From left, Laura Yeadon, Sage Dentremont, T.J. Willis, Stella Walke, Ly Dillon, Rex DeMuro, director Frank Bachman, costume designer Marilee Marchese and director of photography Jeff Zaman. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS DOUGHERTY

MDI High School Drama films fall musical

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — With live performances on hold, Mount Desert Island High School’s fall musical adaptation of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera “Ruddigore” was made into a movie instead. 

Filming was all new to Frank Bachman, who has been one of the high school’s directors for 20 years. Bachman said he enjoyed the new learning experience. “The filming is complete; I would say the editing is about 85 percent complete.”   

One year ago, just a few months after a successful live fall musical, everything came to a sudden stop for the drama department because of the pandemic. 

“We weren’t able to do our annual spring play productions, so the theater staff and students met virtually throughout the summer to act as a think tank,” said Bachman.  

The department looked into the feasibility of holding a live performance, but ultimately realized it would be impossible given pandemic restrictions.  “Certainly, the size of crowds, distancing, masking, singing and instruments were all restricted,” said Bachman, adding, “we needed 14 feet to sing, instrumentalists had to be 50 feet apart, so it was clear that a normal performance just wasn’t going to happen.”  

The cast films the big dance number in the outfield of the MDIHS softball field.

Once they settled on the idea of a movie, the department was still unsure how to proceed. “We even sort of missed the month of September because we just weren’t sure that we were going to be able to pull it off,” said Bachman.  

It wasn’t until the high school’s film teacher, Jeff Zaman, joined the production with his experience and expertise in filmmaking that the team was able to start the filming process. “When things started to get rolling, [everything] just kind of fell into place,” Bachman said.  

Auditions were held virtually where students submitted videos of themselves singing. Similar to the auditions, the rehearsals were also virtual, though some were held outdoors when weather allowed“When the weather was warm, out in front of the art wing entrance and we carried the equipment out, so we had a keyboard outside,” said Bachman. 

Similar to how it was done in Hollywood with a musical, the team initially focused on filming the dialogue scenes. “Meanwhile, when they were learning the musicmostly virtually and one-on-one with Anne Leonardiwe realized that we weren’t going to be able to utilize live musicians [for] music accompaniment,” Bachman said.  

From left, Grace Curry, CassieLyn Willis, Eva Crikelair and Zoe Horton.

Because Gilbert and Sullivan offers prerecorded files, the high school was able to modify them for the custom music accompaniment tracks. “So, what we would do when filming was simply play the recorded accompaniment, the cast would sing along, but we wouldn’t record the sound,” said Bachman, adding that the sound was recorded later to the same backing track. 

During the time the production was filmed, cast members remained distant as a play on camera angles was developed to make it look like people were next to each other. According to Bachman, in the early stages when students were filming without masks, to remain safe against COVID-19, “We had individuals that were sort of watch dogs making sure that everyone was distant and safe. With the eye of the camera and movie magic, we could look like the students were doing scenes together.” 

About 85 percent of the movie was filmed outdoors. “We got permission to film in locations around the park and why not use the beautiful island where we live as a backdrop in this movie?” Bachman said. 

In addition to building a large set on stage where a small portion of the movie was filmed, Bachman said scenes were also shot at Compass Harbor, Somes Pond and various locations around the high school. “A lot of times, we would film scenes focusing on just one actor, and then bring it all together in the editing room.” 

As for the filming process, which took most of the academic year, the director said the primary footage is finally done. Now, with a nearly edited production, the cast and crew have been brainstorming options to present the finished product. “We’ve toyed with the idea of a drive-in movie presentation where we would stream the movie in the parking lot, like the high school did for graduation,” said Bachman.  

Given the unexpected circumstances they faced with COVID-19, the director said the production team could still find pride and enjoyment in the process. “Aside from the work of producing and composing a show, there’s a lot of comradery, it is all inclusive, everyone’s welcome, everyone works together and is supportive of one another.”  

If weather allows, the production department will soon be announcing a drive-in movie to take place at the high school parking lot and encourages all theater goers to attend. 

Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers news and features in the Bar Harbor area. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.
Ninah Rein

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