How Are Today’s Teen Comedies Made? Purchase a high school.
American High, a former school in Syracuse, New York, has been turned into a production hub for low-budget films aimed at streaming platforms.
The adolescent pair is reclining on the lawn outside a high school, utilizing the traditional method of making out on the quad during a free moment between classes. A friend runs over, visibly concerned by an on-going incident somewhere, and begs for assistance. The pair unwillingly rises and follows, their backpacks trailing behind them.
Then another interruption occurs in their moment. Sammi Cohen, the director, yells cut. Tyler Alvarez, an actor, requests another take. “Just one more quick,” he says.
This is a typical early fall day at American High, when students return to school. Although the school has been devoid of actual pupils for years, it is once again the setting for high school drama of the type typically shown in R-rated teenage comedies.
Jeremy Garelick, 46, a writer/director/producer and the mastermind of the American High experiment, is sitting inconspicuously in the far corner of that grassy area. He watched the scenes on an enormous iPad for this latest American High production, an untitled lesbian love story about an aspiring young artist who is forced to join her high school track team, while wearing an American High baseball cap, red-tinted sunglasses, and a pair of headphones slung around his neck.
He nodded in time with the action and chuckled in response to the jokes. (“If you sink, I’m sinking with you… like the Titanic,” elicited a particular giggle.)
Mr. Garelick, best known for directing “The Wedding Ringer” and writing the screenplay for “The Break Up,” believes the timing is ideal for a spike in hormonal high jinks portrayed on film: teen stories tailored to the Gen Z streaming generation’s sensibilities. After all, it’s been about two decades since tales of love, sex, and related high school humiliations spawned financial and cultural juggernauts like “American Pie” and “Can’t Hardly Wait,” films that in turn inherited the torch from 1980s John Hughes classics.
Studios, whose primary concentration is on special effects-heavy blockbusters that transform going to the movies into an experience, do not share his convictions. They are now avoiding this type of low-budget picture due to the high marketing expenditures associated with converting it into a box office blockbuster — and the dangerous notion of selling something to the fickle teen audience.