Every Deerfield student who has taken Health Issues has seen the documentary Farewell the Tranquil Mind, which was filmed around campus and featured Deerfield students. The movie was shot by alumnus Woodrow Travers ’05, while he was a student at Deerfield.
Travers is now an Assistant Director in the Director’s Guild of America, but during his time at Deerfield, Travers lived in Field, Barton, and Louis Marx, and proctored in John Williams. He then went on to Vassar College, graduating with a major in film. After completing an internship under acclaimed director Ron Howard and working his way up in the film industry, he gained enough momentum to contribute to major films such as Men In Black 3 (2012), Dark Knight Rises (2012), Amazing Spiderman 1&2 (2012-2014), and Birdman (2015). Currently, Travers is working on an original Netflix series about the 1970s South Bronx community and the origins of rap culture.
Travers’s career in film took off during his time at Deerfield. “[Going into Deerfield], acting was what I thought I wanted to do,” Travers remarked. “Then while making short movies and music videos so I could act in them, I found I enjoyed being behind the camera more.”
Though Deerfield’s film program was in its developing stages at the time, Travers managed to cultivate his growing passion while he was a student. He utilized the school’s resources heavily, taking advantage of the “state-of-the-art cameras” that the program provided.
Travers noted, “I truly felt supported by the whole community.” He recalled feeling “extremely lucky to be surrounded by the most concentrated group of talent” he had ever seen.
Videography teacher Tim Trelease remembers Travers fondly.
“Woody was a legend when I arrived at Deerfield. He took the film/video program to a new level of success.”
Trelease also noted how Travers constantly inspires new generations of Deerfield students, adding, “His passion and success with filmmaking laid the foundation for The Widdies and great student filmmakers like Dane Scott ’16, Josh Tebeau ’16, and Alex Guo ’17.”
To the current Deerfield students, Travers offerd two pieces of advice: “Sleep more. When you are older you will not remember if it was a C+ or a B+ on your Chemistry test. If you do, you won’t care.” Travers also provided a valuable lesson on failure, and how to ultimately grow from it: “Don’t let it get you down.
“Any major break I’ve had in my life came from random places in which I put in extra effort,” he said. “Put yourself out of the comfort zone, apply to the internship or program, have confidence in yourself and brush it off when it doesn’t go as planned.”
Travers’s first film, Farewell the Tranquil Mind, has left its mark on the Deerfield community and on the world. Today, the film is shown in a number of private school health classes.
“There are cringe-worthy moments for sure,” he recalled of the movie, “but for my first film ever, I couldn’t be more proud. And despite its flaws, it was a defining experience for me.”
Travers added, “I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now without [Farewell the Tranquil Mind] lighting the spark.”