Choices: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Running Time 15:40
Behind The Scenes 14:34
Three boys on the verge of manhood face the realities of relationships. A look at how three teenage friends deal with issues of fatherhood, peer pressure, passion, STDs and taking responsibility. This film was written by teens from Orlando Florida and directed by Tamara Jenkins.
Choices was written by Eve Liberusm, Darius Moore, Carolyn Perry and Jermaine Wall, members of the Champions Club at Jones High School in Orlando, FL. The film was directed by Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills) and produced by Susan Stover (Laurel Canyon, High Art). The film was created in partnership with Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
- 2001-2002 National East Contest Winner, Orlando, FL
- Aired on Showtime
- Honorable Mention, Hip Hop Odyssey Film Festival
- Featured in USA Today and Connect for Kids
- Aired on Free Speech TV & Manhattan Neighborhood Network’s Open Transmission
- Used in various school districts across the US including the NYC School District
- Screened at the 2013 Women of African Descent Film Festival
The Story Behind the Story
The writers of Choices attend Jones High School, a historically all-black high school in downtown Orlando. Jones High School has an abstinence-only policy, which prevents students from talking about sex in the classroom, so the students had to write their story in an after-school program.
Both director Tamara Jenkins and producer Susan Stover loved the raw and authentic dialogue in Choices. The Orlando school board officials, however, did not approve of the language; claiming it was written in slang and not proper English. For example, the school board thought that a guy asking a girl for her “digits” (i.e. her phone number) did not make sense and “was not grammatically correct.”
While the filmmakers and the teens’ school supported the teenagers’ desire to use their own language, the school board demanded a re-write. At one point during this heated debate, a school board official re-wrote the script. The teens rejected the officially written script and argued that if it was not written in their own words the film would not be a true reflection of the way they see the world. At the same time, the writers needed the school board to approve their script in order to be able to shoot the film on school grounds or participate in filming.
Scenarios USA was faced with a dilemma. School boards had always been partners in the film project and without their involvement the process was threatened. Finally, the day before shooting was scheduled to start, Jones High School and sister school Evan High officially came out in support of the writers, despite the lack of support from the school board officials. Scenarios decided to partner with the two schools to produce the film on their campuses and the schools went even further in demonstrating their support of the students and organized a ceremony to honor the students in front of the entire student body. During the filming of Choices, both the Film Commissioner of the State of Florida and a Chief Aide to the Mayor of Orlando were on hand to recognize the writers’ achievement and to show their support.
Through the rollercoaster events leading to filming, the writers of Choices gained a sense of empowerment. They realized not only the importance of sex education in schools, but also the power of fighting for what they believe is important. The conflict between the writers and the school board created much dialogue in the Orlando community. The Orlando newspaper covered the events in a front-page article, which was followed by a satirical editorial response of how a school-board member would grammatically fix a story written in street language.