Although her film “Student Body” is about the horrors of high school, Los Angeles-based filmmaker Lee Ann Kurr pointed out that it wasn’t specifically based on her own teenage years at Camp Hill High School.
“Camp Hill was a wonderful school to go to!” said Kurr. “It’s just a little house, so to speak. I definitely had social anxiety at that age, and it’s a very successful school, which I’m very grateful for. But I felt like I constantly needed to be that straight student.
The theme of his new film, “Student Body”, is much more universal. In his own words, “being young can be tough no matter where you went to school.”
Kurr wrote and directed the film, which she calls “a coming-of-age story, with some slasher horror elements thrown into the mix.” It tells the story of a high school girl named Jane (played by Montse Hernandez), who tries to navigate various social relationships in high school.
The first is with her childhood friend Merritt (Cheyenne Haynes), with whom her friendship increasingly frays as the two grow apart. But another is with his math teacher (Christian Camargo), whose mentorship is starting to get uncomfortable.
As high school students are wont to do, Jane and her friends make some rash choices while breaking into the school one night. And that’s where the real horror elements come in, Kurr said.
“What I really wanted to tap into is that high school can be a scary place,” she said. “Not only emotionally and psychologically, but also in the context that we live in, high schools can be a place of violence now. We think they are those safe and healthy places, but there are people who have done harm there.
Kurr said the urgency in the movie — a slasher chasing them down the halls of their school — amplifies the very real, if far less thrilling, stress students can feel every day. Even from the people who are supposed to help them through this ordeal.
“I wanted to touch on how scary this process can be,” she said. “Are these people really my friends? Do I have friends? This is part of my experience, which was full of social anxiety at that age. And then with these authority figures – teachers, mentors, adults, principals – I really felt at that age so much pressure to constantly succeed and excel, and be a straight student. And it was really suffocating at times, even though their intentions were good.
But despite the themes, Kurr credited his upbringing at Camp Hill for his ability to break into the film industry. In particular, she credits the strength of Camp Hill’s drama program, as well as her classes and performances with the Gamut Theater in Harrisburg.
“I’m really proud to come from central Pennsylvania,” she said. “It was huge for me to break through the walls of my high school, start acting and meet other artists. It played a huge role in my decision to pursue acting in college.
After college, Kurr worked as a screenwriter for independent films and short films in New York City, learning the ins and outs of the industry while developing his own plans for a movie. “Student Body” is her biggest project so far as a writer and director, and she also served as the film’s co-producer. And seeing “Student Body” as a finished product is the culmination of about six years of work.
“I knew I wanted to be a writer-director and my first big project would be a writing-directing project,” she said. “So it was definitely worth the time and effort.”
“Student Body” also stars Harley Quinn Smith and Austin Zajur, and is now available to rent or purchase on multiple streaming platforms. Click on the following links to see more information about Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Vudu and YouTube.