‘The Other Kids’ attempts to reinvent teen drama as part of New Docs series


Daily file photo by Sean Su

“The Other Kids” is part of the New Docs series at The Block Museum. The fiction-documentary hybrid is a coming-of-age story that follows the experiences of several high school seniors.

Crystal Wall, Reporter


Chris Brown could never identify with his favorite teen movies growing up. Now, working as a director, he decided to make one he could relate to, inspired by his and his friend’s experiences as young adults.

On Jan. 18, Brown’s film “The Other Kids” was shown at Block Museum of Art to students and the general public as part of New Docs, a documentary film series at the Block.

The fiction-documentary hybrid is a coming-of-age story that follows the experiences of several high school seniors before they have to embark into the real world as independent adults, Brown said.

The cast is comprised of real teens whose characters’ storylines were based on their own lives and personal struggles, Brown said. He said he tried to direct as little as possible, instead serving as a guide for the actors to improvise in the unscripted film.

“The cast was required to do far more than they would have been asked to do in a more traditional film,” Brown said in an email to The Daily. “These actors were true collaborators and co-creators of this story. I chose each of them not only for their acting skills, which were all top notch, but for their intelligence, creativity, courage and willingness to explore aspects of their personal lives for the film.”

Communication Prof. Kyle Henry, the interim director of the MFA in Documentary Media program, was part of the brainstorming committee that created and developed the New Docs series. He said he wanted to include a documentary-fiction hybrid.

Ines Sommer, one of the jurors for the 2017 Big Muddy Film Festival at Southern Illinois University, suggested that “The Other Kids” would satisfy that niche. It was also chosen for the best narrative award at the festival, and Sommer said she appreciated the film’s dedication to an accurate portrayal of teens coming of age.

The film felt incredibly realistic and didn’t paint that difficult transition from high school to adult life in rosy colors,” Sommer said.

Each installment of the New Docs series includes a screening of the featured film, then a Q&A session with the director, Henry said. He added that the directors’ participation in the program enriches the experience and allows students and general audience members to have their questions answered directly from the source.

Brown was pleased with the Q&A, describing the audience as smart and film-literate and the conversation engaging.

“It was a lot of back-and-forth, it continued into the lobby and then into a bar afterwards. … It was great,” said Brown.

In addition, select MFA students have the opportunity to meet privately with directors. These meetings are facilitated for them to share their work and develop connections with seasoned professionals working in their field.

Brown said he met with the MFA students in 30-minute blocks during which he would view and discuss their work. Brown said he was impressed with the caliber of the work he saw.  

“I was really blown away by the talent there,” Brown said. “It’s a fairly young program, but the work is brilliant. I actually came away very inspired by the work I saw there.”

Henry said the MFA students largely took the experience with Brown as a positive learning experience.

“(It) was just a great experience to have him in and to be able to learn this unique way that he makes his work,” Henry said. “It opens up possibilities to say that there (aren’t) one or two or three ways to make a film; there are many ways to make a film.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @crysticreme