A Conversation on Filmmaking with Joel Coen and Frances McDormand

As a special treat for the York Prep community, parents were invited to share in a conversation with Oscar-winning filmmaker Mr. Joel Coen and his wife, Oscar-winning actress Ms. Frances McDormand on the evening of Monday, April 20. As parents of a York Prep alumnus themselves, Frances and Joel were happy to pay the school a visit and answer the questions of the fans, movie buffs, and even aspiring filmmakers in attendance.

The evening began with a montage illustrating the illustrious careers of Joel, Ethan, and Frances, who have all worked as a team over the last few decades. The Coen brothers, widely known for their academy award winning films, No Country for Old Men (2007) and Fargo (1996) have created masterpieces of cinema together for more than 30 years. In fact, the remarkable performance of Frances as police chief Marge Gunderson in the Coen brothers’ film, Fargo, earned her the 1996 Oscar for best actress. The clips of their great cinematic accomplishments showed off the immense talent of our guests and served as a brief reminder of why so many parents jumped at the chance to spend an evening with Joel and Frances.

Headmaster Ronald Stewart, acted as both moderator and host for the evening, asking questions provided by parents as well as some stemming from his own curiosity. Mr. Stewart started the conversation off at the very beginning, asking Joel about his start in the world of filmmaking, referencing the fact that he mowed lawns as a kid to afford his first super eight. Joel’s motivation and passion at such a young age should serve as a lesson for current York students pursuing their own dreams.

The evening was a great success, punctuated by the comedic and often thought provoking commentary of Frances, who has long enjoyed an inside look at the Coen brothers’ interesting working style. More than just an expert on the work of her husband and brother-in-law, Frances gave great insight on the very real issue surrounding women in the film industry and the rarity of female stories being told.

Luckily for the female film enthusiasts of the world, Frances has become a producer in her own right, having found that the skill set of housewifery lends itself to the craft. Surely moviegoers will continue to see great things from this wonderful couple and York parents were truly pleased to get a sneak peek into the backstories of some of their favorite motion pictures. After all their questions had been answered, the parents mingled over coffee and dessert with the Coens, drawing the event to a close. In the end, the evening was filled with tasty treats, witty discourse, and quite a few laughs!