There are many reality television shows on television including “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”, “Wife Swap” and “Toddlers and Tiaras.”
A different breed and genre of reality show is being created in Cleveland.
J. Brian Miles and Javier Sepulveda are the executive producers working on “Southern High,” a new reality show focusing on several students’ lives during their senior years at Bradley Central and Cleveland High Schools.
Originally the series was called “Life Untilted,” but it was changed due to some translation issues while pursuing the options for international marketing opportunities.
Though it is a reality show in nature, Miles was very clear that the two refuse to waiver in their presentation of the students’ lives and will present a “wholesome show” he hopes will not be associated with the negative stereotype many reality shows have acquired.
“It is more of a docu-series; reality shows have a very negative connotation to them,” Miles said.
“We’re not exploiting anything, we’re not making fun or anybody, [and] we’re not trying to make anybody look bad. This is a show that’s about good kids who are making good choices and trying to better their lives.”
Last year they filmed “The Pregame” series, which focused on the football teams at the local high schools.
Sepulveda moved onto another job after they were finished, and later came back to Miles saying he believed that some of the students had individual stories that needed to be told.
Miles told him to work on developing it.
“We realized there was a life with a lot of the kids outside of just football. We identified some kids who had a lot of things going on who we thought were some pretty outstanding student athletes,” Miles said.
“We wanted to focus more on their life growing up in this town and what they are wanting to do to achieve and get to the next step of their life and what they are doing.”
The focus switched from the initial student athletes to covering other students with stories Miles and Sepulveda wanted to tell.
Taylor Bentley, Brooke Copeland, Cole Copeland, Laura Kate Evans, Logan Fetzner, Austin Herink, Rebecca Reuter, Parker Smith and Noah Towe are the main students the show focuses on, though several more come into the show outside of the main limelight.
So what parts of their lives are filmed?
Miles and Sepulveda showed up at City Council meeting to film Laura Kate Evans receiving a proclamation for the Distinguished Young Woman Award from the mayor.
They were filming when Brooke Copeland and Rebecca Reuter signed with the University of Florida and Middle Tennessee State University.
They covered Austin Herink presenting a proposal to his principal, Autumn O’Bryan.
Yet, awards and presentations are not all that is caught on camera.
“We’ll hang out with friends. They’ll come and film and they’ll hang out with us,” Herink said. “After football practice we just went over to Parker’s house and we filmed. A few weeks ago, we went to a Civil War re-enactment. I went to a football combine in L.A. and they came with me to that.”
When Noah Towe headed up a special project at Cleveland High School to start the Raider Trader, they took special interest in filming parts of that.
Towe lead students in transforming what used to be the janitorial closet into what is now the school’s student-run store.
They sell school supplies, shirts, flags and many other products and are responsible for inventory, sales and the cash drawer.
More than that, Towe shared how the show has impacted his life.
“Really, if we want to get all mushy or whatever, it has in a way, changed my life because I’m a musician,” he said.
“Before I never had an outlet; I was just playing in my room and playing in little coffee shops and then when the show comes along, my band’s EP is recorded now.”
Reuter said the show has helped her get along better with people as well as helped her be able to speak better in front of the camera.
Copeland said it has helped with skills she will need for studying communications at Florida, such as interviewing and getting to know the filming process.
For a few of the students, one major perk of recording their lives is it’s equivalent of being a time capsule they can open up later.
“[This is] just something I’ll be able to look back on and say ‘Hey, I had my junior and senior year of high school filmed. I can show my kids that one day,’” Herink said.
Reuter also mentioned having the ability to revisit her senior year.
“It’s really cool, because I’ll get to go back and look at all of the stuff we’ve been through,” she said.
Herink added that Miles and Sepulveda have been “very gracious to any request he and his family have had.” He said that if he vocalized that he did not want specific things to be filmed and just wanted them to memories of his senior year, they would not film.
Autumn O’Bryan, principal of Cleveland High School, explained there’s a negative connotation of teenagers being trouble and up to no good many times, but that we are all teenagers at some point, and being a teenager does not keep a person from being an awesome individual.
She said that anytime they could highlight their students and celebrate their successes that it is “great for them to be able to highlight that.”
“I think if you were to survey the general public they would think ‘Ah, most kids are nuts!’ and they’re not. They’re really great people,” O’Bryan said.