Margot Lanham was watching MTV when -- between music videos by Usher and Ashanti -- she and her classmates at Madison West High School appeared on the screen in a new video by rock group Jimmy Eat World.
"It was a rush," said Lanham, 18. "It was really cool."
Marc Webb, a 1992 graduate of West, directed the video for the song "Work," which premiered last week on MTV's "TRL" program and has been featured as one of the Hot 5 Videos on www.mtv.com.
The video opens with a shot of the exterior of the school, identified as "Madison West High School," and includes scenes of students in the halls, classrooms and cafeteria, as well as at home, work and a school dance. Excerpts from student interviews are interspersed with the band performing.
"I've directed probably 40 or 45 videos," said Webb, 30, who now lives in Los Angeles and has made music videos for bands such as Santana, Green Day, My Chemical Romance and The Used.
Webb spent two weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas following Lanham and several other West students.
"The record label approached me," Webb said. "They wanted to make a video about a typical high school and high school kids."
They also wanted to get away from California, where 75 percent of music videos are made, he said, adding that it is rare for a video to be made outside of Los Angeles, Miami or New York.
Someone suggested that Webb use his own high school, where he returns about once a year to talk to students of his former theater teacher, Rebecca Jallings.
"She's meant a lot to a lot of students," Webb said. "I don't think that I would have gotten into show business without the experience I had at West. She doesn't stigmatize the business the way a lot of people do."
Webb faced a challenge to convey the theme of the song, which is about getting out and moving on, without chastising Madison or West. Many of the students were protective of their hometown and school, and did not want to come across as angst-ridden or as cliches, he said.
"I didn't even know that it was about getting out of high school," said senior Pihra Pizzingrilli, who is featured in the video. "Everything I said was upbeat and happy."
"The video, I think, definitely has an edge of wanting to break away from adolescence and move on," said Lanham, who watched the video for the first time online with Pizzingrilli.
"I was in shock," said Pizzingrilli, 18. "It's one of the coolest things that could happen to someone."
"I think it's beautiful," Jallings said. "I think it's a real honor for West."
While most of the student portions of the video are documentary in nature, Webb set up one scene as a re-enactment of his own high school experiences. In it, student Paul Sweeney smashes a television that actually belonged to Webb's mother, Mazie, who lives in Madison with his father, Norman.
Webb, who bought his mother a new television for her birthday in November, explains that he and John Walsh, a friend from his days at West, used to go to a local quarry when their high school girlfriends broke up with them and vented by smashing things to a pulp.
"That was my homage to my history," said Webb, who also admits, "Smashing TVs sells records."