After the wild success of last year’s senior send-off video — a Rye High staff lip dub of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” with 25,995 hits and counting — the thought of a follow-up video was a welcomed challenge.
By Judd Rothstein
After the wild success of last year’s senior send-off video — a Rye High staff lip dub of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” with 25,995 hits and counting — the thought of a follow-up video was a welcomed challenge. The first step was to find the heir apparent to Sawyer Turcotte (the director of last year’s video who graduated last June). While trying to rank the quality of the many student-produced historical videos from my U.S. history course last year, one senior rose to the top of the list: Jack Hasselmann. He had a proven track record with several hilarious, well-directed videos featuring his classmates. When I approached Jack in early spring, he was excited to join forces, so we were on our way.
The next step was figuring out what song to use. Often, when I’m listening to the radio, I try to picture which songs would work best with this style of video. When I heard Phillip Phillip’s, “Home,” replete with its great chorus and instrumental track, I knew we had the winner. What first drew me to the hit song was the sentimental message of the chorus: “Just know you’re not alone. We’re going to make this place your home.” The RHS staff feels strongly about the importance of creating a safe, inclusive environment throughout the school, so this line rang true to me. From Jack’s perspective, “Rye High has been my home and that of my classmates and always will be. That was a strong message in our video, and I hope it shows the underclassmen how friendly and fun the teachers really are.”
We loved the song choice, but wanted an even more elaborate production this year than last. It didn’t take long for us both to arrive at the same conclusion: The Harlem Shake. Jack had already produced a hilarious Harlem Shake video that got close to 7,000 hits in its first 24 hours, so I knew his vision and creativity would ensure our version would be just as great.
During pre-production on the Harlem Shake part of the video, I had the inspiration for a parting message to the seniors: “Go ‘shake’ up the world.” Given the times in which we live, nothing seems to be static; technology and innovation move at breakneck speeds; and any small idea can grow into the next great product. I wanted the graduating class to embrace the idea that they could be agents of change. Jack agreed that the slogan, “Shake up the world,” was perfect for this year’s class. “We are full of character and each of us is poised to make our own mark on the world.”
After I knew that Jack liked the slogan, Ms. Foster and I grabbed some paint and brushes and got to work.
It has become a tradition for the video to be a complete surprise for the student body. (Sawyer and Jack didn’t even tell their best friends; in fact, Jack was fibbing to people, telling them that he was shooting a video for me to give to Ms. Foster as a fifth anniversary present!) We waited for the high school to clear out to begin shooting. Each of the three takes was an exercise in producing organized chaos. There were 35 teachers running from one position to the next, doors opening and closing, and teachers popping out from behind doors, windows, bookshelves, and even out of trash bins. The continuous shot ended in the auditorium as Jack placed the camera on a makeshift tripod designed by stage manager Alec Hufford.
Once the camera was in place, the Harlem Shake hit the stage. We shot a few takes and knew right away that the moves on the stage would put the Soul Train to shame. After shooting short clips of groups of five staff members for the credits, it was a wrap!
The last step was a long night of editing with Andrew Dapolite (class of 2007). As always, Andrew’s amazing skills helped create the final, polished video. Jack and I left Andrew’s office late that night with a DVD to be played at the final RHS Award’s Assembly, with “Home” stuck in our heads after listening to it for the 99th time, and with aspirations for another viral hit!
Watch the RHS staff video, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8uQFIz0gBo