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My Old School


‘…My Old School aims to elicit a warm glow of nostalgia for schooldays, but the mean-spirited untruths featured here credit Brian McKinnon at the expense of his teachers and classmates…’

Back in the day, I used to freelance for Scottish Screen, our now defunct government film-finance agency, interviewing those who got public money development loans for their projects and companies. One project was Younger than Springtime, a proposed vehicle for Alan Cumming loosely based on the story of Brian McKinnon. McKinnon was a 32 year old who claimed to have passed himself off as a teenager when he went back to his old school to get qualifications for a medical degree. Calling himself Brandon Lee, McKinnon managed to get the requisite highers, but was subsequently thrown out of medical school. He found himself subject to a media furore when his deception was uncovered while on holiday in Spain with girls from the same school.

Each script I looked at got further and further from the truth; the writers contrived details like a happy ending where McKinnon appears to have achieved his goal of doing theatre surgery as a doctor, only to reveal that he found his metier as an actor on a medical soap opera. None of this felt true even as fanciful fiction, and the Younger Than Springtime project was shelved without return. Decades later, a new and apparently completely separate project named My Old School surfaces to tell the same story, with McKinnon providing an audio interview and Cumming, now pushing 60, improbably donning school uniform to lip-sync to McKinnon’s words; an elaborate subterfuge created because the subject of this film chooses not to appear on camera to protect his identity.

Interrupted by animated inserts and interviews with a few of McKinnon’s friends and teachers, My Old School defends his ‘honour’ by casually slandering teaching staff no longer living or willing to defend themselves. My Old School attributes blame to staff for not picking up McKinnon’s deception, even insinuating that the school’s deputy head was promoted not on merit, but to get her away from the limelight. Crucially, ex-pupil Jono McLeod’s film also avoids context that doesn’t fit the narrative. How exactly did McKinnon fool an entire school of over a thousand pupils? Looking every inch an adult, McKinnon didn’t deceive many; before the Dunblane primary school massacre, adults were widely encouraged to return to Scottish schools and higher classes had all ages in them. Only staff who knew of McKinnon’s specific medical school ambitions would have any reason to question in his presence in the corridors. Fudging the issue of what kind of documentation he provided to allow him to study, McKinnon improbably suggests that he somehow used hypnosis to fool the staff.

The problem with publishing lies is that they obscure the truth. Movies often print the legend rather than the facts for dramatic purposes, but McKinnon’s suggestion that all he wanted to do was get his school qualifications and leave simply doesn’t square with being unmasked on holiday with pupils over a year later. Sharply shot by George Geddes, My Old School aims to elicit a warm glow of nostalgia for schooldays, but the mean-spirited untruths featured here credit Brian McKinnon at the expense of his teachers and classmates. The film’s centrepiece, a video of McKinnon, 32 enjoying a lengthy kiss with a 17 year old girl at a school show, is creepy enough to make My Old School an avoidable proposition; McKinnon for once gets it right when he says that what he did was not a crime, but was morally reprehensible; the real question is why several rounds of public money have been spent to bring this deliberately unreliable version of his story to the screen.


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    • Given that he’s had decades to think about it, what he says has these nonsense details like hypnotizing the deputy. If the story told isn’t true, why call it a documentary?

      • Can’t see how it would have worked as a piece of fiction or the ubiquitous “based on a true story.” Struggle to see how an audience would have any sympathy. Unless you had the charm of DiCaprio and the verve of Spielberg in Catch Me If You Can though I’m not sure the pretend doctor did any damage. Do you concur?

        • It would really require that kind of elevated handling. But there needs to be a point of interest other than salacious gossip. I’m not sure these events have any meaning for anyone by the subject, and he seems to believe that retelling his story in this fashion might move him closer to his goal. Why are we enabling his pursuit given that no medical school will accept him? Is this actually helping him?

    • Thanks. It’s an interesting story, but handled in a way that feels like a waste of time. It could have been a fun Never Been Kissed type film in the 90’s, but being an interloper in a school doesn’t make you the hero of any story.

  1. I like the odd docudrama here and there, but if they are spewing lies of the bat then i’d rather avoid it. Thank you for clearing the air surrounding this one.

    • Lots of people seem to have been taken in. There is a story in here, but it’s not told from any point of view but the deceiver who blames everyone but himself for his woes. That the actual kids maintained any loyalty to him might be an interesting angle. But the insincerity of the excuse bothered me.

  2. Yeah, that 17 thing is too much for me to handle too. The money would definitely have been better served going straight to me so I could buy pizza’s and pay off my mortgage!
    Plus, I’ve never kissed a 17 year old in my life, so that’s a big win for my biopic…

      • I’m updating the script every week. It will be my magnum opus. A masterpiece to end all masterpieces.

        But what could be more worthy than pizza and mortgages?

        • Two things which dominate my life. Gives you a relatable, Everyman quality. The muppets involved, I assume?

          • Miss Piggy is in talks to play the romantic lead and I’m working with a digital service to use a hologram of Charlton Heston crossed with John Wayne to play me.

            I need to come up with a hook to make it astounding and show that I went through some hardship too, like all those normal people out there. I’m wavering between having my shoe laces break or Miss Piggy getting kidnapped by Boba Fett and taken to Darth Kermit. Either one is pretty relatable I feel to most people…

              • Boba Fett could. But Fwipp couldn’t fight her way out of a wet brown paper bag, much less break a shoe lace. Plus, I couldn’t kick a girl in the head like I would to Boba…

                    • Does he wear a helmet because a bucket doesn’t have holes to see through?

                    • I stole his mop, so he couldn’t accessorize any more. That’s the REAL reason he wears a helmet (plus, I kicked him in the head one time 😉 )

                    • He does. But it’s ok, he’s a true professional. Pay him enough and he stays bought. I told him I’d remove the tv show from our collective mind and that seemed to do the trick….

                    • Always thought it looked like Pete’s Dragon. Working title; Boba’s BIG Massachusetts Takedown!

                    • Since I haven’t actually seen the show, to preserve my Star Wars Purity, I can’t really comment on the looks of it. I just figured someone at Disney was puffing on a big green thing to green light the Boba show.

                      I’d be ok if Boba took Mass down. He’d definitely clean the neighborhood up!

                    • Yeah, sometimes I regret trading in my fealty to the first film, the only one I saw in my teenage years. But seeing the Empire’s prison in Andor has finally nailed what the Empire is about in a rigorous way. There have been some gems along the way, but the road has been bumpy.

  3. Did you attend Bearsden?

    This sounds like an interesting enough story. As I understand it he pretended to be a Canadian. That should have given him away.

    • It is an interesting story; the nub would have been why his friends chose to protect him when they knew of his real age. But that’s not really explored here. Then again, pretending to be Canadian isn’t a crime in itself…

  4. “The film’s centrepiece, a video of McKinnon, 32 enjoying a lengthy kiss with a 17 year old girl at a school show, is creepy enough to make My Old School an avoidable proposition.”




    I will have to think about the rest of this later, once I get past this complete yuck factor.

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