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Article updated: 12/2/2011 11:29 AM

How Glenbrook South shot amazing 11-minute video

2,650 students put together video for school's 50th anniversary

By Madhu Krishnamurthy

Getting 2,650 boisterous teenagers to spontaneously perform on camera for a music video mostly shot in a single take has to be the most remarkable feat Glenbrook South High School students pulled off this year.

The 11-minute "lip dub" -- combining lip syncing and audio dubbing -- was produced last month by the Glenview school's film students to mark the school's 50th anniversary.

The video kicked off the school's 2011 Titan Telethon, a 24-hour live television event raising more than $80,000 for Youth Services of Glenview/Northbrook.

The film opens with Glenbrook's mascot, Tommy the Titan, riding a horse -- no animals were injured during filming -- and ends with aerial shots of the campus taken from a helicopter hired for the occasion. The video production cost roughly $1,100 paid for through funds raised by students.

From conceptualizing to final cut, the video took roughly two weeks to produce and was shot over two days with just one practice run. No instructional time was lost, Principal Brian Wegley said.

"Conceptually, it is amazing how complex it got," Wegley said.

School officials hatched the idea of creating a music video with the entire school as the cast of characters last summer after seeing similar "lip dub" videos produced by communities and colleges.

Glenbrook South HS Lip Dub (2011) from Glenbrook South Television on Vimeo.

Glenbrook students were instructed to "have controlled fun," which meant no inappropriate gestures.

"I loved the idea because it captured everybody in our school on our 50th," Wegley said. "(Students) really came together and did such a nice job. It's reflective of the culture of the school and the quality of the kids we have. Without their insight, their creativity, their energy, this doesn't happen."

A majority of the filming of the 11-minute video was done during a scheduled 40-minute assembly before the start of the telethon.

Students took over the entire school, dancing, cheering and lip-syncing to carefully choreographed recordings of popular songs representing the past five decades.

The school's faculty and administrators also are embedded in the video, including a math teacher who gets a pie in the face, but they are hardly distinguishable from the sea of student faces.

The camera takes viewers on a tour of the building, brightened by balloons and confetti, as students highlight the various educational programs and extracurricular activities, including chess, cheerleading, science, horticulture, ceramics and football.

"We wanted to show off the school," said Jim Shellard, assistant principal for student activities who oversaw the project.

The most intricate filming involved a variety show with students juggling in one of the main stairways, he said.

Much of the filming was done with a glide camera harnessed onto a special vest and operated by junior John Paul O'Rourke, who at one point jumps onto the back of a golf cart speeding down a hallway for added effect. Junior Kevin Mathein had O'Rourke's back -- holding it throughout the filming to help keep the camera steady.

"The most challenging part was probably just being on time everywhere," O'Rourke said.

The first editor's cut doesn't appear until eight minutes into the 11-minute film, when the shot switches to an underwater camera showing the swim team in action, which was filmed a day earlier.

The video ends with more than 1,000 students wearing colorful ponchos rushing the football field to create the letters GBS -- filmed with four cameras on the field and one in the helicopter.

"The idea was to dream big and (that) nothing is too big," said senior Troy Farsakian, student council representative.

Farsakian said seniors were picked to lead the various choreographed performances.

Only the camera crew and students who lip-synced actually practiced for the shoot. The rest was improvised, said Mark Ferguson, director of television and film production.

"My TV students have really a high reputation in the school," Ferguson said. "It's a testament to their maturity and professionalism."

Senior Connor Smith, who directed the video, said he had to finish editing the film in little more than an hour after shooting because students were clamoring to see it.

"This is unlike anything I've ever done," Smith said. "Everyone in the school was pushing. Everyone in the school was doing something amazing. The way we do things here is a whole another level. It just shows what GBS is all about."

Junior Olivia Kane, who was part of the production crew, said excitement about the project continued long after the shoot.

"It was such a positive impact on the student body," she said.

Wegley said the video generated a lot of interest in the school's telethon, which raised well above the $50,000 goal. It will be included in a time capsule to be opened on the school's 75th anniversary, he said.

"It's cool that it's going to be there indefinitely," Smith said.

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