When ABC Audio spoke to Travon Free, director of HBO’s new documentary BS High, he sported a cap that read, “Art Is Dangerous” — the perfect start to a conversation about how the film, which delves into the cutthroat world of sports prep programs, came to be.
In fall 2021, Roy Johnson gained much public attention and scrutiny, as his creation of a fabricated high school crushed the dreams of hopeful footballers, unveiling just how predatory the game could be.
Free said an initial phone call he and co-director Martin Desmond Roe had with Johnson revealed some of all they’d learn about the self-described “honest liar.”
“We interviewed Roy for the better part of 30 hours over the course of three days,” Free said, adding they used fact checkers to verify his statements. He noted the conversation helped framed how they’d tell the story.
The directors thought, “we should let the audience experience Roy in the way that people have experienced Roy. And then pull the rug and let people see … the way he uses this uncanny ability to literally talk anyone into anything,” said Free.
The most “brutal” part of the process was interviewing the young men affected by Johnson’s scheme. “I mean, you’d cry through half the interviews because you just can’t not,” he added.
Though “there is little you can do to bruise [Johnson’s] ego,” Free noted directors were confident that “when he sees this movie, that will change.”
“He saw the film and he said it was great. And he said he loved it and it was going to help him recruit,” added Free.
He hopes the film causes people to “be aware of the ways in which [sports players] can be taken advantage of.”
BS High debuts tonight, August 23, at 9 p.m. ET. and will later stream on Max.
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