b:include data='blog' name='all-head-content'/> Brad Cohen's Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me The Teacher I Never Had

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

New Website and BLOG Launched

To continue following my BLOG, please go to www.classperformance.com
Thanks for all your support. I think you'll enjoy my new website and BLOG.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Meet Helen Ingebritsen Who Plays Brad Cohen's Mentor in Front of the Class

Let me introduce to you Helen Ingebritsen. Helen plays the role of Susan Scott in Front of the Class. Susan was my mentor when I first started teaching at Mountain View Elementary. Susan and I had a similar philosophy of education. We partnered up on a lot of projects to help make our lessons better for the kids. We took her experience and expertise with curriculum and my creativity and youth and put them together for a winning combination. She was a great mentor for me and we continue to keep in touch today.

Helen plays this role well. She was a delight to meet and I had a chance to see her act in just a few scenes. She had the look of a teacher and was very energetic about playing this role. I'm excited to see how things turn out. You'll see in the movie that her support helps push me through my first year of teaching. Every first year teacher needs someone like Susan. I think you will enjoy her role in the film. Cheers

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Meet Ric Reitz Playing the Father of a Student in Front of the Class

In every good movie you must have a bad guy. Ric plays the father of a student who is in my class. Ric's character decides he wants to take his daughter, Amanda, out of my classroom because he wanted his daughter to have a "normal" teacher. Amanda is very upset by this but must listen to her father when he confronts Hilarie the Assistant Principal about it.

In real life, the father didn't want to give his daughter a chance at being in my class. The one thing that the film doesn't show is that 3 weeks later, the father came back up to school and told the administration that he had made a mistake. But by that time, it was too late, administration was not putting her back in my classroom.

This was just one of the many stories I had in how some parents had issues with the fact that I was a teacher with Tourette Syndrome. But many of the parents nerves turned into support as they quickly realized if their child didn't have an issue with my tics then why should they. I think a lot of us grew that year........including the adults! Ric does a great job in the scene where he think he knows what's best for his daughter. But does he really?


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Meet Charlie Finn Who Plays Brad Cohen's Roommate Jordan Hirschfield and Also See Our Apartment

Charlie Finn plays the role of my roommate Jordan Hirschfield in the movie Front of the Class. When you start watching the movie, don't get confused when you see Charlie's character named "Ron." At first the screen writer, Tom Rickman," changed Jordan's name to Ron because Ron was really a composite of a bunch of my friends. But as they edited the script, I noticed that almost all of the content about Jordan really was what happened with me and Jordan. By that time it was too late, and Ron was here to stay.

Jordan was my roommate for 4 years when we first moved to Atlanta. I imagine a number of my friends characters could have made it to the big screen, but they chose "Ron" because they really focus on 1996 when I first moved to Atlanta, struggled to find a job because I had Tourette Syndrome, and of course Jordan was my roommate at the time.
Charlie was a very nice guy. I didn't have a chance to see him shoot any scenes, but we did get to meet after lunch one day. As you could imagine, the first thing I noticed about him was the Cubs hat, so I wasn't very excited about that. I allowed him to keep the hat on for the picture because I'm a nice guy.
The other two pictures show our apartment. I will guarantee you that this is not what our apartment looked like. Our place was much messier. Just kidding. They built this apartment from scratch in a warehouse studio they were using in Shreveport, LA. I also took a picture of what you will see across the street from our apartment. It is a nice house with trees in the front yard, but in reality, it is a huge background shot which will hang from the studio so it looks like we actually had neighbors. Cheers

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Meet Joe Chrest playing Brad Cohen's principal who hired him, Jim Ovbey, in Front of the Class

This is Joe Chrest, playing the role of Jim Ovbey in Front of the Class. I had a chance to chat with Joe for a while and he was a very nice guy. He's been in a lot of films, most recently in "The Secret Life of Bees" which is about the be released. And of course how appropriate that the real Jim is a bee lover and makes his own honey right outside his home.

I only had a chance to see a few scenes filmed with Joe but with what I saw, I was impressed.

The one picture you see was when Jim and Hilarie and the state observer come visit my classroom and see a spelling lesson I was teaching.
Jim and Hilarie gave me a chance to teach in their school as a 2nd grade teacher despite having Tourette Syndrome. 24 other administrators didn't give me the chance to be a teacher. You'll see some of my experiences with the interview process as well as the magic question Jim asked me during the interview! You won't believe what he asked me. But you'll have to watch the movie! No spoilers! Cheers

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Front of the Class introduces Dianne Butler playing Brad Cohen's assistant principal, Hilarie

Meet Dianne Butler, playing the role of assistant principal to Brad Cohen in Front of the Class. Hilaie Straka is the AP who finally hired me on my 25th interview. Dianne was a very nice lady and did a good job acting as Hilarie. Of course, more make-up, more jewelry, a better wardrobe and a younger actress would have pleased Hilarie more, but life goes on.
Hilarie is now my current assistant principal again. It has been great to work for her in two different situations. Hilarie deserves a lot of credit, along with Jim Ovbey, my first principal, for giving me the opportunity to begin my teaching career. 13 years later I'm still teaching and I'm not sure where I would be if they didn't give me a chance and believe in me. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Meet the Middle School Principal Brad Cohen Had.... Mike Pniewski

Meet Mike Pniewski, who plays my middle school principal Mr. Myer. Mike was a great guy to be around. I had heard good things about him and then when we met him in person he was a joy to be around. We had a chance to have dinner with him as well as travel back to Atlanta on the airplane with him too. Mike has appeared in many movies and TV Shows. One of my favorites was We Are Marshall where he played Coach Bobby Bowden. But Nancy liked the fact that he was also in Big Love.
The pictures above show Nancy, Mike and I and also a picture of the scene where Mr. Myer and me as a kid get up in front of the student body and educate them about Tourette Syndrome for the first time. This is my favorite scene and you will see why when you watch the movie! I will not share any spoilers in this BLOG! You'll have to watch this scene very carefully!
Dominic does an amazing job, as always, in this scene. I guess you have to be on set to truly understand how hard acting and filming really is for everyone. This one scene started around 8am and was not completed until 5pm. The children who were the extras in the film sitting in the audience did a great job behaving and I'd like to give credit to the orchestra who played the same song over and over and over and over and over and over(I think you get the point).
I'm honored that Mike was selected for this role because he does a great job.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Meet Johnny, who is playing Brad Cohen's brother Jeff as an adult!

Believe it or not, we still haven't figured out Johnny's real last name. Johnny was one of the last actors hired on the set. He is a nice guy and Jeff and Johnny had a chance to hang out as we ate lunch together on the set and we went out to dinner one night. Johnny has a silly personality as during one scene at Thanksgiving dinner, he showed his creativity changing his motions each time he passed through the hallway. Most people didn't notice but Jeff certainly did as he kept his eye on what Johnny was doing the entire time. You'll see Jeff and Johnny in the pictures and you'll also notice the Cohen Brothers. As if 2 Cohen boys weren't bad enough, now you have a total of 6!

Charles Wyson plays Brad Cohen's brother Jeff?

The young Jeff is being played by a boy named Charles Wyson. You might recognize him as the boy on Journeyman, which was on NBC. Charles was a very nice young man on the set. The scene that sticks out in my mind from the days we were on the set was when Dominic and Charles were fighting in the den area of our house and Dominic had to give Charles a wet willy. Of course this is what my brother and I did to each other often. But the funny thing about this is that they had to redo the scene so many times, Charles finally said, "Could Dominic please start giving me a wet willy in my other ear!" Of course he couldn't because they had to stay consistent each time. You'll see a picture here of Charles and Dominic practicing the fight scene.

My real brother, Jeff, and Charles enjoyed the time spent with each other.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sarah Drew Plays the Wife of Brad Cohen, Nancy, in Front of the Class

Yes, my wife did make it in the movie and she is being played by Sarah Drew.
Sarah is a really sweet, fun and outgoing girl. You might recognize her from either Everwood, playing Hannah Rogers, or from the movie Radio, where she played the daughter of the coach. We really enjoyed ourselves as we had a chance to get to know each other. Nancy and I went out to dinner with Sarah and a small group from the set.
The best scene we watched them shoot was when Nancy visits St. Louis with me for the first time. At Thanksgiving dinner I pull Nancy away and give her a great big kiss. Obviously, in the movie it is Jimmy and Sarah kissing, so on this day, we just watched them go at it and we remembered the good ole days.
I know we were both happy with Sarah's performance both during the kiss and the rest of the time. We know you will enjoy her character also when the movie comes out.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hallmark Hall of Fame Presents Brad Cohen's Story

Take a look at the first promotional piece from the movie Front of the Class starring Patricia Heaton, Treat Williams and Jimmy Wolk on CBS.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Jimmy Wolk plays Brad Cohen as an adult in Front of the Class Movie

It is an honor to introduce Jimmy Wolk, who will be playing the older Brad Cohen in the movie Front of the Class. Jimmy is a great actor. The reason I know this is because the last 25 year of my life I have been ticcing since I have Tourette Syndrome. I thought I had perfected my noises. But when I first arrived on the set and walked into the building, people thought I was Jimmy because they said we looked alike, then they said we made our noises the same. Then they realized that I was the "Real" Brad Cohen and the crew and staff on the set were amazed at how well Jimmy had my noises, tics, and mannerisms down. He had me down pat.

Not only was he a great actor, but Jimmy and I truly have a lot in common. It didn't take us long to bond as we got to know each other. (Actually he knew me pretty well since he has studied me for the past month) This is Jimmy's first real movie as a main character. His resume may be short, but as you walk around the set you hear people saying how this kids' got it. He's going places once the real world sees him. Not only is he a great actor but he also has a super duper personality.

At one point we were all eating lunch on set and one of the little children that was in my class started crying. She was homesick as she missed her little sister. Jimmy sprang out of his seat to give her a hug and then the little girl felt better. It reminded me a lot of me in the way Jimmy sprang into action and did what was best for the kids.

Jimmy and I discussed how Front of the Class is about how the underdog prevails when few believed in me. Like my story, Jimmy was the underdog for the part. They wanted some big names to play my part. But Jimmy beat them out and in some weird kind of way, it mirrors my story in that the directors gave Jimmy a chance and hopefully this will be his big break. He deserves it.

So enough about Jimmy, I mean me.......I'll be sharing more but in the meantime, know that I truly feel good about Jimmy playing me as an adult. He has studied his role very well and has practiced to perfect the tics. I see how difficult it is and he makes it look easy. I know America will love him and my friends and family will approve once they see the movie. Cheers

Dominic Scott Kay plays the young Brad Cohen in Front of the Class

It is an honor to introduce to you Dominic Scott Kay. This 12 year old kid is amazing. It didn't take long for the two of us to bond. He has an impressive resume playing Tom Cruise as a child in Minority Report, he was the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte's Web which also starred Dakota Fanning, he was recently in Snow Buddies and was also in the Kevin Bacon film Loverboy. Not only does he act, but he is a writer and director and plays in a band.

Dominic does an amazing job for playing me as a 12 year old boy during a difficult time in my life. He too has my tics down pat. He has worked hard at perfecting the tics to be just right. Dominic is a hit on the set as everyone enjoys being around him. I know it must be tough acting for several hours then having to go into a classroom and learn academics. But Dominic doesn't have a hard time juggling.

I told Dominic if he truly wanted to know what it was like to be Brad Cohen, then he needed to eat at Moe's! Moe's Southwest Grill is one of my favorite restaurants (I only eat there 1 or 2 times a week usually getting the same Joey Bag of Donuts!) Dominic said he loved burritos and he wasn't kidding. He got a huge burrito and scarfed it down in 4 minutes. I finished at least 10 minutes after him. When people walk into Moe's the people working there scream out "Welcome to Moe's!!!!!" I told Dominic we needed to just scream it out even though nobody was coming in. Once we screamed out "Welcome to Moe's" all the people working there began screaming out "Welcome to Moe's" also. He is now official!
I know you will all love watching him in this movie.......Dominic will be a hit! Nancy and I have enjoyed getting to know Dominic and his family. They are all great. Cheers

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Patricia Heaton plays the mother of Brad Cohen in Front of the Class movie

Patricia Heaton is playing the mother of Brad Cohen in Front of the Class. Even though I have Tourette Syndrome, this doesn't stop my mom from helping me grow up to live a life as normal as everyone else. Patricia does a fabulous job in playing my mom. I can see why everyone loves her. She works hard and does quality work. She was very friendly with myself, my wife and of course my mother. They had a good amount of time to chat in between sets. It still amazes me how long it takes to do each scene in the movie. The actors must repeat the same lines and motions until it is perfect, then they have to start all over again from a different angle. Patience and talent put together make wonderful stars.
Tomorrow I'll introduce you to Jimmy Wolk, playing me as a 22 year old and the day after that Dominic Scott Kay, who plays me as a 12 year old.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Meet the Cast of Front of the Class- Treat Williams

Treat Williams will be playing the father of Brad Cohen (me). We had a chance to really get to know Treat as we went out to dinner together. He is down to earth and likes to have a good time. Don't get me wrong, we had some serious conversations, but overall I enjoyed getting to know him. He was very nice to everyone in my family and I can tell he takes this role seriously.

My dad and Treat had a chance to "bond" during the trip. Treat wanted to get my dad's perspective on things to help him play the role during the movie. I feel like the development of this character will be great. Keep checking back as I'll be adding more actors in the movie every few days! Cheers

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Quick Look from Shreveport, LA

AWESOME!!!!! That is all I have to say. I was hoping to give more updates but we have been so busy watching the film being shot and meeting everyone that I haven't had as much time as I thought. I plan to give an update on Sunday or Monday night when I have a little more time.

One picture is Brad, Jeff, Nancy and the actors playing us. Jimmy Wolk, Dominic Kay, Sara Drew and Johnny (forgot his last name).

Another picture is Brad, Nancy and little Brad, little Jeff, Mom and Dad being played by Patricia Heaton and Treat Williams.

As a sneak peek, here is my life right now!



Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Front of the Class will now be a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" movie on CBS December 7, 2008

Keep checking up on my BLOG to learn the latest about the movie as they have begun shooting the film in Shreveport, LA. I will list the other actors over the next few days/weeks. See the link below to see the first article about the film featuring Patricia Heaton and Treat Williams! And of course playing Brad Cohen as an adult.....Jimmy Wolk. Learn more about the actors at http://www.imdb.com/

Here is the article from Hollywood Reporter!!!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Brad Visit's Hickory, North Carolina

I had a chance to be the opening keynote speaker for the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Senior Conference at Lenoir-Rhyne College. Other speakers included Ron Clark, 2000-2001 Disney Teacher Award Winner, and Michael Geisen, 2008-2009 National Teacher of the Year.

The audience of 500 students and faculty members were great. It was an honor to be able to speak to this group of future teachers. Thanks for the opportunity. Trust me, I'm in the picture, it just came out a little dark. Thanks to my buddy Shelly for taking the picture and traveling with me for 4 hours each way. Cheers

Friday, April 11, 2008

2008 National Tourette Syndrome Association Conference in Washington DC

The 2008 National Tourette Syndrome Association Conference took place just outside of Washington, D.C. in early April. It was another chance for those dealing with Tourette's to get together and learn more. I once again spoke on 2 panels. But my wife was also invited to speak on dating and relationships. She did a great job. In the pictures you'll see one of me speaking, another of the group of speakers discussing dating and relationships, and the last one is of Duncan McKinley of Canada and Rick Fowler of Athens, Georgia performing at the final banquet. Check out his website and music at www.rickfowler.com

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Amit to Honor Me at 7th Annual Community Event

Sunday, March 9, 2008
The Rialto Center for the Arts
80 Forsyth Street, NW, Atlanta GA 30303
5:30 – Wine reception and heavy hors d’oeurves
7:00 – 9:00 PM – Program, live auction and concert

The Amit Program’s
Seventh Annual Community Event
“Music with a Message”

Peter Yarrow in Concert
From the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary


I was honored by the Amit Program for my involvement in the education system for children who have special needs. My family and I had a chance to be around a great organization that raises funds to help kids with special needs in the private schools in Atlanta.

Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary shared his famous musical songs like Puff the Magic Dragon, and If I Had a Hammer. His program Operation Respect ( http://www.operationrespect.org/

) is one that reminds students to treat others fairly as well as dream to be what they want to be.

Our Neighbor-Keynote Speaker

In February, I had a chance to be the keynote speaker at the Our Neighbor event in Gainesville, GA. Our Neighbor is an organization that raises money to help fund housing and support for those in the community who have had accidents and are now in wheelchairs. This organization buys them the housing they need in order to help them live in our society as comfortably as possible.
We sat with the Lovett Family and had a chance to meet many influential people in the community who are devoted to making a difference. My message came across loud and clear that not only did they need to raise funds for their organization, but the community as a whole needed to support these people who had their lives chanced in just a moments time. I reminded them of my story when nobody wanted to hire me as an elementary school teacher. But on my 25th interview, I was finally hired. Just a year later I was named the First Class Teacher of the Year in the State of Georgia. It's amazing what can happen when someone gives someone else a chance.
Thanks for the opportunity to speak at your event and keep making a difference.

New England Financial-Awards Banquet

What an honor it was to be able to speak at New England Financial Awards Banquet Dinner in Atlanta. I had a chance to share my story with the group and remind them that they too may have difficult times in a tough market, but at the same time, if I can overcome my life challenges, they too and overcomes their daily challenges. We also discussed all the good things they do for people with disabilities. Providing them with the correct insurances they need is very important. Many times people with disabilities are denied or given insurance at very high premiums which isn't fair. I reminded the group that it is important to fight for those who don't have a voice.

South Carolina Department of Education

My experience in visiting administrators from the state of South Carolina was great. We met in Columbia at the Department of Education where I had a chance to share my story with the group.
Then we spent the rest of the day talking about Tourette Syndrome and strategies they can use in the classrooms and in the school. Everyone in the group got a copy of my book, Front of the Class to bring back to their community.
Thanks for allowing me a chance to share my insight with educators in South Carolina.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Brad Visits East Carolina University

I had a chance to meet about 200 great future educators when I traveled to East Carolina University. As part of the Dean's Leadership Seminar, they invited me to be there keynote speaker. Not only that, but they selected Front of the Class as their summer reading assignment. I had a great experience which included an awesome reception after my presentation where I had the opportunity to meet many of the students. They were excited to share stories and experiences and I did the same. Thanks ECU for a great experience!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Big Funds Raised in ST. LOUIS with the TSA

I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at a major fundraiser for the TSA in St. Louis on September 8th. With 600 people attending I shared my story reminding people about the Power of ONE and how they can be that person who makes a difference in the life of another person. I also reminded them that we need for people to think positive and focus on others' strengths, and not their weaknesses.
The event raised over $400,000......not too bad for a first year event. Kudos to Myrna Myer and her committee who had a heck of an event. The press for the event was great. Kudos to everyone who helped make that event top notch!