 1 a.m. everyday. But being on set was the most fun part.”

Even though the schedule was tight, Morris said he was happy with the final result.

“After I watched the first screening, I felt satisfied,” Morris said. “I felt like everything happened the way it should.”

Morris is not the only one who is happy with his film. Some Ohio State students said they are also happy to see his first feature.  

Nicole Williams, a second-year in international studies, said she likes Pelican House Productions’ message.

“Because comedy is something that appeals to a lot of people, building a lesson into their movies is an interesting way to teach (lessons) to the audience,” Williams said. “It’s interesting.”

Morris said he hopes his movies can inspire his audience.

“I hope people can see the movie and enjoy,” Morris said, adding, “Follow your dream.”

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