The director/writer/star talks about this brand new YouTube feature film
Over the last few years, web-based content has exploded in popularity, with everything from Funny Or Die, secondary web videos for network TV shows that offer peripheral storylines and independent web series' that are sprouting up all over the internet. It was only a matter of time, I suppose, that we would start seeing feature films being created not only for the internet, but by creators of some innovative web content. High School Sucks: The Musical is such a film and, while release plans aren't fully concrete as of yet, the response to just the few videos posted on their YouTube channel has been overwhelming in such a short time. The first four-minute clip of the film was released on the channel three weeks ago and it already has 1.75 million hits so far. I was able to speak with Pedro Flores, the writer-director-actor-producer behind the film to talk about this innovative new film project. Here's what he had to say.
Can you talk about how this project first came about and how you got started with this?
Pedro Flores: Sure. It actually started with this viral video we did back in 2006 called The Kings of MySpace. It was this music video talking about MySpace and it did really well. We had a big push from Tom from MySpace and it got huge on YouTube. I think we had like 1.5 million views within a couple of weeks. It was huge. By the end of that, we just got our foot in the door with different studios and we were able to pitch other projects. One of the projects that was pitched was kind of a sequel to that called The Kings of YouTube, which is now a music video about YouTube and that's how I kind of got in contact with Lakeshore Records and all that. From there it was born. We kind of went to this small viral video to this full feature-length film that was created by the YouTube community.
When you did get the ball rolling on this, how did the casting and scripting process move along for you guys?
Pedro Flores: Well, the cast was pretty much all of the people that I had worked with on The Kings of MySpace and The Kings of YouTube and other films that I've done, other web videos I've done. There are other small parts that we did have casting calls for, so we had some leverage with the big stuff we had done on the web, and we had a lot of different talent come in, not only acting-wise by crew-wise as well. We pretty much built our crew from there. As far as the writing goes, it took me about three and a half months to write it. For the music, my partner, Tim Chantarangsu writes the music. How we work is I write a story and he turns it into a song, so that's the process.
The clip that I watched, it almost seems like this is a mock musical. Would that be fair to say?
Pedro Flores: Yeah, kind of. It makes fun of musicals, but it's not really a spoof.
Yeah. I know it's not a spoof, but it does seem to poke fun at the whole format of the musical a bit.
Pedro Flores: Yeah, but at the same time, it does kind of take itself seriously as a musical. It kind of goes both ways. That first scene it does kind of make fun of musicals, with the main character breaking out in song and the other character questions the fact that they just broke into song. At the same time, all of the musical numbers, everyone takes it very seriously and it drives the story, it doesn't really stop the story. What I based it on was, when I was writing the script, I'm a really big fan of Flight of the Conchords, so it's kind of like that. When they go into musical numbers, it drives the story forward, whereas in most musicals, they just go into musical numbers and it's like, 'OK, that explains nothing. What the hell is going on? You just sang about underwear for the last half hour and gave us no new information.' So, in that sense, it isn't a mock musical, but at the same time it is because it does make fun of itself.
Are you still filming on this right now then?
Pedro Flores: Yeah. We've been filming for about six months now. We've been filming for quite awhile. We have maybe three more days left, I hope. We should have it done in a couple of months.
What is your plan after that then? Are you looking to put it on YouTube or are you looking for a DVD deal? What's your ultimate goal for this?
Pedro Flores: Well, we're trying to release it in multiple platforms. We want to do it on DVD, YouTube, iTunes, theatrical, anything we can get our hands on. It's not just for YouTube. It's pretty big. We don't just want to put it on YouTube, but if it ends up on YouTube, it's no problem. It's just a big project and I definitely want to get it out in as many forms as I can.
Do you have a runtime locked on this yet? This will be feature-length, correct?
Pedro Flores: Yeah. It's going to run between 90 minutes and 110 minutes. From the looks of it right now, it will be 90 minutes, but the director's cut could be 110 minutes.
Would you throw some extra musical numbers in there that didn't make it into the film?
Pedro Flores: Yeah. There are 12 musical numbers in it and there's a lot of story. It's definitely a big movie.
Does this get more into the dancing aspect of musicals too or is it just mainly songs?
Pedro Flores: No, it doesn't get into dancing at all (Laughs). None of us can dance. When we first started writing it, we were definitely staying away from it. It's more singing and comedy than anything else. There is maybe some dancing in the beginning, in the intro, but there's no choreography or anything. It was more for comedic purposes.
It's not Fame then, is what you're saying.
Pedro Flores: Yeah, exactly.
The first clip you guys released was huge. It was at like 1.5 million hits or something like that. When are you guys planning on releasing the next clip?
Pedro Flores: It's doing extremely well. It's doing way better than I thought it would do. No, I'm kidding, I knew it was going to do this well (Laughs). I think the next clip is going to go up, I believe, next month, in July. I think we're going to release a trailer, an official trailer. There are a lot more characters than what you see in the intro. You only really see a few people and there are a lot of different characters. There are villains in the movie and the good guys. You kind of get a taste, if you look in the background in the first number.
I know a lot of people do things like production diaries or behind-the-scenes videos online. Are you planning on doing anything like that that you'll be putting online?
Pedro Flores: Oh yeah. There will be tons of that. We had an on-set photographer and a behind-the-scenes guy on every day that we shot. It's so much footage that I wanted to release it as I went, to try to get the film going, but I'm putting in seven days a week. If I'm not shooting, I'm doing something else for the production, calling an actor, trying to get them on set, or trying to get a crew member on set, food on set, everything. It's been tough, but there are definitely a lot of things that we want to release, a lot of behind-the-scenes footage, a lot of side stuff, side stories to keep people interested.
You said you have been filming for six months. Has that been really staggered? Does it depend on everyone else's schedule?
Pedro Flores: It's been a weekend movie. That's kind of what it's been. We've been filming every weekend, some during the week when we can. A lot of people that work on the film have second jobs, so that's what's been tough about it. It's been a weekend movie and we have a decent budget for it, but, at the same time, that's why the process has been so long. We're filming at a real school, so that's why it's been a weekend movie. School is in during the week, so we have to film Saturday and Sunday, or during a holiday when school is off. It's been a challenge, but it's almost done and we're getting everything together. Everything looks great, or I think it looks great. I don't know if everybody else does.
Are there any projects that you have lined up after this that you're lining up that you can talk about?
Pedro Flores: I'm trying to get into more features. That's what I'm trying to do. Hopefully this is just a stepping stone.
Finally, what would you like to say to anyone who has seen the clips and have been commenting on the videos online or anyone else who might be curious about why they should check it out when it gets released?
Pedro Flores: I just want to thank everybody. Everyone has been just so supportive. There have been, literally, about 11,000 comments and I've read every single one. I really have and 99% of it has been positive. It's really overwhelming how everybody has been taking it. I'm really proud of it and I really hope they like the rest of it. I just want to thank everybody for their support and to pass it around, pass around the link. The more hype we get, we can get it out to as many people as we can.
Excellent. That's about all I have for you. Thanks so much for your time, Pedro, and best of luck finishing the film.
Pedro Flores: Thank you. Thank you very much. Have a good one.
You can check out the current videos for Pedro Flores's High School Sucks: The Musical at YouTube.com/HSSMusical to watch the intro clip and a new video from Flores and Tim Chantarangsu thanking the fans and answering some questions about the film. You can also find the intro song on iTunes as well.