CBC's This Is High School captures the real-life drama of adolescent education in Kamloops

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      High school has long been the fodder for teen dramas and sitcoms from Beverly Hills, 90210 and Saved by the Bell to Canada's own Degrassi. As for hormone-driven real-life drama captured on camera within the halls of adolescent academia—not so much.

      CBC's six-part series This Is High School bucks that trend by taking viewers inside the world of B.C.'s South Kamloops Secondary School and showing them the lives of students and teachers.

      In an interview at a downtown Vancouver hotel, Paperny Entertainment president David Paperny told the Georgia Straight that this was the most ambitious project he's ever undertaken in over 30 years of working in the business.

      This is High School

      To begin with, Paperny said that they first had to figure out which school to shoot at. That process took over a year and a half as they took hundreds of schools across B.C., Alberta, and Ontario into consideration.

      In the end, they finally settled upon the Kamloops school, he said, because they felt the administration, teachers, and students were an inspiring group they wanted to work with.

      "A lot of the teachers felt that their mission in life was to prepare kids for the future, for a positive future, for a future of opportunity, to help kids realize their potential," he said.

      He added that the teachers wanted to give students confidence and to "send them out the door with skills…and good academics but also with confidence and a better of understanding of who they are and what they can achieve".

      After all, their objective with this series, he explained, was "to show the key role that teachers play in the lives of high-school kids today and through those teachers, look at what some of the challenges are for high-school kids in Canada today."

      This is High School

      Based on British series Educating Essex, each episode is, as Paperny describes it, a "snapshot" of school life with a focus on a few kids per episode (at least two are highlighted, while other students and teachers are featured as interviewees). 

      In order to record it all,they had 50 cameras (48 were fixed rig cameras on walls in hallways and classrooms, while two were roving cameras) and 60 microphones. A crew of 25 people filmed every day for five days a week over a period of seven weeks. Each day, about 12 students per day were miked up.

      The issues captured on camera run the range from autism to cyberbullying to falling in love for the first time.

      Paperny said many are trying to find what they're good at and passionate about, such as shy kids who find themselves blossoming on stage or kids who connect with teachers when given one-on-one attention to overcome challenges.

      This is High School

      In the premiere episode, airing on Sunday (October 2) at 8 p.m., the vice-principal must figure out a way to handle a mischievous Grade 8 student who skips school, claims he has a taser for sale, releases a stink bomb in class, and remains undeterred by detentions. Meanwhile, female best friends in Grade 9 face a schism when one becomes part of the in-crowd and the other one doesn't. When things explode on social media, it's up to school counsellors to figure out a way to address the situation.

      In another episode, a math teacher has to figure out how to help a disruptive Grade 11 student with a troubled past pass the class. Elsewhere in the school, tempers flare when a Grade 10 student, who struggles to control her anger, is accused of bullying.

      It's potent stuff that Paperny hopes will captivate audiences.

      In particular, he's seeking to highlight the sometimes unsung role that teachers play in the lives of youth.

      "It can be a thankless job and yet even more than ever high schools are such an important part of our lives and kids rely on teachers more than ever because of the more complex world they live in with social media, with working parents or broken homes, or drugs and bullying, and just a lot of stuff going on in the world in general and a great teacher can really help them succeed in life," he said. "We think the kids, the students, the teachers, will be proud of what they see."

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook