My So-Called High School Rank chronicles the creation of a musical theater production at Granite Bay High School in Sacramento, CA, inspired by students’ stories of the constant pressures to achieve a top-rank in every part of their lives to get ahead in today’s fierce college admissions process.
In an uncanny case of art anticipating real life, Granite Bay’s musical “Ranked” was in the works weeks before Rick Singer and the “Varsity Blues” scandal made headlines in 2019. The play’s apt timing and subject matter speak to a culture where many students feel driven to succeed at any cost.
As news emerged of the production of a musical exploring these critical issues, other schools reached out to stage their own productions. High schoolers around the country connected with the show’s themes as they themselves struggle to find their place in the world amid intense college admissions competition. The film chronicles auditions and rehearsals at three high schools from Ripley, WV, to Cupertino, CA, as well as to the Bronx, NY, where students face similar challenges despite dramatically different life circumstances.
The film features the “Ranked” creators Kyle Holmes and David Taylor Gomes, as well as students, parents and staff of Granite Bay High School and Cupertino High School in California, Fordham High School for the Arts in New York City, and Ripley High School in West Virginia.
Produced and directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg; senior producer Alexander Baertl. HBO executive producers; Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller; senior producer Tina Nguyen.
For more information about the film, resources for further learning, and discussion questions to deepen your understanding of the topics explored in both the film and the musical, encouraging reflection on the experience of being a high school student, for both current and former students alike.