In “Raise Your Voice,” the new Hilary Duff movie opening Oct. 8, teachers and mentors play a significant role.

Duff’s character, Terri Fletcher, leaves her small Arizona town to study music at the fictitious Bristol-Hillman Conservatory in Los Angeles. The music teachers there push her to succeed, demanding dedication to excellence.

“I went through a situation that was actually very similar to the character in the movie,” the film’s screenwriter, Sam Schreiber, recently told religion journalists in Beverly Hills. Schreiber said he had never spent much time away from home until he was 15, when he attended an architecture camp in Los Angeles.

“It was really a life-changing experience,” he said. When he arrived, he was overwhelmed and so disoriented that he couldn’t enjoy the camp. However, one teacher in particular helped him get his bearings, and it proved to be a turning point.

“That was a major influence, Schreiber said. “And I had a lot of good teachers growing up. There were a lot of teachers who were interested in helping their students grow.”

The script for “Raise Your Voice” was his way of paying “some kind of tribute to that.”

Many teen films portray the teachers and authority figures as buffoons and targets of derision by students. That’s not the case in “Raise Your Voice,” which presents teachers as genuine resources for development and mentors as the difference in young people’s lives.

The teachers at Bristol-Hillman have different styles. Some are dry, whereas others—like Mr. Torvald (played by John Corbett)—exude a rock star’s charisma.

Other members of the cast and crew credited their parents as significant shapers of their lives.

Director Sean McNamara dedicated the film to his mother, Nancy McNamara, who died last November while he was prepping the film.

“She played piano,” McNamara said, “and she got me interested in music.”

Oliver James, a Brit who plays Terri’s friend and romantic interest in the movie, also pointed to his parents as giving him a sense of self and direction. James, who at 24 is older than he looks, now lives in Los Angeles. In a business known for chewing people up and spitting them out, James said his parents’ influence remains with him thousands of miles from home.

Hilary Duff cited her assistant (Troy Rowland), her mother (Susan) and her sister (Haylie) as being her mentors.

“These people teach me so much every day,” she told journalists, “and they really keep me grounded. My life is—not a normal life, and so they want me to have normalcy and to know what it is, and to know something outside of this crazy, busy life that I lead right now.”

Duff turned 17 on Sept. 28, the day her second, self-titled album was released. She passed her high school diploma test several months ago, having been home-schooled since fourth grade.

She said she wants to attend a four-year college. In the meantime, her family is her teacher.

“I just feel like I learn from them every single day,” Duff said. “They’re really loving, and we have a very cool relationship.”

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for

The movie’s official Web site is here.

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