Josh Katz: Teacher, Screenwriter, Cinephile

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Photo credit: Will Woods.

Two years ago, Upper School English teacher Josh Katz could have never imagined working at Collegiate. When Katz was in his final semester at VCU, where he working on a masters degree in English with Research, he was not planning “to apply for a job until deep in the summer,” but luckily his dad intervened. Katz’s father informed him of an opening at Collegiate and encouraged him to apply. After mulling it over, Katz decided that it couldn’t hurt, and, if anything, it would prepare him for the interviews he presumed he would be having later on. While he says the interview went well, he did not think he would be hearing back from Collegiate. However, “you guys kept calling me back.” After his initial interview with Dean of Faculty (and English Department Chair at the time) Dr. Z. Bart Thornton, he was brought in and talked with Ben Rein, the Head of the Upper School at the time, and then went on to his full day of interviews and sample teaching, as most prospective teachers do. This interview lead to a job, and the opportunity to not only teach, but also coach track and participate in Outdoor Collegiate.

Katz was raised in Richmond and graduated from St. Christopher’s school in 2004. From St. Christopher’s, he went on to attend the University of Richmond, where he worked as an assistant Technical Director at the Modlin Center and graduated Summa Cum Laude while majoring in English and minoring in creative writing. In his free time, he enjoys playing Grand Theft Auto, going on walks with his girlfriend, and cooking Indian food and watching movies. He has coached track and been a faculty adviser for Outdoor Collegiate. Katz initially didn’t think he’d be able to pursue his passions of writing and watching film and teach at the same time.

When asked what has drawn him to watch so many movies and develop his passion for film, Katz said, “to limit it to just watching [movies] is reductive.” A rather simple statement, but one that speaks volumes to his passion for the film genre. While many people simply watch a movie and deem it “good” or “bad,” Mr. Katz examines it, reviews it, and looks for ways to improve it. He writes reviews for Blu-ray.com and has lists of movies he wants to go see. If you ever enter the English office and ask him about any movie, no matter how obscure, he will tell you not only if he enjoyed it, but also what its strengths and weaknesses are. Besides being an ardent supporter of film, he is also an accomplished screenplay writer, something he will be slow to admit.

Katz has written a fair number of screenplays, but his most recent one is taking him to Mexico. He will be participating in the Oaxaca International Film Festival, a festival that has been described as Latin America’s Sundance. While getting the script accepted was exciting, it was not unexpected, based on how film festivals work. What surprised Katz was his script’s nomination for three awards: best thriller crime, best original concept, and best overall script. Katz and his writing partner, Josh Thorud, took the idea of a minor character in a heist type movie—such as Oceans 11and told the heist narrative through their point of view in their script entitled Jump Start. That idea “led to a really interesting thought exercise: Well, what type of person would allow that kind of thing to happen to them? You want to write your characters with some depth and with some humanity. You do not want them acting like idiots just so the plot keeps moving. Which led to this other evolution; how do we create this full, rounded person?”  

The last, and to some the most interesting part of Katz is his hair. While many people conform to social norms when it comes to hair styling, Katz bucks the trend, opting for many original and snappy hairstyles. When asked about his hair, Katz immediately said, “ In some ways that’s the most important question you have asked all afternoon.” He then went on to explain that he views his head as a “giant, perpetually unfinished canvas” and he wants to “amuse himself with it, and if anyone else likes it, that’s fine, but if I can style it a little differently and if I can make it look acceptably ridiculous, I am going to get a bigger kick out of it.” The Collegiate community has been lucky enough to have Katz as a member of its faculty the last few years, and if you see him in the halls, congratulate him on his recent successes.

About the author

Will Woods is a senior at Collegiate.