Showdown on DoG Street: Students and residents perform in “West Side Story” LipDub

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November 7, 2011

8:15 PM

TWAMPS and Townies took to Merchant Square this past Saturday to fight out an ancient feud in the Williamsburg community. Who would win? Student body president Kaveh Sadeghian ‘12 and President Taylor Reveley backed by an army of Quidditch players and fencing team members? Or Mayor Clyde Haulman and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation President Colin Campbell flanked by Blue Talon chefs and karate chopping Williamsburg children?

In an effort to raise awareness about the upcoming William and Mary Global Film Festival, the Global Film Festival History and Production class put together a town musical in the form of a LipDub. Students, professors and townspeople came out to Kimball theatre on Nov. 5 to star in the community musical project.
“We wanted to bring the community together like we do at the film festival,” Greg Thompson ’13, public relations representative for the film festival, said. “We wanted to play off of West Side Story because it is the 50th anniversary of the film this month.”

Instead of West Side Story, the film class staged a LipDub, or a combination of lip synching and audio dubbing, as a SouthEast Side Story with the Williamsburg Townies fighting the College of William and Mary TWAMPs. The project was designed to bring the two groups together, although the main plot of the musical is the conflict between them.

“The key mission of the film festival is to bring the Williamsburg community across the town and gown divide through the celebration of film and film culture,” professor Tim Barnard said. “What we achieved on Saturday was this really fun experiment in making a film as a community.”

The LipDub film project was designed as a fall promotional event for the February Film Festival. The idea stemmed from the recent popularity that West Side Story has garnered on Glee and the 50th anniversary of the film.

“We had the idea before fall break, and then when we got back, we just hit the ground running,” Thompson said. “It has been the last three to four weeks of just going crazy on this. They really have put their best foot forward.”

Now, the students will work over the course of the week to complete a finished product. The LipDub will premiere Nov. 12 at the Kimball Theatre before an anniversary showing of West Side Story.
“The next step is [to] go into the editing room, and we need to edit,” Barnard said. “We had eight cinematographers filming and we need to go through all of that footage and piece it together. The film will be about three minutes long.”

Led by directors Matt Sonnenfeld ’12 and Roman Dent ’12, the team of students working on the project Saturday included members of the Global Film Festival History and Production class and some alumni of the class. The class focuses on the academic side of film festivals while allowing students to learn through experience as well.

“We spend the first part of the semester where we study the history of film festival and the role they play in the global film culture,” Barnard said. “Then we start producing and planning and making preparations for our own film festival.”

The theme of this year’s film festival is “The City.” The LipDub project fit appropriately with the theme, focusing on a city conflict and adapting it to a local town level.

“It is all really to introduce the theme of the February main event where we will have films from all around the world that are related to the city or feature the city,” Barnard said.

The LipDub project is something that has never before been attempted in Williamsburg. Barnard was concerned about undertaking such a large project in such a short period of time, but the end result was satisfying.

“I thought it went fantastically,” Barnard said. “There were a lot of unknowns about what to expect. For almost everyone involved, including myself, we had never done anything like that before.”
For the directors, seeing their hard work come together in a matter of a few short weeks was a new experience.

“The first time I called action on the rumble was just a wide shot shooting from stage over onto the entire audience,” Sonnerfeld said. “The first time I called action and everyone got up and did their piece and it just started to go simultaneously, I just couldn’t hide my smile.”

For Dent, who has worked on other film projects, getting to play the role of director played to his future dreams.

“As an aspiring filmmaker, it was a totally unique experience,” Dent said. “It was kind of a system overload experience just to concentrate on directing and to have all of these things happening unbeknownst to you.”
Former basketball player David Schneider ’10 and Dylan McCann ’12 played Tony and Maria. Schneider and McCann are currently dating, and Schneider is now a Townie and McCann is a TWAMP, so the match fit the movie.

“I think it was surreal because we are dating right now,” Schneider said. “Everyone was joking about the chemistry we had from the get go, and it was definitely great chemistry. She carried my performance.”

After a cancellation the week before, the film festival team put the filming together and brought both the TWAMPs and the Townies on one level playing field.

“The moment when all of the TWAMPs were on one end of Merchant Square and the others were on the other side, you could just feel the sense of community fun and community unity,” Barnard said. “I feel like we already succeeded in fulfilling the mission of the film festival.”

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