INTERVIEW

How the Song of Parkland Students Found Healing Through Performing

BY ALLIE WAXMAN

Marjory Stoneman Douglas classmates Alex Wind and Ashley Paseltiner; teacher Melody Herzfeld; and filmmaker Amy Schatz discuss the theater class’s commitment to the mantra, “The show must go on.”

In Song of Parkland, filmmaker Amy Schatz documents Marjory Stoneman Douglas drama teacher Melody Herzfeld and her students as they come together to put on their children's show in the months following the shooting that claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers. Schatz, Herzfeld, Paseltiner, and Wind spoke about finding hope in their grief and paying homage to their lost friends by pushing forward.

HBO: How did you come to this story as a filmmaker?

Amy Schatz: I make shows for kids, and the kids in our world — in New York City, and across the country — were watching very carefully what was going on in Parkland. They were walking out from their schools and expressing concern for themselves. We wanted to tell a story that would be different from what we had been seeing on the news — something for young people that might have some hopefulness in it. So I went down to Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and I met with Melody Herzfeld and the drama students to see if there was a film that we might want to make together.

HBO: How did you make the decision to participate in the film?

Melody Herzfeld: At the time, my kids were off limits. There was already so much exposure and if they didn’t want to talk to anybody, that was fine with me. I knew that to document what happened, and from that perspective, could really help other kids and what they were going through. Kids had already gotten so involved by watching the news and talking to their older brothers and sisters. They were watching them basically band together and say, “We’re not going to accept that this is OK.”

HBO: How did jumping back into the show help with your healing?

Alex Wind: The core message of the show is this idea of following your dreams and making sure you’re not letting anything get in the way of doing what you want to do, and being who you want to be. It gave us a way that our voice couldn’t be silenced.

Ashley Paseltiner: I also think that it showed that you can’t just let one really bad thing in your life stop you from doing what’s important. We were in the middle of doing the show on the day of the shooting, so we had to continue what we started. That was definitely a common theme amongst every student.

When we were talking about whether or not we wanted to do the documentary, we felt like we had to share it with other people to show them how they can continue to cope and heal through the arts. Finishing this show is healing for us and we also wanted to be able to heal others at the same time.