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Why You Should Watch Mary Mazzio's New Documentary

Posted by: Nick Leiber on November 11, 2009

ten9eightposter.jpgThe big takeaway from Mary Mazzio’s powerful new documentary, Ten9Eight, is clear: entrepreneurship skills training for at-risk teens will increase the odds they stay in school. Its title, Ten9Eight, refers to the statistic that U.S. high school students drop out at the rate of about one every nine seconds. The film tells the stories of 14 inner city teens competing in an annual business plan competition run by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. (Be sure to catch my colleague Stacy Perman’s profile of the nonprofit from a few years ago.)

Award-winning filmmaker Mazzio, who has written and directed several other documentaries focused on entrepreneurship, including Lemonade Stories and We Are BlackRock, got the idea for Ten9Eight after a conversation with NFTE’s founder, Steve Mariotti, at a 2004 screening. After landing funding to make the documentary last year, the former Olympic rower and commercial real estate lawyer set to work chronicling the aspiring entrepreneurs with the goal of convincing their peers to stay in school.

Mazzio says she was most surprised by the velocity at which her subjects’ communication skills improved as they made their way through the NFTE contest—and the sheer number of promising kids she met.

“For all the Rodneys and the Annés and the Jamals and the Jessicas that are actually in the film, there are hundreds of thousands of kids that are just like them in low-income communities. Most of America doesn’t really realize that,” she says.

While acknowledging business curriculum is not allowed in traditional high school settings, she hopes policymakers and educators will consider offering it after watching her documentary. “What this film is, is one tool in the anti-dropout toolkit. It’s not a cure-all. It can’t solve the crisis.”

The film opens this Friday, Nov. 13 in AMC movie theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and Kansas City. Free screenings are available for teachers and their students this Thursday, Nov. 12. You can watch the trailer now and catch Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s introduction to it below.

Reader Comments


November 12, 2009 3:45 PM

Boy, would I love to be an entrepreneur so that I can kick the fortune 500's to the curb


November 13, 2009 9:22 AM

This sounds like a great documentary. alt.Consulting, a non-profit, offers entrepreneurship training during the summer, and the test scores for the kids skyrocketed as a result of the training.

Neil Shah

December 10, 2009 4:52 PM

This was a great movie. Check out my review of it at Entrepreneurship is such a focusing force for students. Inner city students who don't care about math learn that math can actually help them come up with balance sheets or price points. It's such a great idea for a program and NFTE is a great organization. I loved this movie and absolutely agree with the author - go out there and see it!

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What's it like to run your own company today? Entrepreneurs face multiple hurdles new and old, from raising capital and managing employees to keeping up with technology and competing in a global marketplace. In this blog, the Small Business channel's John Tozzi and Nick Leiber discuss the news, trends, and ideas that matter to small business owners. Follow them on Twitter @newentrepreneur.

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