7 Cylinders Studio is producing an independent documentary about one of the longest-running alternative public schools in America – Community High School (aka, Commie High).
- Check out our Kickstarter campaign to see how this project became community-powered into production!
- You can follow Welcome to Commie High on Facebook to keep up-to-date on progress of the documentary.
- Follow our Twitter to receive additional news about this project and other 7CS productions
- AND, contribute with a tax-deductible donation (via our fiscal sponsor Artrain) to help us complete funding for the expansion into a feature-length film!
Community High School was started in 1972 with some radical ideas, enthusiastic teachers, and a reclaimed elementary school building in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. The concept was based on a “school without walls” approach where the city could serve as the classroom. Students were encouraged to design their own courses and take responsibility for their education. There was no cafeteria, no traditional sports teams, no annual prom and an anti-zebra anti-mascot. Students called teachers by their first names. Welcome to Commie High.
Through the 70s and 80s, enrollment was an ongoing challenge and recruiting students was critical to sustain Community High. By the early 90s, however, it became cool to go to Commie High school and demand to attend increased beyond its capacity. A waiting list led to a partial lottery and line-ups that grew longer each year, culminating in 1996 with a 2-week camp out by students (and their parents, siblings, friends, etc.) saving a place in line with the hope of gaining admission. This was the last line for Commie High, as the school system shifted to a complete lottery the following year. More than four decades since its inception, Community High serves as one of the longest-running alternative public high schools in America.
We are producing a feature-length documentary (expanded from the half hour project we initially launched on Kickstarter) to share the compelling story of Commie High. The film will focus on four decades of the school’s evolution, the factors that led hundreds of people to camp out for weeks with the hope of enrolling, and where Community High stands today in the pantheon of public education. We will share significant cultural finds by mining myriad Commie High archives. We will assemble an all-star CHS soundtrack encompassing a diverse range of musical styles. And we will give new life to art works by CHS alumni through animation and motion graphics. Welcome to Commie High (working title) will be professionally produced to broadcast quality by an experienced team, while drawing creative inspiration from the alternative, artistically expressive ethos of the school. Distribution outlets will focus on film festivals, public television, online platforms and educational organizations. Thanks to enthusiastic support for our Kickstarter campaign and additional funders, we involved eight Community High School students in our documentary project where they earned course credit through the CR (Community Resources) program.
WHY IT MATTERS
Public education reform is a hot button issue in America. It’s a complicated, polarizing topic that affects the lives of millions. What can we learn by looking at alternative approaches? What conditions allowed for the creation and success of the Commie High experiment in public education? And what would motivate students to camp out in the cold for two weeks to attend a public school in a system with other excellent options?
“High school is often considered a definitive American experience, in two senses: an experience that nearly everyone shares, and one that can define who you are, for better or worse, for the rest of your life. I’m grateful I escaped the particular definition that high school would have imposed on me, and I wish everyone else who suffered could have escaped it, too.” – Rebecca Solnit from “Abolish High School” Harper’s Magazine, April 2015
Donald Harrison – Producer/Director/Camera
David Camlin – Co-Producer/Editor/Camera
Ingrid Racine – Music Director/Composer
Jay Sandweiss, D.O. – Executive Producer
Emma Hoffman – Assistant Editor
Rachel DeWoskin (class of 1991)
Linda Diane Feldt (CHS class of 1976)
Ken McGraw (CHS teacher since 1997)
Mike Mouradian (CHS teacher 1975 – 2006)
Sara Nodjoumi (filmmaker, The Iran Job)
Davy Rothbart (class of 1992)
Kelly Stupple (CHS class of 1987)
Neda Ulaby (CHS class of 1989)
Katherine Weider-Roos (media professional, Roos Roast Coffee)
Sebastian Wreford (aka, Nitro von Borax – CHS class of 1983)
Marci Woolson (class of 1976)
Thank you Backing Underwriters!
Michael Moore, Jay & Sue Sandweiss, Paul & Lori Saginaw, John Briere, Elizabeth Barick Fall & Jeffrey Fall, Spencer PriceNash, Ruth Facer & Anonymous
Thank you In-Kind Community Organization/Business Backers!
Zingerman’s, Roos Roast, Arbor Teas, Mindo Chocolate, The Brinery, UM Lloyd Hall Scholars Program, Elmo’s T-Shirts
And Thanks to the rest of our 450 Backers! Aaron Valdez, Ace Anbender, Adam & Gillian Gainsley, Adam Goodman, Adam Kasha, Adam Melis, Adrianna Jordan, Alan & Lisa Dengiz, Alan Botts, Alan Levy & Susan Pollans, Alex Hencken, Alex Smoller, Alice Collins-Thompson, Alison K. Landau & Peter C. Tsangaris, Allan G. Feldt, Amanda Scotese, Amy McKibben Cormier, Amy Hughes, Amy Klinke, Amy Nesbitt, Amy Smith, Andra Artemova, Andreas L. 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