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Student Bodies

Once the producers had nailed down a school, it came time to "cast" their inside look at teenage life. Everyone in the senior class was offered the chance to get involved, but the producers had to narrow down the over 120 applicants.

"[The students] filled out simple application forms, kind of telling us about themselves. Then we met with each of them...we talked about who they were and why they might want to do something like this. We spent a lot of time filming with a lot of them. Then, we invited 25 kids to be part of the video diary project and from that pool...we filmed with about 14 of them."

In lesser hands, American High could've been a logistical nightmare. R.J., who also produced the political documentaries The War Room and A Perfect Candidate, had a simple system. Two crews covered up to eight students each. From August to June they shot three weeks out of every month, wherever the "cast" led them. That includes at home, on dates and at parties.

Extracurricular Activities
It gets kind of tricky covering very social, underage kids virtually 24 hours a day. Sometimes the crew may have wanted to jump in and stop someone from fighting or drinking. But, as R.J. explains, they tried to maintain distance to protect the series' authenticity.

"There were plenty of situations where it was necessary to exercise our discretion as grown-ups and human beings, but our principal objective was to observe and tell the truth as much as possible. I think we did that...but you always develop a personal relationship with your subjects. You do try to keep on a certain side of the line."

Final Exams
When the cameras finally stopped rolling, R.J. and the production team had logged literally thousands of hours of tape. Then came the task of sorting the footage and cutting it all together. Witness the enticing, fascinating, funny and poignant results of American High.
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