This story is fundamentally my experience as a student of a small, private high school. While it is not completely autobiographical, it represents how I saw the world when I was coming of age. I felt overpowering pressure to do well and be the most well-rounded person in any room so I could walk into any college I wanted. If I got even a C, I felt like I had gone bankrupt. The slightest social dilemma felt like a diplomatic nightmare.
I also had a chip on my shoulder. My father owns a plumbing company and his only other employee is his secretary, my mother. I was between two worlds: surrounded by the white-collar wealth of my classmates during the day, just to get lessons from The School of Hard Knocks at night. Both worlds taught me a lot – but I was not sure where I belonged.
On top of that, I had spent my childhood hearing about all the crazy stunts my old man pulled in high school. He would, on occasion, recount the late-night drag races with his buddies or their ploys to cut class in the most ridiculous ways possible. Once it was time for me to start my freshman year, I felt like I had a legacy to uphold. I had to do well, yes, but I also had to be the loud-mouth to cut against the grain.
In reality, I only had to go and give it my best effort. That was it.
Once I graduated college and became a full-fledged adult, I came to terms with how silly these thoughts were. I also soon realized, however, that the stakes were different at the time. As I had not fully matured, I was completely unaware of who I was. I had the emotional intelligence of an 18 year-old boy but I thought I had the wisdom (and problems) of a 30-year-old man. Not only did I think I could not make mistakes, I never thought anyone could catch on even if I did. I truly thought I was the most clever kid alive. I just never took it too far.
So many high school and college students feel the immense social and academic pressure that I did. It was not hard to imagine a world where a bunch of kids with no moral compasses let the ends justify the means. This is a story about the next generation of students made by the next generation of filmmakers.
Checks and Balance is a crime drama set in an affluent, New England preparatory high school. The fictitious New England Collegiate School of Higher Learning (NECSOHL) contains classic northeastern characteristics, from wealthy families to historic buildings to rigorous academics. However, where NECSOHL breaks the stereotype is with its division of power. The students run the school; they organize functions, they mentor one another, and they discipline one another. The faculty are only focused on teaching and grading.
What starts as a simple idea to make some money and gain popularity spirals into a school-wide corruption of the students. As our protagonists stumble through changing power dynamics and sudden wealth, it does not take long for their naivety to be put on full display. The mob, named after and operated by “The Executive Branch”, NECSOHL’s student council, is constantly evading the investigation of “The Honor Council”, a disciplinary group of students dedicated to academic integrity. Simultaneously, The Executive Branch is trying to overtake “The Trust Funders”, NECSOHL’s wealthiest students, at the top of the ladder. It is an unwavering struggle for authority. How does the Executive Branch secure power? How do they keep unruly teenagers under control? Will the Honor Council catch on? Or worse, expel those involved? Most importantly, can the Executive Branch, a tiny unit of insecure high schoolers, stay united under pressure?
Although predominantly a drama, comedic beats blend the genre and tone. The characters are modern students in a distinctive environment. They each have unique personalities that clash in witty dialogue and the entire situation is compounded by watching high school students attempt to run a “real” crime syndicate. Checks and Balance is a film written to capture the audience with high energy while still delivering subtle and clever storytelling.
The theme of our protagonist, George.
17-year-old, high school senior GEORGE WOODTICK throws his backpack down, turns on the radio, and climbs into the Nova.
GEORGE places his backpack on the back of a van similar to Woodtick Plumbing’s. He grabs his keys out of the bag and resumes walking.
For Trey’s walk down the hall as he takes in NECSOHL for the first time.
GEORGE shuts the door to the lounge.
For our antagonist, Nick, making his first appearance.
TREY waits outside the Honor Council Room (HCR). He’s trying his hardest to stay composed – hopefully it’s just a warning.
For when Trey first experiences the student council underworld.
The door flies open, startling TREY.
For the student council revealing how it has stolen tests.
GEORGE smirks at ELLEN.
For the heist.
GEORGE hops into his van. TREY, laying in the passenger seat, snaps his seat forward. He’s wearing a red Woodtick Plumbing coverall. A hat covers his face.
For not-your-typical auction.
ALLY’s Tesla pulls up to the front of the Rhodes Building.
For the first day of the mobs test answer distribution. When business is booming.
ELLEN stands above TEST SOLVER #1, timing as she fills out one of the tests.
For the celebration of acquired power.
Everyone takes a shot. The festivities have commenced.
For a new Executive Branch.
GEORGE watches The Godfather in the back office, taking notes. His clothes are neatly pressed, his hair slicked back.
For when George enters the main garage we see how the operation has changed.
The shop has practically become a trading floor.
For “book donations”.
STICKS, HANK, TREY, and GEORGE arrive.
For baseball practice.
NECSOHL BASEBALL PLAYERS get ready for practice.
GEORGE ties his tie for his tuxedo.
For the fall.
NICK exits. GEORGE sighs. It’s all over now.
For the plan.
NICK drops his head. He grabs his bag and exits the office.
For the end.
The boys look at one another and laugh. TREY heads to the van.
For the credits.