BY BEN FISCHER AND JOHN KIESEWETTER
Nick Lachey's love for his alma mater could result in a prime-time MTV series showcasing School for Creative & Performing Arts students.
MTV completed shooting a pilot March 1 featuring 12-14 juniors and seniors, says Isidore Rudnick, SCPA artistic director.
The cable network's executives should decide "in the next several months" whether to make an unscripted musical drama series at the school, says David French, MTV vice president. French described the show as a reality TV version of "Fame," the 1980s movie and TV series.
Lachey, 34, a 1992 SCPA graduate who starred in MTV's "Newlyweds" reality series, proposed the concept to MTV, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Last spring he sought permission from SCPA and Cincinnati Public Schools officials to produce a short video outlining his pitch to MTV, Rudnick says.
The show "will blend performances by the students with the narrative about what takes place in the school," according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Tony DiSanto, MTV executive vice president for series development and programming, told the trade publication that the show may depict students "breaking out into dance in the cafeteria" or practicing a musical instrument as the soundtrack for a scene.
"The stories and relationships are all set to music that's organic in what's going on in the school and also performed by the kids," DiSanto said. "This is a genre-busting, creative experiment that I'm really excited about."
Lachey, who grew up in College Hill, is an executive producer with Marc Platt (producer of the "Legally Blonde" movies), Russell Heldt ("Real World") and Colton Gramm, Lachey's manager.
He conceived the series "to help get the word out about the unique programs and the incredibly talented students we have at SCPA," Rudnick said. "He wants to help us to do that not only on a local level but on a regional level and a national level, which we greatly appreciate."
According to the school district's contract with MTV, the schools will be paid $10,000 for the pilot, and $10,000 for each episode if the show goes to series. MTV has options for five additional seasons, according to the contract.
Production planning began here in early January, weeks after Lachey led Cincinnati singers to victory on NBC's "Clash of the Choirs."
MTV asked the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission in January for help obtaining equipment, crews and hotel rooms, says Kristen J. Erwin, film commission executive director. The commission also assisted producers in securing permission to shoot at the school and in some students' homes, Erwin says.
"We were thrilled to help them. Based on the premise, it sounds very exciting for Cincinnati," Erwin says.
MTV crews visited SCPA two times, shooting certain students' stories and also footage of the larger school community during the day, Rudnick says.
Jenna Atkinson, president of the SCPA parents' organization, says the TV production "could be an extremely big deal" for the school.
Rudnick says some parents were concerned about how a reality show might reflect on the school, considering the bawdy storylines common in the genre. But MTV officials met with parents, assured them the show would narrowly focus on students' academic and artistic pursuits, and also not disrupt the school's educational mission.
The contract stipulates that MTV "will not intentionally broadcast" students consuming drugs or alcohol, fighting, using any dangerous weapons, or intimidating or harassing SCPA students or staff.
"The whole idea is to document their experience - these are all juniors and seniors - as they get ready to pursue a career in the arts, or go to college in the arts field. How they're preparing for that, and you know, get a sense of their background, where they're coming from, paint a picture of an artistically gifted junior or senior, in order to take that next step," Rudnick says.