High School

PBS Premiere: Aug. 28, 2001Check the broadcast schedule »

Filmmaker Interview

POV: What inspired you to make this film?

Frederick Wiseman (FW): One of the subjects of my films is ordinary experience as it's expressed in institutions common in America. I graduated high school in 1947 and I was interested to see what high school was like in 1968. The film is a report on what I found at Northeast High in Philadelphia.

POV: You have often focused on institutions as the subject of your filmmaking explorations — why did you choose this particular topic?

FW: High school is a common experience shared by millions of people. I hope that others will be as interested in the topic as I was.

POV: How did you come to choose this particular high school in Philadelphia?

FW: I chose Northeast High because at the time it was thought to be one of the best high schools in Philadelphia. I always try to pick an institution that is generally thought to be a good example of its kind.

POV: Your particular style of filmmaking has been described as direct cinema, because of the way you capture events unfolding in front of your camera. Why have you chosen to employ this filmmaking strategy?

FW: I have always liked the idea of trying to film ordinary experience. Documentary filmmaking offers the opportunity to do this.

POV: How difficult was it to gain the trust and the participation of the particular high school, its administration, and the students profiled in your film?

FW: It was not difficult. I explained to the staff and the students how I worked and what I was trying to do and they agreed.