directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Black Valley Films
You loved Fame and its high-energy production numbers, its gripping teen angst, and its soaring message of “Dream it and do it!” This intimate documentary strips off the gloss, hires real students, and gives a more realistic view of arts education: No matter how hot your mom thinks you are, your odds of making it are limited at best. This show is set in the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, and we follow some typical students through their academic careers and into… wherever life dumps them. There’s 13-year-old Zak: he’s a great jazz pianist, and his single dad Joe has moved him into the ‘hood to live with a piano and no social life. Red-haired Ruby aims for the stage, she’s a typical theater geek but her distinctive look might help here make it as least as far community theatre. Next there’s Brittany the Barbie doll with honed skills on harp and an acoustic guitar. Her singing is fine and her songwriting is just whiney enough to make it on Pandora if she can figure out how to brand herself. Finally, there’s Grace – she’s from a traditional Korean family and a culture that regards dance as something only the academically challenged bother with. Naturally, she excels and even surprises her parents.
Where this film shines in portraying the harsh reality check these students get. Skipping class for an audition seems like a good idea until the D’s roll in and mom has some hard questions. The parents are for the most part classic stage moms and dads. They relocate from the Midwest so their kids can attend the best high school in the country, they live in bad neighborhoods to afford a better piano, and the rehearsal schedules they set up for their children are brutal. Not everyone makes it – this is true in all fields, but seems more painful with the arts where even if you “make it” financial security may never arrive. It’s a brutal business — one where you can make a fortune, but you can’t make a living. This is a good film to show your kids: not to burst their bubble but to temper their dreams and come up with a reasonable plan B.
This movie is part of the 2013 Florida Film Festival. More information may be found at floridafilmfestival.com.
Fame High: famehighmovie.com