By the Numbers -- The Making of "Colma: The Musical"

Susan Gerhard June 21, 2006

The idea for making a musical about a city in which the dead outnumber the living — Colma, CA — occurred because H.P. Mendoza’s was living in Philadelphia and couldn’t afford a birthday gift for his best friend. So, says Rich Wong, the director of “Colma: The Musical”), he decided to write him a song… which became an album about their life growing up in a cemetery city, and is now a film playing Frameline30. Wong weighs in on the hardest song to bring to life in the graveyard capital of the Bay Area.

Wong: “The most difficult musical scene was a number called “Crash The Party.” This is a single take oner that bridges the end of one song (“Things Will Get Better”) and an entire separate song (“Crash The Party”) which is something I always wanted to do in a musical. It starts outside where the three friends arrive finishing up a song, goes into some dialogue, and then straight into “Crash The Party,” where the kids walk into a house and around this party. The shot was tough logistically alone, any oner is tough because you have to hide lights and move them around while the camera is pointed away, etc. But to add to that, all the singing in the movie is lip-synched, so we had the sound man behind the camera all the time carrying a boombox so the actors could hear the music and lip-synch to themselves. Then all the blocking and positioning so various things could be seen at various times; it all was a real dance and everyone had to have their moves perfect… or close to perfect, at least. H.P. and I are big on imperfect. To make this shot, which is close to 8 minutes long, we had a whole day to work out the blocking and lighting and then the next day to shoot it. That’s by far the longest it took for a single number — comparatively “Goodbye Stupid” was shot in 5 hours.”

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