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Transformers 4 producer rewards DPS eighth graders for attendance

Durfee 8th graders with Producer Allegra Clegg

Coming to school every day and on time got eighth-grade students at Durfee Elementary-Middle School a chance to learn the ins and outs of the movie business from “Transformers: Age of Extinction” co-producer Allegra Clegg.

Transformers Producer Allegra Clegg gave Durfee 8th graders hats from the film

Transformers Producer Allegra Clegg gave Durfee 8th graders hats from the film

Clegg visited the school as part of a collaboration between Paramount and the Detroit Public Schools to help boost kids’ engagement and attendance.

Durfee won the DPS-wide “Get Schooled Attendance Campaign” and was picked to host the in-school event.

Here’s how it worked.

Through the interactive online competition students had the chance to win prizes by “checking-in” online each day. Durfee students logged the most check-ins during the two-week campaign and won the challenge. About 85 eighth graders pulled off the win out of all schools in DPS that entered.

The competition seemed to “transform” the whole school, not just the winning eighth graders. Social Studies teacher Linda Miner says Durfee learned of the challenge from the Board of Education. One of her students named Jawuan picked up the ball, ran with it and encouraged other students to keep showing up. In the end, Durfee blew away the competition in a landslide.

Durfee student projects

Durfee student projects

That gave them the chance to have Clegg come to the school, talk about how the film was made, career options in the film industry, as well as giving the kids a first look at the next installment in the Transformers franchise, due in theaters June 27, 2014.

The Durfee students were some of the first to check out a three-minute extended clip of the film before anyone, anywhere on the planet. Seeing the clip and talking with the producer was even more special because much of the movie was filmed in Detroit.

Clegg and school administrators were quick to point out that “showing up” at school is what the students are supposed to do, even if prizes and gifts aren’t awarded.

“Showing up is the start and is very important. Showing up and being prepared can get you where you want to go in life,” said Clegg. To emphasize the point she told the kids people who don’t show up don’t last in the movie business. “If you want to work for me, you have to show up and be prepared,” she said.

250 students eager to learn about Hollywood

Durfee students gathered for attendance assembly

Durfee students gathered for attendance assembly

The school assembly was jam-packed with about 250 eager kids and staffers. They were there not only to hear what Clegg had to say, but also to celebrate what they accomplished collectively to increase attendance. The elementary and middle schoolers were attentive, well-behaved and eager to get a sneak peek at what is clearly one of their favorite flicks and ask some tough questions of Clegg.

“We are honored that Durfee was selected as the winning school and even more thrilled that Ms. Clegg could visit our school. Our students worked extremely hard to win the contest and encouraged one another to attend school daily, as they do throughout the year,” said Ricardo Martin, principal of Durfee.

Durfee Principal Ricardo Martin

Durfee Principal Ricardo Martin

When they found out they had won, Martin and his staff decided to get the entire school involved from pre-K on up. In every classroom, students learned about what transformation can achieve… in their education, their mindsets and their lives. On the second floor of the school, nearly half of the hallway was filled with all sorts of projects the students had completed.

Hanging from the ceiling is a transforming math display with multi-colored crossword robots. One stand-up featured “Transformation of a Snowman,” which was a mixture of stick figures and cotton balls. All of the projects displayed a great grasp of the transformation concept.

“Attendance is the leading factor to future academic success,” said Martin. “There is a direct correlation between higher grade point averages and being on time, ready to learn every day.”

Detroit is a credible movie city

Although filmmaking subsidies in the state were reduced, the area is still a viable option for big budget films like Transformers and the upcoming Batman/Superman blockbuster.

“All of these films and TV shows shot here help grow the credibility base for Detroit and Michigan as a place to make films,” said Clegg.

“It takes thousands of people to make a movie like Transformers. The entire community has to come together to make it a success,” she said. “Detroit and Michigan are great places to shoot a project.”

Allegra Clegg views Durfee transformation student projects

Allegra Clegg views Durfee transformation student projects

If you passed through downtown this past summer, you probably noticed some parts looked more like you had stepped into a downtown in Asia. Even sections of the People Mover featured foreign writing and unfamiliar images. That metamorphosis was because of the massive crew and set constructed in the heart of the city.

Durfee kindergarten project

Durfee kindergarten project

So how does downtown Detroit become Hong Kong on the big screen? It takes the right combination of a cooperative community and some Hollywood magic. During her presentation, Clegg explained how the transformation took place. The kids and adults in the room seemed fascinated by what they were seeing.

When it came time for questions, the kids started out a little shy, but warmed up quickly. They grilled Clegg on everything from how the film’s robots were named to how she got into the business to how they could get a job in Hollywood and what they needed to study now as elementary and middle schoolers to someday do what she is doing.

Some inquiring young minds even wanted to get the real inside scoop, asking if all of their beloved favorite mechanical buddies would survive this latest installment in the franchise. To that one, Clegg simply said, “You’ll have to come see the movie and find out.”

DPS and Viacommunity (Viacom’s social responsibility umbrella) will come together for another competition in January to help boost attendance during the winter as part of the district’s “Retain and Gain” campaign. The year-round program focuses on student retention and is a part of their ongoing retention and recruitment effort.

As a parting gift, Clegg presented the students that participated in the Get Schooled Attendance Campaign with replicas of the Transformers hats worn on the movie set by the production crew.

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