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Kidman Stop A Teachable Moment

Granada High School teacher Deb Bailey uses HBO filming to inspire students.

Think about it. If your company had you out on leave for a week, would you jump in eagerly to volunteer to work?

Didn’t think so.

Yet that’s exactly what digital photography teacher Deb Bailey did last week during spring break when she discovered HBO was in Livermore filming the battle scene for the film based on the relationship of Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen) and his third wife, Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman). 

Those rolling green hills in North Livermore stood in for Spain, where war correspondents Gellhorn and Hemingway were covering the Spanish Civil War. For two days, they sprinkled star power in our town, with Kidman’s country star husband, Keith Urban, making everyone’s day at the when he dropped by for coffee.

But the star couple and the production did much more than just raise the town’s profile and put some much-needed coins into local coffers. And that’s where Bailey came into play.

She could have just sat back and noted that it was cool having stars come to Livermore and continue with her plans to relax with her husband and her horses – not necessarily in that order – during her work-free week.

But that’s not in her teacher DNA.

Instead, she tried to rally some of her students to use the opportunity to put their photography skills to the test. At the least, they would learn how to use the proper lens for different shots. And they could see filmmakers make use of light and angles.

And they could get some great shots of an Oscar winner in action.

One who heeded the call was Connor Wenrich.

With his distinctive spikey orange hair and hip, professional style with a button-down white shirt and loosely wrapped red tie, Connor proved to be a die-hard journalist. He was willing to risk boredom and, as the sun started dipping, cold temperatures just to get his shots. He spent time with Bailey and by himself working the scene. 

Bailey helped him choose the correct camera settings and lens. She encouraged him to use his own judgment in how to set up the shots. In short, she gave him the tools he needed to make the right decisions.

Now, there’s teaching for you.

The empowered Connor stepped up, remaining when his friends left because he hadn’t yet gotten the closeup of Kidman that he craved. He'd gotten a long shot of her coming out of the trailer, but wanted more. He'd felt the rush that has infected many journalists.

He tried to convince security and crew members to let him get closer.  It didn’t work, but he gave it a try. Standing in a lightweight shirt as temperatures dipped into the shiver zone, he just brushed off the cold and kept working.

And it paid off.

As Kidman called it a day on the final day of shooting Tuesday, she had her driver stop in front of the gate by Manning Road and got out for a round of photos, autographs and chats.  There was Connor, snapping away from every angle he could. 

And he got some great shots.

Bailey told him they would go in the school publications, which was good. But not good enough for this fledgling photographer. He was looking at the bigger picture.

So with Bailey’s support, he prepared his photos for sale. He reached out to the local newspaper, which hadn't sent a photographer, and other outlets, including Diablo magazine.

He got a few rejections, but it looks like he scored at least one hit. His photos are expected to be published in a Diablo magazine article. Good for Diablo, an impressive publication. And great for Connor, who gets his first sell, but certainly not his last.

As always, however, behind almost every great success story stands a dedicated teacher who was willing to go the extra mile to make sure students discover that what they learn in the classroom translates to something they can use for the rest of their lives.

A proud Bailey said: “Now you see why I love being a teacher.” 

albert April 12, 2011 at 03:21 AM
connor, that's perfectly fine. all I said there's a difference between "paparazzi" and "photojournalism". I'm glad you're an AP student. you should check out this site if you're serious about this career. www.zoriah.net. good luck.
Connor April 12, 2011 at 05:12 AM
Albert you said and I quote, "I hope this teacher teaches that this event was not "photojournalism" yes, it involves photography. that's why nobody wanted the photos... they have no real "news" value, only gossip." this is in fact calling my photography that of being involved in nothing short of gossip. Now sir not to be rude, snd I'm not saying that you are doing so but I wish you to think twice before questioning my intelligence, I'm not saying you are I am merely making sure you do not do so.
paulette April 12, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Connor, Although the article claims to have a teachable moment, this is the true Teachable Moment. Here it is: A very poorly written article and you are bearing the brunt of it. I know there is a good story in there but the author makes it sound like you are only interested in the money with no mention of a grade. Blame the messenger, not the readers. Best of luck to you and your endeavors.
Brenda Wallace April 17, 2011 at 04:50 PM
everytime I read comments here they are always critical. Why can't we look at the good? It seems livermore readers are forgetting, this town is not full of greedy ignoramus people, but happy well intended ones. Just and opinion of a women that grew up, graduated and born and raised two, now adults:)
Kari Hulac April 18, 2011 at 01:50 PM
I agree Brenda. I read it through to the end and it was a well-written story about this dedicated student and teacher and their excitement about this opportunity to photograph a star.

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