In his new movie “The Other Kids,” San Francisco-based director Chris Brown captures what it’s really like to be a teen — unlike most teen movies.
“It sounds insane, but for the first time I knowingly went into a feature production without a script, which was both thrilling and terrifying. I basically took everything I thought I knew about filmmaking, threw it out the window and just started over,” says Brown, describing the extraordinary, non-judgmental movie, which screens this week during San Francisco IndieFest at the Roxie.
Brown set the story in the small town of Sonora (population nearly 5,000) in the California foothills about 150 miles east of San Francisco.
“The Other Kids,” which seamlessly blends fiction and nonfiction, follows eight high-schoolers during the final weeks of their senior year.
They run the gamut from Isaac, an immigrant from Mexico, to Kai, who struggles with cutting.
Abby is an expert on the rifle range, and new kid in town Natasha (aka “Cricket”) wears piercings and blue hair.
“I really wasn’t searching for a representative sample of kids,” he says of his cast. “My only goal was to find the most talented and intelligent teen actors in town who were also independent-minded. I wanted kids who pushed back, who would tell me when I was wrong.”
Though the film may seem simple on the surface, it took 92 days, stretched over 18 months, to shoot.
“I feel it’s only fair that I mention my 700 miles of hideously composed, blurry outtakes!” he jokes.
Brown had long talks with his actors about fears, desires, relationships, etc., and then asked them to improvise.
“We worked on pure instinct,” he explains. “The goal was always spontaneity, truth, reality. I pretended that it was a documentary and did my best to capture what was happening in front of the camera, never quite knowing what the performers were going to do.”
Although the actors were willing to be quite vulnerable on camera, Brown knew he needed to protect them, at least to some degree.
He offered to cut any scene any actor found objectionable. No one took him up on it.
“At this point, after everything we’ve been through,” he says, “these kids feel like family to me.”
IF YOU GO
The Other Kids
Starring Savannah Bailey, Hunter Gilmore, Kai Kellerman, Sienna Lampi, Natasha Lombardi, Joe McGee, Isaac Sanchez, Abby Stewart
Directed by Chris Brown
Running time 1 hour, 35 minutes
Note: The movie screens at 2:45 p.m. Feb. 12 and 9:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Roxie, 3117 16th St., S.F; visit www.roxie.com.