Ask the Filmmaker

Filmmaker Katie Dellamaggiore, Teacher Elizabeth Vicary, students Justus Ballard, Rochelle Ballantyne, Patrick Johnston and Alexis Paredes from Brooklyn Castle joined Robert McLellan of the US Chess Federation and Ursula Helminski of Afterschool Alliance to take your questions on Tuesday, October 8, 2013 from 8:30-10 PM ET (5:30-7 PM PT).

POV: Welcome to POV's live screening of Brooklyn Castle on OVEE. Please feel free to post your questions ahead of time. The screening and chat will start at 8:30 PM ET (5:30 PM PT). Brooklyn Castle will play on the left side of the screen for the duration of this live screening and chat. Please keep your questions and comments related to what is playing.

POV: We're going to get started now. I'd like to give a warm welcome to filmmaker Katie Dellamaggiore, coach and teacher Elizabeth Vicary, student chess players Justus, Patrick, Alex, Rochelle, Robert McLellan of the US Chess Federation and Ursula Helminski of Afterschool Alliance.

Comment from Anonymous D78I: Hi! What a difference your film made for IS318 and getting attention to investments in afterschool!

Robert McLellan: Anonymous D78, the film has brought a lot of attention to the school which has helped with getting donations and other funding.

Ursula Helminski: Hi there, Ursula here from the Afterschool Alliance. Thanks to Brooklyn Castle for showing what great things happen in afterschool! We want all kids to have such experiences.

Comment from Anonymous PL4M: Hello Justus! Are you still as hard on yourself as you were at the time?

Justus Williams: I'm not as hard on myself anymore because I tell myself there's another game and to bounce back

POV: Let's start with some questions - to the chess players, how does it feel watching these earlier competitions?

Patrick Johnston: POV, watching these older tournaments it feels weird watching the younger me.

Rochelle Ballantyne: POV - uhh it feels surreal looking back and seeing what we accomplished. I can't believe that was us five years ago.

Alexis Paredes: Feels really weird seeing a younger version of myself. But allows me to relive awesome tournaments and memories!

Comment from Michael: Compliments to everyone. What a great way to totally normalize chess and put a great face on it.

POV: Robert McLellan, please tell us about your participation in film.

Robert McLellan: Katie and the team had already done most of the filming when I found the film. I was researching a totally unrelated project and found them on Kickstarter. I figured it would take forever to make the movie $5,000 at a time so I called Katie we put together the full budget and I asked the company I was consulting if they'd put up the money. The owners said yes and here we are.

POV: Fast forward 18 months and you became the marketing director for the US Chess Federation so Brooklyn Castle has turned into a full time job for you…

Robert McLellan: Yes. Kind of unexpected. But a thrill. I moved from Los Angeles to TN and found out the chess federation was an hour from my new house! I was interested in education because I had been a volunteer literacy coordinator in inner-city Los Angeles for around 10 years. With chess, here was this great tool that teaches so much

Katie Dellamaggiore: Robert was our angel!!

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: Patrick's mom here thank you Robert for everything!!

Ursula Helminski: Indeed! Robert helped us bring IS 318's story to Congress.. Pobo and Mr. Galvin met with Members of Congress about afterschool.

Robert McLellan: And Pobo was just with 2 Maryland State Senators on Sunday... they are now committed to helping grow chess in their schools!

Comment from Anonymous PL4M : I am hard on myself so much at anything I can relate to some of the kids in the film. You guys will change the word one day

POV: To the chess players -- how did it feel being rated above Albert Einstein?

Rochelle Ballantyne: It's weird because he's kind of a genius, but I can beat him in chess..

Alexis Paredes: haha. Just to be mentioned in the same sentence is truly incredible. It feels great!

Justus Williams: It felt great to know that if I had played the most accomplished scientist in history, I would win!

Comment from Michael: Justus - One of the top mathematical physicists on the planet, Edward Witten, developer of strong theory, is rated in the 1800's and has played for Princeton's team at the National Chess Congress. You could probably beat him as well πŸ™‚

Comment from Anonymous 531: Alexis - when you first started filming the movie did you think that by your senior year you would still be playing chess and that it would have such an impact on your life?

Alexis Paredes: Hmm. Not sure if I actually filmed it haha. Credits go to Katie for that. I couldn't see myself not playing chess. Ever.

Comment from Anonymous MBDL: Pat's Grandma here, I have met these kids and they are remarkable. Sitting down with each other afterschool and coaching to help them improve. They are polite, generous and just super kids!

Katie Dellamaggiore: Justus - what did you think on that first tour of 318?

Justus Williams: I was so happy that my mom allowed me to go to 318. I was thinking wowwww. I was very happy.

Ursula Helminski: Tests aren't everything - but kids in afterschool programs do better in school -- better grades, more likely to graduate

Comment from Anonymous 3KG6: I agree so much Ursula my son Patrick is proof of that. It was so humbling to be a part of the film and what it's come to represent!

Ursula Helminski: NYC was once the leader in afterschool programs... a smart investment in our future.

POV: Ursula, please tell us about the importance of afterschool activities like Chess at school I.S. 318, depicted in Brooklyn Castle. What impact do they have on the overall performance of the school?

Ursula Helminski: Kids in high quality afterschool programs have better attendance, better grades and are more likely to graduate. Those who don't participate are 3 times more likely to use drugs, smoke or drink. But what we love about afterschool is what we see in the film – it's a place to be creative, to develop talents, to get hands on, whether mastering chess, building robots or making music.

Robert McLellan:I think it is important to have programs where you get to try out what you're learning in the real world. After school does that!

Ursula Helminski: As Mr. Galvin and Robert McLellan say, afterschool activities are what can make learning in school relevant and engaging!

Katie Dellamaggiore: I remember how shocked we were when we found out about the budget cuts. How do you cut what's working!? Makes no sense.

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: Patrick's mom here, I don't even remember the amount of meetings I attended with school leadership about the budget cuts

Comment from Anonymous 3PMI: Any suggestions for a chess coach getting his kids excited about chess?

Elizabeth Vicary: I find tournaments are the best thing to get kids excited and serious about chess.

Comment from Anonymous 3PMI: that makes sense elizabeth, I have 1100 chess students each week so it's all about them seeing it as something fun and exciting to get away from the regular classroom

Comment from Vera: This film is about so much more than chess. IS318 is a Microcosm of the world.

POV: Alexis, that must have been a tough time, trying to balance your dedication to chess and preparing for the exams.

Patrick Johnston: Alexis, What was it like to get ready for, and taking the Specialized HS Exam?

Alexis Paredes: It was pretty stressful. But I saw the chessboard as a tool to escape all of the stress and reboot myself. I'm glad nonetheless of where I am at now. Though the test to me felt like it measured how a student did on that one day. Not based on intelligence.

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: Exactly Alexis it's one day just like the state tests kids have to take each year. They aren't a measure of one's intelligence at all.

POV: Justus, how did it feel increasing your ranking so rapidly?

Comment from Anonymous PL4M: Justus what is your rating now?

Comment from Vera: I just love hearing and seeing these children speak!

Justus Williams: my rating is almost 2400

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: good job Justus!!

Comment from Anonymous PL4M: WOWWWWWWWWWWWW! That is amazing, man!

Justus Williams: it felt good to see the results to all of the studying I put in

Robert McLellan: Justus, what's the next title then and how do you attain it?

Justus Williams the next title is International Master and you have to get 3 norms first. so far I have one norm already

Robert McLellan: And do you have more norm events coming up soon?

Justus Williams: There are some norm events coming up but I'm not sure which ones I will compete in yet

Katie Dellamaggiore: Patrick you were so small when we met you!!!

Patrick Johnston: I really was, I'm surprised how much I grew lol

Comment from Anonymous PL4M: PATRICK, I really do appreciate your attitude and perspective/outlook...Love your tenacious spirit!

Patrick Johnston: I totally forgot I said that "straight line" thing until about the third or fourth time I saw the documentary.

Patrick Johnston: Thank you, that really means a lot to me. πŸ˜€

Comment from Eliot Weiss: Katie, you did a fantastic job for these kids, IS318 and chess in general. Thanks.

Comment from Anonymous RPO2: Really enjoyed the film and how it promotes chess in the schools. Thank you.

Katie Dellamaggiore: Thanks Eliot!! Your Murrow chess team is not too shabby πŸ˜‰

Alexis Paredes: Prime example here! cough cough

Robert McLellan: And so humble... πŸ™‚

Comment from Anonymous RPO2: Elizabeth, would it ever be possible to see videos of your lectures.

Elizabeth Vicary: I'm not a big fan of being on camera, so I don't think any of my lessons have really been videotaped, but thanks for asking

Comment from Macnair: Saw that movie 5 or 6 times and still want to buy the DVD. Very inspirational! Congrats to everyone involved in the making of this film

Comment from Brigitpage 14: Ursula Helminski, do you have suggestions of grants that are appropriate for supporting chess instruction? My husband IM Mladen Vucic teaches in schools.

Ursula Helminski: Try area business interested in developing a smart workforce..

Robert McLellan: Brigit, have him get in touch with me through USCF office

Katie Dellamaggiore: I think miles, pobo, azeeze, and rashawn were the funniest group when you got them all together!

Patrick Johnston: especially when they were at my house and my dad came downstairs, now that's comedy.

Comment from Anonymous 8M2S: Justus, What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to reach the level you are at now?

Justus Williams: balancing school and friends with chess was the biggest obstacle for me.

Patrick Johnston: Justus, for me, most of my friends were on the chess team.

Justus Williams: I have friends all over the place

Patrick Johnston: and schoolwork added in with that, rashawn and pobo tutored me in some classes

POV: That's great how supportive you were of each other -- during chess and outside of it.

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: POV, it was funny the boys were over all the time helping Patrick, they were my adopted sons lol.

Patrick Johnston: yeah, we were all like a big family. also supporting each other and pushing each other to do better.

Rochelle Ballantyne: Thanks Galvin for educating me on the meaning of swagger.

Comment from Vera: Mr. Galvin is truly a force. I have so much respect for him.

Comment from Anonymous 3KG6: Rochelle that is so funny!

POV: Ursula, what can students, parents and teachers do to promote afterschool chess activities at their schools?

Ursula Helminski: Show support for afterschool programs by going to a Lights On Afterschool event next week 10,000 rallies are taking place to call attention to the afterschool programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. Find an event near you at:

Comment from Anonymous PL4M: How is Pobo doing? Is he still playing chess?

POV: You can see film updates from all the chess players at

Katie Dellamaggiore: I just spoke to Pobo and he told me he is applying early admission to Cornell!

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: wow great news!

Robert McLellan: He played against kids in Silver Spring MD on Sunday. And then gave a keynote speech in DC! Just like the movie but taller!

Comment from Mr. Weiss: I hope he runs for president.

Comment from Brigit: That is terrific everyone is doing well

Comment from Anonymous PL4M: WOW...That's great! We expect great things from him! POBO IS DEFINITELY A NATURAL BORN LEADER! #VoteForPOBO πŸ™‚

Comment from Brigit: Yes - such a sunny disposition-

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: love how Galvin draggggeeeddd that out poor Pobo lol

Alexis Paredes: my favorite line from mom coming up

Comment from Anonymous PL4M: LOL! I loved his Reaction!

Patrick Johnston: Alexis does that line perfect . . . "President Pubu aha"

Rochelle Ballantyne: I miss the lights and the city =(

Katie Dellamaggiore: Rochelle how's san fran?

Rochelle Ballantyne: California is giving me the best and worst tan I've ever experienced, yay summer

Rochelle Ballantyne: Anonymous PL4M, I go to Stanford and I'm majoring in psych and minoring in International Relations

Comment from Pedro: @Justus, you beat me at The Marshall once, 4 yrs ago. I'm proud of you. I'm still a class C player.

Alexis Paredes planned same outfits?!

Ursula Helminski: never noticed the same shirts!

Rochelle Ballantyne: Alexis, it was def planned

Alexis Paredes: all 3 of them

Katie Dellamaggiore: lol those shirts!!!

Patrick Johnston: I never noticed that before!

Katie Dellamaggiore: thank the lord and his disciples! . . .
great tish line

Rochelle Ballantyne: this was when Justus became a man

Comment from Vera: oh no! not the locs!!!!

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: love when Justus said that's too bad for her lol

Robert McLellan: Love the BSatz music here

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: Yeah Robert, BSatz did a great job!

Katie Dellamaggiore: This is one of my favorite Elizabeth interviews

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: mine too

Comment from Vera: We just adore Mrs. Spiegel! Seriously!!!! Is there anyone more dynamically fierce and penetrating in such a classic and loving way?

Elizabeth Vicary: ah shucks

Ursula Helminski: Seems like the teachers played so many roles for you guys - how do you describe what they did for you?

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: love Mr. Rubino here miss him so much

Patrick Johnston: They helped me a lot, I learn a lot more in one-on-one sessions more than in a big class and that's exactly what they did to help me. They really care for each student. That's why I loved that school.

Patrick Johnston: RIP Rubino πŸ™ he was a great man.

Patrick Johnston: My teachers gave me hope and motivated me to be a better person

Rochelle Ballantyne: I agree with Patrick. The teachers like Mrs. Spiegel and Mr. Galvin became more of role models and a family.

Alexis Paredes: all the teachers at IS 318 go above and beyond they were wonderful!

Katie Dellamaggiore: Mr. Pultz was a fantastic teacher! He's teaching in Istanbul now

Rochelle Ballantyne: Mr. Pultz was actually my favorite teacher academics wise, I've learned so much from him.

Justus Williams: I felt like Ms. Vicary and Mr. Galvin were like a part of my family. They always believed and encouraged me

Comment from Brigit: It is amazing how much good teachers can help move students in the right direction. The other piece is having students that really want a better situation. It is one of our few paths to moving into a much better place

Comment from billtai: I just attended my 40th reunion at Bronx Science this weekend. It's a shame that teachers and administrators everywhere, even the specialized schools, have to spend time fundraising and offsetting budget cuts.

Patrick Johnston: She's so sweet, how are your parents Alexis?

Comment from Alice: and totally crying BYW

Comment from Mr. Weiss: I feel like crying too.

Ursula Helminski: always makes me cry

Alexis Paredes: they are actually sitting in the EXACT SAME SPOT right now.

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: lol Alexis

Alexis Paredes: My mother is asleep and dad is listening to Paraguayan radio on his iPod

Alexis Paredes: my favorite place Rochelle!

Katie Dellamaggiore: Rochelle's favorite scene right here!

Rochelle Ballantyne: no, no nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Rochelle Ballantyne: make it stoppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: lol she hid her face at every screening we were at that this part

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: I love this part where the kids are gearing up for nationals

Robert McLellan: Elizabeth's comments here are so profound.

Comment from CBottinelli: Katie, what camera was used. Existing light looks great.

Katie Dellamaggiore: we used the canon Ex3. We couldn't afford to rent lights!

Comment from Anonymous PL4M: Rochelle/Chess Queen, how did you get interested in playing chess?

Rochelle Ballantyne: Well Anonymous PL4M my grandmother taught me but guys are rude so that's what really got me interested.. the competition

Patrick Johnston: these were the nationals where my glasses broke on the plane.

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: I had to fed ex Patrick's extra glasses to the hotel. I remember that call. mooommmm my glasses broke on the plane.

Comment from Brigitpage: Katie, the graphics you used to set up these scenes were effective

Comment from Anonymous PL4M: Rochelle, I appreciate and admire how beautifully and gracefully you "represented", YOU GO!!!!!!

Rochelle Ballantyne: Much appreciated πŸ™‚

Patrick Johnston: sorry for costing you guys the "g" rating!

Comment from billtai: Did you players ever forget you were being filmed?

Comment from Keith E.: this is my favorite most honest scene

Rochelle Ballantyne: Ha! All the time billtai, I would gossip with my friends and be like crap there's a mic on

Alexis Paredes: it became very natural after a while, Billtai.

Rochelle Ballantyne: FAVORITE SCENE GUYS

Patrick Johnston: I forgot they were there after the second week, I would turn around and say "wait your still here?"

Comment from Keith E.: woot!

Comment from billtai: Really - you became pros!

Patrick Johnston: I was so happy there πŸ˜€ when I see it feels like I relive it every time πŸ˜€

Comment from Anonymous PL4M: Please educate me- what were you guys writing during the tournament? (I don't play chess)

Patrick Johnston: PL4M, we were notating, we write down our moves so we can go back and look at our previous games.

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: love this scene with Patrick and Ms. Vicary

Comment from Brigit: Such a good use of graphics again, What a moment

Comment from Anonymous 4WG4: so Rochelle did you end up going to Texas university?

Rochelle Ballantyne: No, I got a full ride to Stanford University Anonymous4WG4

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: I love how they parallel Patrick's one with Rochelle's showing how important the wins were to each of them

Comment from Brigit: Way to go, Rochelle. You make the most of it.

Comment from Anonymous LCJ5: Rochelle, how many times have you seen this movie? πŸ™‚

Comment from Anonymous PL4M: What a blessing Rochelle! : D

Rochelle Ballantyne: Well it depends.. I don't watch the whole movie because of you know the hair scene but other than that multiple times. Thanks guys

Rochelle Ballantyne: ello guv'na

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: I love this part. The whole school rallied!

Ursula Helminski: if you're motivated to act too, you can send an email to congress here

POV: Robert , how is the US Chess Federation currently promoting afterschool chess activities like we see at I.S. 318 depicted in Brooklyn Castle?

Robert McLellan: We're working on some new initiatives that align chess instruction to Common Core so we can get more adoption in afterschool and during the school day. Hopefully something to report on this very soon!

Comment from Anonymous 4WG4: I remember playing pobo and james in the new york state championships. They're really good

Comment from Anonymous LWE4: Watching this documentary caused me to feel happy for the children, and proud of the school.

Rochelle Ballantyne: I'm just going to throw this out there..

Robert McLellan: Can I send a donation without using twitter?

Rochelle Ballantyne: send it straight to Galvin

Katie Dellamaggiore: That's right everyone, Rochelle is raising money to get to World Youths here:

Robert McLellan: Will do!

POV: After the film ends, filmmaker Katie Dellamaggiore will come on video to speak to the audience for a few minutes.

Robert McLellan: Led by Alexis and James, Murrow won SuperNationals!

Alexis Paredes: woohoo!

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: go Justus!!

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: I cry when I see Mr. Rubino here and listen to this song

Patrick Johnston: always brings me to tears πŸ™

POV: Thank you so much for joining us today, Katie, Elizabeth, Justus, Patrick, Alex, Rochelle, Robert and Ursula!!

Comment from Anonymous E7PN: To borrow from a recently popular expression, "Chess is a game for two players with 32 pieces, 64 squares and in the end," the world is a better place for this film having been made. Thank you all.

Comment from Patrick Johnston's Mom: go Katie you rock!

Comment from Anonymous PL4M: Best wishes, Robert, on your endeavor to get chess aligned with the Common Core!

POV: We're excited that Brooklyn Castle is now available for free streaming online until November 6, 2013 on the POV website:

Visit the Brooklyn Castle companion site to learn more about the film, view a video interview with the director, download a discussion guide and other viewing resources, and prove your chess skills online!

Comment from Mr. Weiss: Alexis, try not to be late to A band tomorrow. I'll understand that you were up late, but we have some serious derivatives to work on. Good night everyone. Thanks, John, Liz and IS318.

Alexis Paredes: Oh joy Mr. Weiss! See you in class

Katie Dellamaggiore: Thanks everyone!! Please go to to get more involved

Comment from Anonymous RVTA: You guys rock! Best wishes to you all... you are going to achieve your dreams. I have no doubt about it! What excellent role models you are!