Grace McCune and Jake Perrine are known for their lavish stage productions that bring together singers and dancers of all ages through the Rock on the Rock choirs.
This spring, they chose a new direction: a 40-minute film starring island kids and teens.
“We wanted to try something new,” said Musical Director McCune. “We thought it would be so fun to make music videos and create a film. The kids are really highlighted in their own show. There are more opportunities for solos. It was also easier for them to ham it up and perform because there wasn’t an audience.”
“This Is Me” depicts a day in the life of a public school student, starting with arrival off the bus (the kids sing a mashup of “Good Day Sunshine,” “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “More than a Feeling” and “Beautiful Day”) and ending with a school dance that night. While the film of song and dance has many joyful moments, McCune and Perrine say it also explores “real high school issues” like bullying, suicide, gun control and dreaming about the future.
“It’s the different colors of a kid’s day,” said Perrine, who directed, edited and mixed the movie.
“This Is Me” will be presented on Sunday, June 3, at the Seaview Theatre with a $5 suggested donation. There are 1 and 3 p.m. showings with a Q&A reception at 2 p.m. The film was created in partnership with the Orcas Island Education Foundation, Orcas Video and Rock on the Rock.
The film features a mix of singers from the public, Salmonberry, Spring Street and Orcas Christian schools as well as dance students of Tiffany Loney and Katie Zwilling. The kid and tween choir participants were joined by Perrine’s high school drama class, which studied “Hamlet” earlier in the year. The students wrote three storylines for the number “Until it Happens to You,” which explores some of the challenging issues that students face.
“They did it from conception to final project – including the storyboard, shot list, etc.,” said Perrine.
The young actors sing a variety of new songs as well as classics, and for any that had unsuitable lyrics, Perrine rewrote the pieces. McCune created new arrangements of songs to meet the needs of the choir and soloists.
OIEF provided nearly full funding for the project, which was filmed and recorded almost entirely on the public school campus. Rehearsals began at the end of March. Singers would learn their choir or solo parts, record them in the band room and then move on to the next piece.
“This whole thing has been a sprint. But sometimes being under the gun produces great results. The kids loved it because it’s minimal effort and maximum star power,” said Perrine, when comparing a live theater show to film.
For the final product, he used modern editing techniques like overlays and transparency to kick up the visuals.
“As the film editor, you are creating the performance. It’s kind of daunting, actually,” said Perrine. “We are using imagery to infuse media into the message.”
Others who contributed to the film were cinematographers Erin Bennett and Emily Abdon of Orcas Video, production assistant Stormy Hildreth, teacher Val Hellar, bandleader Darren Dix and superintendent Kyle Freeman.
“The film is really about the courage to be yourself,” said McCune. “And I think it’s wonderful that 20 years from now, the kids can show this to their own children as a snapshot of how their lives were.”