Bratz picture filmed at high school in rough area of Los Angeles, while in session
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Described in press materials as a "low budget" production, the crew of Bratz: The Movie turned to a busy LA high school to film the picture's main scenes.
Shot in 30 days, during February and March 2007, the film had to work around the roughly 3,500 students at Santee Educational Complex in South Los Angeles, California. Most productions, like High School Musical and Degrassi: The Next Generation, do principal photography shoots during the summer. Since the Bratz film had a summer release, and the Santee school goes year-round, such a pattern was impossible.
Director Sean McNamara "was adamant about using this school", named in the film as "Carry Nation High", said production designer Rusty Smith. "We knew it was going to be complicated, and it was, but we pulled it off. I'm sure it was a big distraction for us to be there and it's really a compliment to the principal and the students’ cooperation because we couldn’t have done it without them."
One of the stars, Chelsea Staub, agreed. "I was amazed at how orderly and respectful the students at Santee High were during our invasion." She admits that she "would have had issues walking by our heavenly omelet station every morning," if she were a Santee student.
Such good behavior could be deemed extra surprising considering the school, which opened in 2005, is located in an area known for its amount of gangs. Some students walk through 50 different gang "territories" on the way to school, 18 of which have documented members enrolled as students. Students have brought AK-47s to class, and jumped police officers for their guns. A two day melee at the school, whose principal is a former cop, resulted in 34 arrests and 10 hospitalizations, mostly for pepper-spray-related injuries. Half of the instructors, as of March 2006, were in their first year of teaching.
The school board superintendent and Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rode the bus to the first day the bus was routed through the neighbourhood; a photographer for the Los Angeles Times caught a 10th grader tagging a window. The first gun shots rang out the second day the school was open.
Bratz: The Movie is a story based on an internationally successful line of dolls. Three "best friends forever" are forced by the queen bee of the high school to separate into various existing cliques. Growing lonely, they rebel by choosing to be true to themselves.
"Filming at a real high school was interesting because you could see real cliques and compare them to the simulated cliques in the movie," commented Logan Browning, one of the movie's stars, herself a senior in high school.
Staub, who plays the antagonist Meredith, also felt the real-life location was beneficial to the movie. "All the sounds and background images helped make it real for me. The shifting echoes of students on the bleachers and school bells that released the chaos of kids changing classes made me feel like I was truly a part of the high school experience as opposed to doing a scene on a soundstage."
"The presence of that school and the way it's laid out, almost like a prison, became a major character in the film," said production designer Rusty Smith. (Interestingly, Meredith's mantra in the movie is "take no prisoners".) The school, devoid of color, easily contrasted against the vibrant and unique bedrooms of the Bratz girls. "We knew it was going to be complicated and it was but we pulled it off. I'm sure it was a big distraction for us to be there and it's really a compliment to the principal and the students' cooperation because we couldn't have done it without them."
A 16-foot high sculpture was added to the school courtyard, to help transform it into Carry Nation. The sculpture was of Nation, the most infamous and formidable member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in pre-prohibition America, wielding her hatchet in one hand and Bible in the other.
The film opens in theaters across the United States and Canada on August 3, in the United Kingdom on August 17, in Spain on August 24, and Australia and New Zealand September 20.