By Alex Bacon/The AS Review
“WWUsical,” a film about an emo girl, her friendship with Death and her football-playing, wannabe-actor boyfriend, will premiere at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 28 in Fraser 4. Director Gabe Conroy, a Western senior, directed the film.
Shortly after his first film “Lord of Zombie City” came out in spring of 2008, Conroy was thinking about his next project, which became “WWUsical.” The idea for a musical came to Conroy just as “High School Musical” was gaining popularity. Conroy said he wanted to parody “High School Musical,” but as he watched it, nothing was really standing out. Then, as he was looking through his friend Holly Hudon’s (who was cast as the lead, Kira) pictures online, he came across some of her “emo” pictures and the idea came to him. Conroy said that the emo theme naturally went toward death and he liked the idea of the personification of it. Scripting started during summer of 2008 and some shooting took place that fall.
Over the course of the next year and a half, there were hurdles and unforeseen challenges, Conroy said. A couple characters went through recasting. The main character’s boyfriend Trey was originally played by Sean Wood, but was eventually replaced by Kyle Henick. Death was played by three different people, but is voiced by David Horbitz. Also, the original composer for the project left and was replaced by David Dees.
Besides casting issues, the weather also posed a challenge throughout filming. One shoot happened during a blizzard on Mt. Baker. During another shoot on Mt. Baker, the iPod stand Conroy was using died, so he played the music the cast was supposed to be singing to from his phone. The phone kept freezing so he had to keep putting it in his pocket to warm it up. That day they shot for 14 hours.
“I felt bad for my actors, they were really, really cold,” Conroy said.
Another problem that could have been a major setback had to do with sculptures on campus. Shortly before filming began, Conroy was informed that in order to film or take pictures of sculptures around campus, he would have to get direct permission from the sculptor. Conroy wrote to Bruce Nauman, the creator of “Stadium Piece” (located by the Communications Facility) for permission and didn’t hear anything for three weeks. When he got a response, the sculptor said no, he couldn’t film his piece. Conroy reworked the scene and was careful to film without including the sculpture.
But, Conroy said Tom Otterness, the artist behind “Feats of Strength,” between the Atrium and the Biology building, allowed Conroy to film his sculptures. Otterness asked for a clip from the movie for his Web site.
Originally, “WWUsical” was set to debut in spring of 2009. For various reasons, it got pushed back to fall quarter and then again to winter quarter 2010. The film was intended to be 10 to 15 minutes long, but now, it’s at a solid 40 minutes, with tight editing, Conroy said. Filming continued through fall quarter 2009, and even as close to a week before “WWUsical” is set to open, Conroy is finishing up the final tweaks and changes.
A creative writing major, he hopes to become a director in the future. He’s currently employed by AnchorLight Productions of Bellingham. He started out as a writer for “You Would!”, KVIK’s sketch comedy show.
What’s next for Conroy?
“Maybe go to film school, maybe not,” he said.
He already has ideas, though. His roommate Liz Leo is going to direct a sequel to “WWUsical.” Conroy would also like to do a serious film for KVIK, because he’d like to direct serious films as a career, instead of comedies.