The Master’s University (TMU) has produced its first-ever musical film, “The Lunch Rush.” The plot is about a young widower reuniting with his late wife who mysteriously appears every day for an hour at a diner where they had their first date.
This is the university’s fourth short film, all of them student-led. Roughly 30-40 students were involved, most of them majoring in communication with an emphasis in Cinema and Digital Arts (CDA). They also were joined by about 20 industry professionals.
“It’s a big combination,” said professor Matt Green, who supervises the CDA emphasis. “These professionals have worked on big, $10-15 million feature films. That raises [the students’] game because they don’t want to be looked at as a student. They want to be looked at as a peer.”
Green and professor Bob Dickson, the department chair, created the concept. They handed it to students Ali Rae and Kyle Shannon to write, both of whom are enrolled in the university’s screenwriting course.
The score and songs for the musical are all original. Grant Fonda, an adjunct professor in the school’s music department and a composer in the film industry, wrote the score—and Capitol Records will bring it to life with a full, 20-piece orchestra. Fonda also co-wrote the songs with Ryan Foglesong, a music instructor at TMU.
“The songs are crazy catchy,” Green said. “I walk through my house singing them most of the time.”
Professional actors Jonathan Byram and Meredith Pyle play the lead roles.
“It was really cool working with professional actors,” said student director Kari Anne Frazer. “They did a really good job.”
The film was shot at Cadillac Jacks, a retired ’50s diner in Sun Valley, CA, and lasted from 6:00 a.m. until midnight. Some parts of the film were shot at night, but the plot called for all scenes to be in daylight, so the crew had to remedy the problem.
“We set up big, long canvases outside the windows and shot really bright lights at them so that the reflection would go into the windows,” said student producer Whitney Gomillion. “It was really weird filming at night, like at 11 o’clock, but it looked like it was daytime in the cafeteria.”
The film brought other challenges particular to the nature of a musical.
“We had to think about choreography, we had to plan out where [the actors] were going to move and what it was going to look like,” Frazer said. “We also had to work with lip syncing. We would play the music out loud, and they would have to sing with the recorded track.”
To create this piece, the music had to be recorded first, influencing how the film was shot.
“We had to be focused on the music a lot more than usual,” Gomillion said. “The score and the songs were written first, so we had to make sure what was showing in picture matched the music. … It all had to look really good so it sounded good.”
According to Green, a project of this size should take six months to finish, but the students have done it in three. They have put roughly 100 hours into creating this film.
“It’s a testament to the hard work of everybody involved,” he said.
The final mix for the film will be done at Arcay Studios. Other companies that partnered with Master’s were Black Magic Design and Red Scorpion LEDs.
The premiere of “The Lunch Rush” will be at EHC 100 on the Master’s North Campus site at 9:15 p.m. on April 25. The film has a running time of approximately 14 minutes.