Archive for Thursday, March 6, 2008

Student affairs

KU sophomores populate edgy TV series

Twelve female students from Blue Valley Northwest High School participated in the documentary TV series "High School Confidential" that debuts nationally Monday. Of those featured dozen, seven are currently students at Kansas University.

Twelve female students from Blue Valley Northwest High School participated in the documentary TV series "High School Confidential" that debuts nationally Monday. Of those featured dozen, seven are currently students at Kansas University.

March 6, 2008


Sharon Liese decided to document the girls at her teenage daughter&squot;s school in "High School Confidential."

Sharon Liese decided to document the girls at her teenage daughter's school in "High School Confidential."

'High School Confidential'

When: 9 p.m. Monday

Where: WE tv, Sunflower Broadband Channel 124

High School Confidential

Sharon Liese was preparing to take an active part in one of the most turbulent and influential periods of her child's life: high school.

So six years ago the single mom decided to pick up a camera on the eve of daughter Justine's freshman year at Blue Valley Northwest High School.

"I knew she was going to launch on this new adventure, and I wanted to document what goes on in high school. But I quickly abandoned the idea of documenting her and instead decided to follow other girls through the high school she went to," Liese says.

The Overland Park resident gambled that she might capture an honest, unflinching look at teenage life, so she pitched the project as a potential series to New Line Television.

"High School Confidential," her documentary series that took years in the making, debuts nationally Monday.

"If you look at high school, I don't think you can look at any four-year period in a person's life and see so much change. In one hour - because there are eight episodes - you get to see the journeys of two or three girls going through that four-year period. It's really eye-opening and dramatic," she says.

Shot from 2002 to 2006, "High School Confidential" centers on a dozen teens in suburban Kansas City as they deal with complex, intimate and pivotal conflicts.

Seven of the 12 girls featured now attend Kansas University.

"When people first hear about it, they automatically lump it in with reality TV," Liese says. "It is so NOT reality TV. Everything is so unscripted. You can't script three pregnancies with three different outcomes, a brain tumor and some of the other things you see in there."

Party central

Liese and a majority of the "cast" are in New York this week on a whirlwind press tour that takes them to the sets of "Good Morning America" and "The Tyra Banks Show," in addition to shooting a photo session for Newsweek.

"It's a little weird having my high school experience shown on TV. But I'm pretty happy with it. It's a pretty positive thing," says Cappie Viveros.

Dubbed the "party girl" by the show's press materials, Viveros is one of two teens who share the focus of the pilot episode. Raised by a single mother, she is depicted as a sliding student with a rebellious boyfriend and abandonment issues pertaining to her father.

"I feel like it's pretty accurate," says Viveros, who is currently at KU studying math with a concentration in teaching.

As for being typecast as the party girl, Viveros admits, "I wouldn't say I'm comfortable with it, but if you want to call me that, that's fine. ... I've actually calmed down a whole lot. I partied myself out, I think."

Extreme behavior

Party girl seems quaint compared to how fellow "High School Confidential" player Cate Crandell is described.

"I am the 'anorexic wrist-cutter,'" Crandell says.

"I was disappointed about a couple things, but you have to think about that it's four years being summed up in half an hour. ... That was like a very short period in my life, but apparently it was the most extreme, so that's how they're marketing it. The actual episode focuses more on my family life."

As with the other girls featured in the program, Crandell was one of an initial 40 incoming freshmen who applied to Liese for consideration. Twenty-five girls were then selected to be interviewed, and those eventually were whittled down to a dozen.

Unlike the majority of reality television, Crandell says the production process wasn't particularly invasive.

"We weren't really followed by cameras. There were interviews - maybe two or three a year. Toward junior year and senior year is when they came to events. ... You didn't even know they were there because it could have been our high school broadcast team," says Crandell, a KU sophomore studying French.

Despite the often unflattering struggles depicted onscreen, Crandell is enthusiastically embracing the project.

"If I could do it again, there's no doubt that I would," she says. "I think that it will definitely help people who are struggling through the same thing."

Cultural message

Filmmaker Liese herself graduated in 1976 from Saratoga High School in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

"The same pressures are there that were there when I was in high school, but there are additional pressures," the filmmaker says. "I think that girls have always had the pressure of conflicting cultural messages like 'be sexy, but don't be sexual.' On top of that, I think the girls now are expected to make something of their lives - which is a good statement for our culture, but it also adds more overachieving pressure."

Liese owns a marketing and communications firm, and she has produced dozens of corporate videos. Yet she had never attempted traditional filmmaking prior to "High School Confidential." When pitching the concept, she was startled by how interested those in the coastal-based industry were about a series set in the Midwest.

"There is so much shot in L.A. and New York, people found it refreshing that it was shot in Kansas. They also got into the idea it was the heartland because it really could by any high school in the country," she says.

Liese's daughter, Justine, who was the original impetus for the project, believes her mother has tapped into an honest and significant account of her high school experience.

"I didn't really understand what she was doing at first, but then as the years went on I realized how cool it was, and it was becoming a really big project," says Justine Liese, a film major at KU.

She's also thankful that mom's effort didn't turn into a kind of glossy MTV soap opera a la "Laguna Beach."

"These were just girls who started talking to my mom," she says. "It's not like they were trying to get famous or be on television. As one of the girls told me, she felt it would be like a home video. They were doing it for real reasons."


Sharon Aikins 10 years, 2 months ago

Why all the negativity before it's even aired? Sure there will be a lot of negatives shown but also some positive results I'm betting. These girls chose to do this and seem okay with most of what is depicted. Maybe we will just see the struggle of those high school years that we all went through, honestly and without scripted material. Since this isn't the media norm, maybe not all is sensationalized, just people livng real lives, with real problems and real achievements. I'd have to see it before I judged.

thinkagain 10 years, 2 months ago

Read the story again. She didn't follow her daughter and there were "tryouts" to get in the film.

Confrontation 10 years, 2 months ago

I'm not surprised that she chose not to do this to her own daughter. How nice.

Alison Roberts 10 years, 2 months ago

I think its great. Its a real life glimpse at the lives of high school girls--which can be a vicious world. A lot of parents are in denial about what is going on in their childs life, and maybe this will open their eyes a bit. Girls are doing more and a younger age now--even since I was in high school (9 years ago) things have changes drastically.

I think this will be a beneficial thing to a lot of people. I actually just saw an interview with the creator, and she never mentioned where the high school was. But she did this for the right reasons and I think it will be very eye-opening for a lot of people.

If she would have followed her daughter, she wouldnt have gotten an accurate portrait... you know kids act differently when their parents are around....

Dixie Jones 10 years, 2 months ago

i wouldnt of cared if my mom tried out or not im like harley im glad she didnt get the chance to follow me around school. whew.....

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 2 months ago

I think they chose girls who only have dramatic struggles, not just the typical well adjusted teenager who gets up every morning, does their work, gets involved in school activities, comes home, is fairly polite to adults, etc. All that stuff if boring. The problem is when young people watch that, they think "That's what life is suppose to be." Shows like Jerry Springer have made it seem more exciting to have trashy lives, so you can get on TV. Regular everyday, well-adjusted happy is just too boring. They never put those people on TV. I didn't use to think TV had so much influence, but the longer I live the more I see it, and I think the "reality" shows are even bigger culprits. I mean when I was growing up I never acted like Captain Kirk or Spock. Now you see plenty of people acting like the drama queens of Jerry Springer. You didn't use to air your dirty laundry in public.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 2 months ago

Ok, you're right :>). But I'd rather see people dressed like Spock, watch them make soap operas out of their lives for all to see.

CateCrandell 10 years, 2 months ago

So, this is Cate. I'm one of the girls who was followed in the show... I just have a question for Dorothy: how could they have chosen "girls with dramatic struggles" when we were 13/14 at the time? We didn't have dramatic struggles then... I, personally, had no idea I was going to go to State for diving, cut my wrists, starve myself, get a motorcycle, be pressured in to sex (although it was, what I like to call an "unconscious manipulation)... etc. You know? So, what Sharon has said in a lot of interviews is just that she picked us because she felt a bond with us- for me, in particular, it was because I didn't have my real mom with me because she died at such a young age. For others, it was just their personalities that captured her: in a single interview. And, actually, there is 1 girl in particular, who is highlighted in my episode, who didn't have a boyfriend, is highly involved in politics. orchestra, debate, etc, has a great family life, and never dealt with drugs, alcohol, or sex. Many of the girls were straight A students.

Don't think we were acting or putting on a show for the cameras, because we definitely were not doing that. We had no idea what was going to happen with the footage- if anything, so we were basically just having a conversation with Sharon, and there just happened to be a camera there.

Does that make sense?

What did you all think of the first episode?

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