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Movie produced by Parkway Central grad now playing in Frontenac

By: Kate Uptergrove

Jeff Plunkett [left] with “Science Fair” co-producers Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster at the movie’s premiere

Jeff Plunkett [left] with “Science Fair” co-producers Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster at the movie’s premiere

How often do you read movie credits? Start now with “Science Fair,” a Sundance Film Festival awardee now playing at Plaza Frontenac Cinema. Listed as writer and producer of the film is Parkway Central graduate Jeffrey Plunkett, class of ‘93.

“If you go to see [the movie], you most likely will see my mom. I think she’s been at most of the screenings,” Plunkett said.

His mom, Beth, “was the principal of Parkway West for a long time; she’s like a minor celebrity in West County.” Also counted among his fans are his dad, Tim, and brothers, Kevin and Matthew. 

“The three Plunkett brothers have all found their way to Los Angeles,” he said. “My older brother and his wife work in television. My younger brother and his wife are teachers.”

Plunkett is married to Alexandra Pacheco Garcia with whom he has a baby girl named Ruby Lou.

So what does it mean to be a writer/producer of a documentary?

For this project, both of those credits are pretty similar. Basically, I’m the story producer. There [are] so many decisions that have to get made … you have hundreds of hours of footage with all these characters and someone needs to figure out what’s important, what order does it go in, what’s funny, what’s not …

Why the International Science and Engineering Fair?

Christina had been a science fair kid growing up in Milwaukee and she had competed at the International Science [and Engineering] Fair twice in high school and it was transformative for her … going to ISEF was this amazing, affirmative thing … so she was the visionary for the movie. [The movie centers on the 2017 ISEF.]

What do you remember from going to school in Parkway?

What I love more than anything … was that there was a group of friends that I grew up with – many of them went to Green Trails [Elementary] with me and the rest of them I met at Parkway Central Junior High – and we went all the way through high school and we’re still very close. A lot of them were at my wedding and that doesn’t seem unusual to me but the further I’ve gotten from St. Louis, the more I’ve realized how special those connections are and that it’s unusual to stay that close with folks that you met when you were 10 or 11 or 12.

I love seeing … all the different paths these friends have taken. And still, we remain part of each other’s lives. That’s always been really special to me. I’m not sure if that’s a St. Louis thing or not, but it’s special.

I love seeing so many friends posting photos of them or their kids in front of “Science Fair” posters at theaters. It’s fun to feel that support even though I’m far away.

What’s the most interesting documentary you’ve ever seen?

I think the one that got me initially was “Hoop Dreams.” I remember seeing it at a time when documentaries weren’t on my radar. It was the first one that really grabbed me and awakened me to the form and … that just following someone’s real life can be so powerful.

What have you created of which you are most proud?

“Science Fair” will always be special. I would like to think that even if it hadn’t received the attention it’s gotten – it’s going to have a big premiere on National Geographic next year – that I would still feel the same way. The message of the movie is something that we all support so deeply and the kids have become so important to us and the teacher in the movie, Dr. McCalla. These are kids and teachers that haven’t gotten the attention that they deserve … so it’s been incredible to see how audiences react. We brought almost all of them to Sundance … and at the L.A. premiere, I think all of them were there … to see the audiences react … standing ovations, tears, kids running up to these high school kids to get their autographs and telling them about their science projects. That’s been incredibly inspiring.

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