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INT: American Teens

07.25.2008

When I first saw the trailer to the latest documentary by Nanette Burstein, I felt a tinge of remembrance. AMERICAN TEEN looked like a modern day THE BREAKFAST CLUB with people I knew growing up. The pretension and shallowness of shows like ““The Real World” or “The Hills” didn’t seem to be a part of this small town in Indiana. Warsaw could have been the place where any of us grew up, especially if sports was king, basketball in particular. It is like anywhere and everywhere, and it is sometimes a great place to grow, because it makes you want to get far away the very moment you can.

It was soon after seeing the movie, Paramount Vantage graciously set JoBlo up with a ““breakfast” with a few of the “teens”. Mitch Reinholt, Jake Tusing, Colin Clemens and Megan Krizmanich all represented a part of the usual high school stereotypes. They are the lucky ones (possibly unlucky) who were given a chance to let their story unfold. Yet I never once felt that this was scripted, or that they were playing a role. And most importantly, I was able to laugh and feel a beating heart in each of them. This is not a tale of shallow and manipulative teenagers trying to find a quick and easy dose of fame, these are real people that lived out their senior year in the unflinching cameras eye.

If I had any doubts about sincerity, it was gone once I sat down with the group. They were staying at the Oakwood, just beyond the Hollywood Hills. I came in with questions to ask and a sort of lingering nervousness. I feared that it may be an uncomfortable interview for all involved. Yet, I felt that the important thing was to let them know that I was not there to be condescending, or to be overly flattering, I was just there to talk about their experiences. And after a very brief moment of uncertainty, I quickly felt a connection to them. I opened up to them about my years in high school, which were unpleasant at best, but I did grow up in Utah so there you go. But for some reason the uncertainty subsided, I liked each of them, yet I felt extremely comfortable with Mitch and Megan.

We talked movies, we talked relationships and we talked about loss and everything in between. In fact, we talked for quite awhile. I found their honesty quite refreshing, especially in regards to being called “teens” when they are now in their twenties. In fact, we talked so much that there is a portion of our conversation that had to be edited down. Part of it included the movie talk, I even gave Mitch a hard time about seeing MAMMA MIA. And truthfully, I think this was one of the best and most entertaining interviews I’ve ever done. How nice it is to speak to a group of intelligent young people that have not suffered the curse of being jaded and corrupted.

If you are living in Los Angeles or New York, you can find out why this was a Sundance sensation this Friday. It is well worth your time.

And just in case you are wondering, Hannah Bailey was not able to make it down, so I spoke with her later on. You can read all about our conversation soon.

AMERICAN TEEN Kids

Now I saw the movie, and it brought back a lot of painful memories [Laughing]. But what fascinates me is that you guys are seemingly still friends, there is a real connection here. So THE BREAKFAST CLUB is true [Laughing].

Mitch Reinholt: I suppose so.

Jake Tusing: It can happen.

So here you guys are, doing whatever you would normally do, someone straps a microphone on you. How can you be natural with that?

MR: We weren’t.

JT: It took awhile. For the first four to six weeks, everyone was just terribly awkward and kind of just staring straight into the camera the entire time when it was around. Nobody could really be themselves because it was just so new to us. And after awhile, you just got accustomed to it. I mean, if it’s in practically your day to day life.

MR: And a big part of it was Nanette [Burstein], the director, really integrated herself into our lives. She would just come over for dinner with our family [with] no cameras. [She] just really got to know us and let us get to know her. She really tried to make our parents feel comfortable, which was huge for us. It was just like… having her around, was having another friend around. And then she’d hang out for awhile and then get the camera out once it was kinda like, I don’t know, we were just hanging out with nothing too big going on, then boom, camera. You don’t even realize it’s there.

What about you? Especially with basketball games, isn’t that kind of distracting?

Colin Clemens: Um. We had this talk before, but we have a pretty sizable gym. So there was three or four times where we sold out. And when we didn’t sell out, it was still a pretty good size crowd. It seats about six-thousand fans so, I mean, that’s enough pressure in itself. And then we have, you know, my dad who has season tickets underneath the basket and so I can always hear what he has to say, you always hear what the other students sections saying. And there’’s college scouts and then now, now I got this camera and the crew, and being mike’d up and all that. Yeah, it was just like another… almost like another scout, there is this kind of pressure. You knew it was there, and you knew you didn’t want to look bad or whatever. Mitch and I both kind of experienced that. But yeah, it was kind of like an extra scout so it was a little intimidating.

[To Megan] What about you? I mean, especially with the parties that you were having? Texting naked pictures of people?

[Laughing]

MR: Spray painting on…

Megan Krizmanich: On windows… um… it came right off [Laughing].

You know what though, seriously… shit, I toilet papered our neighbors house and did some horrible things [Laughing]… but I never got caught. But here you’re getting threatened to get kicked out of school.

MK: I know…

Sexual harassment… things have changed since I was in high school. I mean do you ever look at this and go, ‘I wish this wasn’t out there.’’ how do you feel, especially about that?

MK: I don’t wish that it wasn’t out there. I think it just kind of shows how kids get in trouble and as you said, you can relate to it, and I think it makes people relate to the film better. I mean, I’ve had people like Freshmen in college come up to me and go, ‘Yeah, we almost got kicked out the end of our senior year.’ So I think it takes everybody back to their memories in high school and can just relate to me in that sense, because everybody gets called into the principals office now and then. So no, I don’t regret it. I wonder why I did it on camera, but [Laughing]… I mean I look back and I don’t know what I was thinking, but like Jake said, I think we just got used to the camera. I mean, Nanette was more of a friend then a filmmaker and so it was just kind of like another person tagging along.

At any time when you were doing whatever you guys were doing… texting people…… break-ups [to Mitch… Laughing]… now that was mean man [Laughing]. I love the ending though, I actually cheered for you when you said in the credits that you’d never do that again. I think that a lot of times guys do things, girls too, that are really stupid and they don’t mean to be hurtful, but it was just something you did. Is there something like that that you just felt like, ‘Oh, I wish that never made it into the movie.’.

MR: The text message. And the moment when I’m on my hands and knees wearing a “dragon suit”.

Dude…… [Laughing] come on, that was fun.

MR: It was fun, but at the time I was, ‘Please don’t put this in the movie.’ [Laughing] It was awful.

Do you still have the dragon suit?

MR: No, it was actually Hannah’s. She was wearing it when she came over and I commented on it and she made me wear it.’

What is it with you Jake, you spend a lot of the film looking for a girlfriend, putting your face on tables and stuff like that…

JT: Yeah.

The thing I liked about the film is that, especially with that scene, there is a real natural, sweetness to it. That goes for all of you guys, you’re all likable, you’re all real people. And this wasn’t “The Real World”, it wasn’t one of those ridiculous reality shows. But you, in that moment, was that what you were really looking for…?

JT: It was definitely what I wanted at the time. I didn’t have any academic difficulties, I didn’t have any parental pressure. I was good friends with the few friends I did have. It seemed like it was the one thing that was lacking aside from maybe the social status… but that was completely unachievable.

[To the rest of the gang] Yeah guys, thanks a lot [Laughing].

MR: You’’re likeable dude.

JT: I know that now. I didn’t know that then. But now that is definitely what I want, it’s definitely what I still want. I really can’t explain why but it just how it goes for me.

That’s kind of the American dream, you know, you find yourself a wife, have a child, house and such, whatever. But [Mitch], you hit the nail on the head, you’re a likeable dude. Do you think, looking back, and this goes for all of you, was there ever a time you wish you’d given someone a chance or maybe you wished you hadn’t given someone a chance?

MR: I wish I would’ve known Jake the whole four years of high school. We’ve had the chance to hang out for a few months now and have had some of the greatest times ever together, just hanging out, having fun. He’s really one of my closest friends after that short amount of time. And just thinking about what it would have been like if we had hung out those four years.

JT: This probably would have turned out different.

Do you think the movie was pretty much the reason for that?

JT: Oh, I think certainly. I mean, we never knew who else was being filmed during this process. There were rumors floating around that [there were] twelve to fifteen people they started off with, and they gradually narrowed it down and we found out we made the final cut. But flying out to Sundance was the first time we ever met. So, if it hadn’t been for the movie, we probably would’ve never gotten around to meeting.

MR: It’’s the unfortunate truth, but…

It’’s also the reality. [To Megan] You are going to Med School right now?

MK: Pre-med, yeah. I’m going to be a junior at Notre Dame, and I’m studying pre-med.

What is it you want to achieve from that?

MK: I always dreamed of being a doctor. I always dreamed of helping people. And I think I had a special relationship… I want to be an OBGYN, I grew a very special relationship with my doctor. And there is very few women that go into that field. So that’s how I kind of became interested in it. And I’ve shadowed her for the past couple of years. That is really what I want to do, I think.



This has always been the case?

MK: Yeah, I’ve wanted to be a doctor as far back as I can remember. But I got more specialized through high school and having the chance to get involved with it.

And school is going good?

MK: Yeah. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. It was kind of a slap in the face coming from Warsaw Community High School [Laughing]. But yeah, it’s going well.

What about you Colin, are you still playing basketball? Where are you now?

CC: I transferred from Indiana Tech and now I go to Manchester College which is in New York. Still playing basketball and still pursuing my degree in marketing.

You still love basketball as much as you did?

CC: I love it! I do.

Although that is kind of a dumb question because as I was watching the film, there is an obvious love and after a couple of years you’re not going to stop loving something like that [Laughing]. So I apologize for that [Laughing].

CC: Yeah, I was at age… almost one year, shooting hoops.

What about you [To Mitch], do you plan on taking the “heartthrob” thing any farther [Laughing]?

MR: I actually dated Megan in eighth grade and she wanted to be an OBGYN then, so that’s when I learned what it was. And I wanted to be an eye doctor then, and that is still true. I’m pre-med and I want to ultimately own my own practice. I’m taking some business classes too. Yeah, I’m going to be an eye doctor.

Where are you at right now [To Jake]?

JT: I have no idea what I’m supposed to be [Laughing]. What I’m wanting to do even. I’ve got an apartment lined up, living at Purdue next year. But I’m not attending class. Gonna take a year off and see what else in out there and see if I can find something that really sparks my interest. Just enjoy my freedom while I can.

I’’d love to talk about how things have changed for all of you. Just in hindsight in regards to your personal views since the movie or just the your experience in high school even.

MK: I think I’ve matured a lot. I don’t know, I think in high school I was definitely unaware of the effects that my actions had. The consequences they had, not only for me but for other people. So after seeing the movie and realizing that after seeing the instantaneous reaction to my actions, it was interesting…… but I think all the mistakes I made through high school have definitely shaped who I am today. I don’t regret anything, but high school is a great time to make mistakes and to learn from them.

Now how much of the movie did you see and how early on did you see it?

MK: I saw the final copy right before Sundance. Almost two years after.

At the end your quote mentioned that you didn’t find any drama in college, do you still find that? Or do you see the sort of, circle of drama continue?

MK: There is definitely a “circle of drama” but I’m less involved in it. In high school I got caught up in it but this circle of drama, I know it definitely still exists in college but I try and avoid it.

What about you Colin?

MR: Regret?

Yeah.

MR: I have to say, I regret some of the basketball seasons, the way I handled some situations.

Well to be honest, just as an observer of the film, you seemed to have a lot of pressure. You were trying to do your best and getting a lot of mixed messages from people. That’s just my personal take on it, obviously, I wasn’t there, but that is what I got. I didn’t find it to be all that selfish in what you were doing necessarily, do you feel that you were being selfish? Or do you feel that you were just kind of pushed?

CC: Well it’s a little bit of both I guess. I felt bad for my teammates, just because I’m getting recruited doesn’t mean I have to take it out on them, kind of thing. I can look back and there were times where I was trying a little too hard. You know, there is trying to impress the scouts and there’’s taking it too far. I think there were times that I took it too far. But yeah, the coach was on me and my dad was on me and the scouts were on me. It was just kind of like, I didn’t know what to do sometimes. Because sometimes our couch would say, ‘Colin, we need you to score.’, then I would try and he’d get mad, and it just didn’t work out. But I regret that sometimes. The only other regret I had was allowing my dad to be on-camera. The “Elvis” thing [Laughing]…

I thought that was cool. It’s kind of ballsy actually.

CC: Yeah. A little bit, right?

Yeah, a little bit. A lot actually. What about you [Mitch]?

MR: I regret how I handled things with Hannah.

Does that cloud hang over you two?

MR: Not at all, actually. About a week after it happened, we kind of chatted a little bit and talked about things. It was at the very end of the year, so there was a lot going on in both of our lives. But we kind of decided we’d be better off as friends anyway. And since then, it’s been perfectly fine.

I remember watching that scene with her on stage and you watching from the audience… wow, I’ve known her for so long…

MK: ‘Four years [The others join in] and I’ve never met Hannah Bailey… it’s not too late. There’s always hope’’ [Laughing]

MR: Believe it or not, they know the lines [Laughing].

I felt like I was watching one of those Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movies [Laughing]…

MR: That’s very similar.

What have you learned since then in regards to relationships, going from there?

MR: Going from there… I’ve learned not to break up with somebody in a text message. Actually, since then I really haven’t been in a serious relationship… I don’t know, I’ve always been the kind of guy that likes to have a relationship and since then I haven’t. So I just don’’t feel like I’ve found the right girlfriend for me, so I’m kind of being patient. But at the same time, I’m getting anxious.

Are you seeing anyone?

MK: I’m not.

See, there you go, you two could date again.

MK: We’re convinced that Mitch is a forty-year-old man stuck in twenty-one-year olds body. If it were accepted in society, he’d be married with eight children by now.

MR: Not eight, but a couple.

Now I’’d like to open up the forum and talk a little about what you dig, and what you don’t, in regards to what is happening with the film. You’re all in a bit of a media circus right now, what is cool about it and what isn’’t so cool? Feel free to throw anything out there.

MR: Well, I absolutely love talking to people and we get to do a lot of that. But the conversations we have are very constrained. We can only talk about certain things… the movie, for example. So, it’s like we have a lot of limitations put on us because the people we talk to want to talk about the movie. And it’’s cool because that’s a huge part of our lives right now as it was then also. But at the same time, it kind of feels a little bit like we’re trapped. I get home - we were at home for like six weeks, before we came out here after school - and everybody I talked to in Warsaw wanted to talk about the movie and what was going on. It’s like our lives have actually stopped. No one asks about what’s going on, like either then what are you doing now, but it’s like we just talk about the movie and what we’re doing with it. Which is really cool… I’m not complaining about that at all, but its like the rest of our lives have stopped.

Feel free to be honest here.

MK: We can bitch to you.

Yeah, yeah, seriously. I mean, none of you wanted to necessarily be a teen star or anything like that correct?

MK: No, I think it’s just something that kind of fell into our lap. I think if you would have tried to tell us, even while she was taping, that it was going to go this far, all of us would of laughed in your face.

How did she approach you the first time?

MK: Before taping?

Yeah.

MK: I actually gave her the initial tour of Warsaw. She picked out ten cities she was interested in and they nominated me to give her the tour of Warsaw when she came.

Because you were the vice president [Laughing]?

MK: Because I was vice president, I was involved in about anything you could think of in high school. So that’s how I got involved with her at first. I fell in love with her right away, she’s an awesome girl.

Now have your families seen the film? What was their reaction, did they understand you more afterwards?

MK: All our parents went to see it about a month and a half ago, the middle of May, they did a screening in Warsaw just for the parents. I think my dad was completely unaware of how much pressure he put on me. It is very… kind of obvious in the film, how much pressure there was to get into Notre Dame. But he apologized afterwards. He asked if he really put that much pressure on me and I told him…… yes. I had a little brother that was actually going through the same admissions process and I think he was getting the same stress. Maybe it helped him back off a little bit.

That’’s cool… that’s cool if it did that.

MK: Yeah.

What about you [To Colin]?

CC: Well, my dad realized what he looks like on camera…

As Elvis?

CC: Yeah… as Elvis. He saw what I see, so… he didn’t really apologize for the pressure.

Do you feel you needed one?

CC: No. I mean, sometimes. They didn’t really show his mean side, sometimes he gets pretty mean. And him being a big dude… he’s 6’8”. Very intimidating. But him being a big guy, it’s always kind of just intimidating when he yells, it gets kinda freaky. I never really wanted an apology for the pressure, but just sometimes, some of the things he said. Like sometimes, I’d come home after, like a ten rebound game and he’d say, ‘yeah you could have had fifteen rebounds’, you know and when that’s the first thing he says, it gets pretty downgrading sometimes. But it made me better as a person and as a player I think, just ‘cause today’s society, nothing’s ever good enough you know. What have you done for me kind of thing you know?

That’’s very true.

CC: He liked it though. He got into Jake and Hannah’s story ‘cause he didn’t know them very well. He really liked Jake a lot. He thought he was a funny guy.

You are really funny, you’re really likeable. Are you starting to feel better about yourself since the film?

JT: Yeah, starting to. Hearing this kind of thing all the time it’s starting to lead me to believe it. I mean at first, it was like, ‘Oh, you’re just being nice…’ but I’m starting to think that people are sincere. Which is really nice.

I think there are more people like you than you know. But when you’re in that position you kind of feel like, ‘Shit, no one understands…’’ but a lot of people do. Yet it’s too hard to be in that position and see that though.

JT: Yeah, I really don’t know how to feel about it though. I mean, that’s who I was and I can deal with that, that’s part of why I’’m here. It’s a big part of why I’m here. And it’s part of who I am. There’s good that comes out of everything but it’’s nice to have that starting to get behind me.

And you’ve gained some good friends from it…

JT: Yeah… definitely.

Mitch what about you? How did your parents react to it?

MR: They loved it. My grandparents actually came too and they were all in tears about Hannah’s story. They didn’t know the extent of a lot of that stuff. It was painful to see, especially since they know her a little bit from when we dated. It was emotional, especially the first time we all saw it together, it was actually the first time I’d seen it. I think, everybody but Hannah. Hannah saw a cut of it in New York. She’s in film school there and Nanette’s in New York, so she saw it a little bit early. But we were all in the same room watching the movie for the first time, seeing what are role was going to be for the first time. Reliving some of the high school memories for the first time and I think we all teared up at some point. We were laughing, making fun of each other for our lines. The, “not too late, there’s always hope” line… I was sitting next to Hannah. I think I apologized a lot, close to twenty times. I always felt awful knowing that I contributed even a little bit to some of her hardship.

Now getting a little personal here, and if you don’t want to talk about it, I understand. But one of the most touching things Megan, is your sister. It broke my heart, and truthfully it was the one time I teared up in the film. How do you talk about that…?

MK: Yeah, it’s hard to talk about. It’s just as relevant now as it was then. But I think, just going over it, even in the movie was very helpful for me. Because it was two years later, and I think my family did a lot of grieving right afterwards but Nanette told me she wanted to talk about it. And I think it was kind of healthy for me to just get it out there and say how I felt. It was a good healing process and something that will never go away.

Here is one for the readers… high school? Good, bad or ugly? Send questions and/or comments to JimmyO@joblo.com.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Extra Tidbit: If you'd like to learn more about the "Teens"... each of them are joining the Facebook crowd... so you can stay connected with Colin Clemens, Megan Krizmanich, Hannah Bailey, Mitch Reinholt and Jake Tusing for more of their further adventures.
Source: JoBlo.com

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