Juan Mendez said he forgot the camera was rolling as a filmmaker followed him around school, on the soccer field and at his home in Portales.
Mendez, who graduates this month from Portales, is one of a half-dozen students from around the state who are part of a documentary being filmed that looks into the life and culture of high school seniors in 2012.
"I just decided to be very truthful, to act like I normally act," said Mendez, who hopes to be a high school teacher, coach, and, one day, principal. "It's a documentary, so I just acted like the cameras weren't there."
The documentary, titled "What We Are Made Of," is a collaboration of Santa Fe's Littleglobe film company, the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs grant and New Mexico high school seniors.
The film gives students creative freedom to add their own material and decide the direction of the film. In addition to Mendez, five other students from Portales High have a few lines in the film. Portales students have contributed to the project for about two years.
"I think it's very important for the students to be able to express themselves in this way," Portales High guidance counselor Thomas Tafoya said. "Expressing yourself in the form of a film can be very powerful and who knows what could happen. Maybe one of the students will be famous."
Tafoya said he hopes his students' participation in the film will give them a long-lasting experience they can always value and share with people.
Mendez hopes the production would inspire people.
"We all have tough lives but in the end we still have to go to college and earn degrees," Mendez said.
Mendez said participating in the film helped him shed his shyness, strengthened his public speaking and social skills, and made him more outgoing.
The completed portion of the film was shown Monday at the high school. Tafoya said he is not aware of the film's final date of completion.
"Times are very different than the 1980s," said Tafoya, who graduated from Portales High in 1988.
"In some ways it's maybe more difficult for teenagers nowadays than when I was in school. There are different temptations. I know the academic requirements are more rigorous than when I was in school."