Seconds after the command rings out in the Kimball Theatre, the rumble begins. Throughout the aisles and between the rows, “townies” (Williamsburg residents) face off against “TWAMPs” (Typical William and Mary People). Chefs and cooks spar with members of the William & Mary fencing team, using pots and pans and even a giant carrot to deflect the thrusts of the foils. Gymnasts use their skills to flip and twist away from a group of angry Williamsburg residents. Elsewhere in the theatre, students hoist one of their own to use as a makeshift battering ram against a group of townspeople.
When “cut” is called, the scowls and threats turn to smiles, laughter and applause. The former foes apologize for accidentally making contact during the scene and offer a hand to those who have fallen during the scuffles. Both groups then return to their seats and get ready to do it all again, this time for cameras shooting from the back of the theatre.
The faux fights were all part of a day of filming organized and executed by the William & Mary Global Film Festival in order to create a short “lip dub” video that pays homage to West Side Story. The video, “SouthEast Side Story,” will premiere in advance of a 50th anniversary screening of West Side Story at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Kimball Theatre. The evening will kick off with a pizza and beer reception, which is included in the $5 ticket price for the event.
The event was created to help launch the 2012 Global Film Festival, which will be organized around the theme “Film and the City.” The festival, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary, will be held Feb. 16-19, 2012, at the Kimball Theatre. In addition to offering performances, filmmaker appearances and films from throughout the world, the 2012 festival will feature student-made films including two “City Symphony” documentaries created by William & Mary students and film submitted for global and local “Student Short Film Competitions.”
More than 200 people volunteered to serve as extras on Saturday. The extras from the College included faculty, staff, students and even the Griffin. Multiple student groups were represented at the filming, including the men’s gymnastics team, which was organized for the event by team member Kris Yeager.
The extras from the community included members of local swing dance club Lindy101, members of Zuma’s Mixed Martial Arts, and numerous other Williamsburg residents. The townies also included staff members from local restaurants like Retro’s. Chef David Everett, owner of The Blue Talon and The Trellis (sponsors of the event), led a crew of cooks from the two restaurants during the filming.
William & Mary President Taylor Reveley and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation President Colin Campbell even participated in the filming Saturday morning, shooting scenes at the College and in Colonial Williamsburg during which the two rival gangs in the film – in this version, the Townies and TWAMPs instead of the Jets and the Sharks – begin to form.
Student Assembly President Kaveh Sadeghian ’12 and Williamsburg Mayor Clyde Haulman serve as the leaders of the gangs in the film. Saturday afternoon, the two led the Townies and TWAMPs – snapping menacingly as in the original West Side Story – down Duke of Gloucester Street to a face-off in the middle of Merchant’s Square. Tourists lined the sidewalks to watch the filming in action and take photos.
The people who volunteered to participate in the day of filming said that they did so for a variety of reasons.
“It sounded like fun, and my birthday is tomorrow so I thought it’d be a fun way to kick off my birthday weekend,” said Williamsburg resident Erin Wright.
Molly Hilberg ’13, president of William & Mary Quidditch Club (a game based on one of the same name in the Harry Potter novels and films), participated as an extra to raise awareness for her club.
“We really wanted to expose the team because we’re a new club on campus, and we thought that this would be a great way to get exposure,” she said. “I thought it was a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to get publicity for their film festival coming up.”
Brian Murray, who works as an interpreter for Colonial Williamsburg, participated in filming dressed in his Colonial-era garb.
“Since it was a unique opportunity to do something fun, something between the College and the Foundation, I decided to chip in and lend a hand,” he said.
The filming was co-directed by Matt Sonnenfeld '12 and Roman Dent '12. The scenes were choreographed by Beth Allar, a massage therapist with a background in modern dance. Allar, who is married to William & Mary Assistant Professor of Theatre Matt Allar, previously choreographed a production of West Side Story.
Madeline Chessman ’12, programming assistant for the Film 351 class that is responsible for putting on the film festival, was one of the dozens of students who helped make the day a success.
“I love how amped everyone is and how early everyone heard about (the film festival) and just the fact that our audience is growing. It’s really, really exciting,” she said.
Chessman has worked on the film festival since her freshman year.
“I love working on this,” she said. “It’s my favorite thing to do at the College.”
Although the scenes that were shot throughout the day focus on a divide between Townies and TWAMPs, the day was really about bringing the two groups together, said Sadeghian.
“I think it’s such an incredible way of bringing the College and the community together but in a very novel, interesting and fun way,” he said. “I think this is where those really important interactions happen and the really good exposure to one another happens.”
Tim Barnard, director of the Global Film Festival and visiting assistant professor, was pleased with how the day turned out.
"Producing a community lip dub homage to West Side Story was a very ambitious project for our Global Film Festival team,” he said. “The students, however, rose to the challenge and demonstrated how professional they could be and how much fun the whole community could have together in the process. I couldn't be prouder of them, their hard work, their team work, and what we managed to accomplish. It was a challenging learning experience for all of us, and it resulted in an unprecedented community film-making event for our town."
For more information on the
film festival and Saturday’s screening of SouthEast Side Story, visit http://filmfestival.wm.edu/.