Director Nanette Burstein (C) poses with the subjects of her documentary ‘American Teen,’ (L to R) Megan Krizmanich, Colin Clemens, Hannah Bailey and Jake Tusing, on Main Street at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Sunday. Photo by Associated Press
Director Nanette Burstein (C) poses with the subjects of her documentary ‘American Teen,’ (L to R) Megan Krizmanich, Colin Clemens, Hannah Bailey and Jake Tusing, on Main Street at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Sunday. Photo by Associated Press
It could be the hit documentary of the year.

After its world premieres during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, over the weekend, "American Teen," the documentary filmed at Warsaw Community High School by filmmaker Nanette Burstein, is getting positive reviews. Not only is it being praised by some of the media, but also by some of the people in the movie.
"Everybody loved it, it was great," said Colin Clemens Monday afternoon in a telephone interview from Utah. Clemens is one of the WCHS former students featured in "American Teen."

"I thought the movie turned out terrificly," said Jacob Tusing, also one of the featured persons in the film. He said when he heard it was going to be shown at Sundance, he thought the movie was probably good, but wondered how he was going to be portrayed in it. Once he saw it, he said there is "no other way they could have done it. It was done perfectly."

Jennifer Shepherd, WCHS assistant principal who went to the film's premiere, said, "I liked the film. I laughed. I cried. I felt sorry for people. I celebrated people. It is a great film."

In an online story Sunday in The Los Angeles Times, a reporter wrote, "So far, the buyer's market at Sundance has proved to be as frigid as the temperatures in Park City. There's been some buzz here and there but no direct heat surrounding any one film.

"All that changed when a documentary called 'American Teen' screened on Saturday. It was clear that the film had generated interest by the flashes of blue light in the audience, as acquisition folks frantically texted their business affairs departments to start negotiations."

The bidding for the North American rights climbed toward $2 million, the L.A. Times reported.

In August 2005, the Warsaw School Board gave director Nanette Burstein permission to film "American Teen" with WCHS students. Filming of the documentary started in September 2005, and was completed after the end of the 2005-06 school year. It followed WCHS seniors during their last year of high school.

While many WCHS students are shown in the film, four are featured, including Clemens, Megan Krizmanich, Tusing and Hannah Bailey. All four, along with Mitch Reinholt and Geoff Haase, former WCHS students who also appear in the documentary, went to the film festival for the movie's premiere.

Though Tusing had to return today to get back to Vincennes University, he said they all were allowed to stay in the Park City condo until Saturday.

Clemens said they arrived in Utah Jan. 18. As soon as they arrived, he said Burstein showed the film to them and the film crew. Clemens said he thinks the film portrays him very well and that Burstein did a good job of showing him how he really is and what he went through.

"It just came off like there wasn't even a camera there," he said.

There were two showings of the movie over the weekend, with the first one Saturday night. Having seen it Friday, Clemens said he was less nervous, but there were still 500 people at the premiere. Afterward, there was a question-and-answer session for the cast.

After both premieres, Clemens said both audiences gave the film standing ovations. Tusing said the premieres were sold out, with more than 100 people waiting in line in hopes that someone with tickets would give them up.

Tusing also said he found that people in the crowds identified with him and cheered him on during the good moments shown on film. That was unexpected, he said.

Of the whole experience at the film festival, Clemens said, "It's awesome. There's mountains everywhere. Ski slopes everywhere. Ski shops everywhere."

"The word everyone is using in our group is 'surreal.' It's all unbelieveable," said Tusing.

Clemens said there were many celebrities and several parties to attend. "American Teen" cast and crew hosted its own party, and guests included Tom Welling ("Smallville") and Josh Hartnett ("Black Hawk Down"), with Nick Cannon ("Bobby," "The Nick Cannon Show") serving as the disc jockey.

Clemens said Welling actually came up to them at the premiere and asked to take pictures with the "American Teen" cast. Tusing said Welling is a "cool guy." Welling and Hartnett both congratulated the cast on the film.

Tusing said they also met or saw Matt Perry ("Friends"), Quentin Tarantino ("Pulp Fiction"), Paul Giamatti ("Sideways") and Lauren Graham ("Bad Santa").

Once Warsawans get to see the film, Clemens said people in Warsaw will realize how real it actually is. It "really just shows us ... how we all just undergo our own difficulties and struggles," he said.

Out of four stars, Colin said he'd give it four or five stars.

"We hear consistently from people that 'American Teen' is the movie to see at Sundance this year," said Tusing.

Shepherd said the movie follows the four students. It is not about Warsaw as a city or WCHS as a school. The city and school just provide a background for the stories about the students.

"I think she did a great job," said Shepherd.

While time will tell how big the movie gets, Shepherd said it is a big deal for those involved.

"It's kind of ironic that for those group of seniors, their senior shirt quoted 'Anchorman,' - 'I'm a big deal.' It is a big deal," Shepherd said.

Tusing said, "I don't think anyone's going to be disappointed."

According to sundance.org, "American Teen" is one of the movies competing in the documentary category. For the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, in the documentary competition, 16 films were selected from a record 953 submissions. Each film is a world premiere.

Burstein previously filmed the Oscar-nominated documentary "On the Ropes," among other series and films. Her 2002 film "The Kid Stays in the Picture," about legendary Hollywood producer Robert Evans, premiered at Sundance and Cannes, receiving many critics awards after being released in movie theaters worldwide.