The Big Boohoo premiered on June 4, 2021, via a YouTube link and a celebratory cast and crew party. The production was a collaboration between Ms. Nicole Roberge’s Rivers Edge actors and Mr. Mike Schoenhals’ film class. The film came to life in a year like no other. Ms. Roberge and her actors were able to make quick changes during the production of ‘The Big Boohoo,’ creating a safe environment for the cast and crew.
Musical theatre will always be one of the most memorable experiences for high-school students, but because of COVID-19, the production team had to take a different approach. The Casting Director and Musical Theater teacher, Ms. Roberge had the idea of performing the musical like a movie. She collaborated with Mr. Schoenhals’ Film 11/12 class, who were honoured to contribute to this year’s show, ‘The Big Boo Hoo’. All involved worked extremely hard to bring the idea to life, which was no small feat as attested to by Ms. Roberge. “There were 27 cast members, 26 extras, 35 crew members with 10 locational shoots over a period of seven months. The film is 42 minutes in length and highlights the Riverside Secondary talent in front and behind the camera.”
The cast and film class students were excited to be working on a never-before-seen production at Riverside Secondary. The experience of filming a movie musical is unlike any other high school show, as ‘The Big Boo Hoo’ is meant to be a stage musical, a creative adaptation of the Broadway musical “Crybaby”, in homage to the John Waters’ film of the same name (1990). Ms. Roberge describes it as “a ridiculous rockabilly romp with absurd parallels to our own pandemic response.”
The seven-month project was a huge time commitment for the student actors, as it was still in progress after the initial Quarter when they learned about the musical and the character roles. The cast had to memorize their lines and the staging of specific scenes, filmed in the weeks beyond the course. During filming, the cast and crew followed COVID-19 guidelines. Masks were consistently worn, except when filming on set. During the two weeks of a cohort, all physical contact scenes, such as the ‘Squeaky Clean’ preceding into a fight scene, were pre-recorded and rehearsed.
Mr. Schoenhals’ Film 11/12 class began filming “The Big Boo” near the close of Quarter 2 and the beginning of Quarter 3. Students enrolled in the Film 11/12 class were not obligated to assist with the film/directing production as it was not part of the course outline; however, Mr. Schoenhals gave his students the option to assist if they were interested in learning more about filming a production.
Grade 12, Sydney Ilaender was the Director and Video Editor of “The Big Boo Hoo” along with her associate directors, grade 12’s Calista Hunter and Zeena Salman. Other students outside of the classes were involved in the production as well, such as grade 11 Dzenan Jauzovic, who assisted with the filming because of his experience with photography. Many roles needed to be filled in a project this size: sound technicians, directors of photography, videographers, and a stage crew.
The directors were receptive to their teachers’ recommendations, although the directors were more in control of the filming than Ms. Roberge and Mr. Schoenhals, meaning Ilaender and her assistants still had the final say of what would look best from a camera’s perspective. “Ms. Roberge worked with the cast on staging and vocal projection, and when I came in to direct, I would – if needed- modify the staging, lighting, or camera position that best suited the moment,” said Ilaender.
For the duration of filming a safe environment was maintained for the actors and crew; grade 12 Denisa Doftoreanu, who played Mrs. Vernon-Williams explained that the cast and crew wore masks when the directors were discussing ideas on how the next shot should appear. “‘Masks off!’ Sydney would exclaim, as we begin screen recording again. The actors would then remove their masks and filming would proceed while the crew continued to wear their masks. When the director calls, “Cut!” everyone would put their masks back on,” said Doftoreanu.
The last day of filming of ‘The Big Boo Hoo’ was on April 28, 2021. Ilaender took the responsibility of editing all the clips in her own free time. “I completed the film editing around Quarter 3, when I had Film Independent studies, and he (Mr. Schoenhals) assisted me as needed.” In total, Ilaender, spent at least 120 hours of editing during Quarter 3. In addition, Ilaender used this film project for her grade 12 Capstone project by creating a ‘behind-the-scenes’ documentary of how the cast and crew overcame everything during the pandemic.
‘The Big Boo Hoo’ was submitted to the 2021 ‘B.C Student Film Festival,’ where hundreds of films are produced by students in the province with only 30 finalists. ‘The Big Boo Hoo’ and Ilaender’s ‘behind-the-scenes’ film documentary were nominated for: Best Documentary, Best Long Form, and Best Set Design.
The success of this project was an extraordinary experience for the 2021 senior musical theatre students, one that they will never forget. Grade 12 student, Nicholas Ucrainet, who starred as ‘Cry Baby’ reflected on his own experience. “The premiere was very emotional; the amount of work that went into this with individuals I’ve known since grade nine, it’s a lot to take in, and I felt proud of what I’d accomplished. There were ups and downs, but we maintained the attitude of ‘Let’s embrace this, we can do this together as a team as this is the last thing we can do together as the class 2021, so let’s finish this together’.”
With hard work and dedication, it is no wonder why ‘The Big Boo Hoo’ was the highlight of this year’s school year.