from the June 2010 issue of KC Stage
The problem with promotional videos is getting people to watch them. After all, who wants to voluntarily watch a commercial, even if it’s for something entertaining like the Kansas City Fringe Festival?
I was blogging for KC Stage one day and saw an article in the Lawrence Journal-World about a “lipdub” video that was shot in January at Lawrence High School. I had seen videos like it before, but it was exciting to see one made locally and the enthusiasm of the students was touching. It was a real community project.
For those of you that don’t know what a lipdub video is, the best way to find out is to actually see one. You can see Lawrence High School’s video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iBK9q8-9do.
The idea of the lipdub video originally came from students at Hochschule Furtwangen University in Germany, and they started a Web site at http://universitylipdub.com inviting others to produce their own videos. There are currently 44 featured on their Web site, and many more if you just search Youtube.
The thing that makes the lipdub video special is that everything is done in one camera take. It takes considerable group effort to pull it off, and it bridges the divide between film and live performance. There are no camera cuts to cover up a mistake, and when things go wrong you have to start over back at the beginning. That’s not a big deal for a four minute music video, but it’s incredible when taken to an epic scale, as it was done in the 2002 film The Russian Ark.
A short time after Lawrence High School shot their lipdub video, their rival Free State High School retaliated with a lipdub video of their own, again reported in the Lawrence Journal-World. Adding to the challenge, everyone learned their lines and choreography in reverse, so that the video had to be played backwards to sync up with the music. It’s impressive that it worked as well as it did.
After watching these videos, I thought this would be a great way to help promote the Fringe Festival (where I should confess that I’m debuting my new play Khan! the Musical.) It would allow Fringe performers to do a group project, and it would be a video that everyone would want to watch to see their performance in it. Hopefully it will get passed around to all the performers friends as well.
I talked to Matt Connolly, who created a video for the Fringe Festival last year. He said he was wondering what he was going to do for this year’s fringe, and this sounded like the perfect project. All we needed to do was figure out how.
Fringe Festival director Cheryl Kimmi talked to Rick Brown, and we were able to gain access to Crown Center on a Sunday morning before the mall opened. That meant an 8:00 a.m. call time—not ideal for theatre people but getting Crown Center was worth it. Then it was a question of finding the song. We knew we wanted a local musician, preferably one connected to the Fringe Festival. After exploring several possibilities, we decided on Ry Kincaid, who offered to write a song specifically for the video. Kincaid’s play Not Just for the Birds is being produced by Barstow High School at the Fringe, and he makes an appearance in the video.
With the song and venue settled, it was time to round up the artists. We weren’t sure if anyone would be interested, and we knew it would take a lot of people to make the project worthwhile. Luckily we were getting a lot of positive feedback from everyone we mentioned it to, so when the notice went out we were happy when dozens of people signed up in the first couple of days. The project was going to happen.
We had roughly 70 artists and volunteers show up at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 23. All of the artists were given lines from the song for lip syncing. Needless to say, the artists brought their own creativity to the project, with elaborate costumes and props. We had a group of hula hoop dancers, two muppets, clowns, a fan dancer, a DJ, a roller derby girl, and a guy dressed as a slice of pizza.
Craig Hietpas-Wilson was our camera operator, making a Herculean effort to capture all the action on queue without tripping up the escalators. After several abortive starts, we made it through four full runs before we got a take we were happy with.
I can’t thank enough all the people who showed up that day to help us. Many of them spent most of the morning just waiting for things to happen, which is the nature of filmmaking. Just like attending the Fringe Festival, I felt the sense of a community of artists coming together to support a greater cause.
The video is available at www.kcfringe.org.