Great Barrington — Life, you might say, is something akin to a lip dub. You can prepare as much as possible for it, but at the end of the day, you only get one take. And yet, when done right, it can be downright inspiring.
Monument Mountain’s fourth lip dub — a lip-synched music video that typically involves a large number of people and constant forward movement shot in one continuous take — was directed by a Taylor Slonaker, a self-described previously shy sophomore who had never taken on a project quite so big.
A lip dub at the high school requires organizing and choreographing more than 500 participants. Essentially, the entire high school comes to a standstill — the entire building focused on one project, student body and faculty all assembled and awaiting direction from a 15-year-old.
“It was intimidating because as a sophomore I wasn’t sure everyone was going to listen to me,” Slonaker says. “But they did.”
AV teacher, Paul Kakley, helped Slonaker choose the song — “We’re All In This Together” by Ben Lee — and Slonaker received help from Junior Dan Santos, whom she describes as “the best film guy at school.” But the rest was on her.
She had to choose the path for the dub, which requires constant forward momentum through the school, including classrooms, hallways, and ultimately the gymnasium. She had to time it for 04:39 (the length of the song), seek approval from Principal Marianne Young and other teachers, choose the lead dubbers, choreograph what the 500-plus participants would do when the camera shone on them, add distinctive creative touches, and ultimately schedule a time for the filming. Apparently, eighth period on the last day of school before spring break is the golden hour for MMRHS lip dubbing.
The choice of music was particularly important and ultimately poignant given all that has happened nationally and locally this past year. “The song is about community coming together,” Slonaker says. “The country is so divided. I thought the school could present a message of unity. It’s okay to disagree on things, but we can still treat each other with respect. It doesn’t matter what our races are, our gender identities, sexual orientations, religious beliefs — we can all get along in the world and find similarities amongst our differences.”
To emphasize her point, Slonaker began her video with a handful of students holding a globe and describing their wishes for the world. Slonaker was then inspired to ask participants to hand off the globe to one another as the lip dub progressed through the school.
Slonaker and Santos filmed five versions of the lip dub — with Slonaker calling out instructions with a microphone beside her cameraman — and chose the fifth run to present to the world (1,800 views on YouTube so far). Given that lip dubs aren’t edited, postproduction involved little more than laying a clean audio track of the song to accompany the video.
It’s hard to imagine a sophomore directing an entire school population while commandeering the school building, but that’s precisely what she accomplished.
“A lot of people didn’t even know who I was before the project because I moved here,” said Slonaker, who also starred in the spring musical. “It’s a lot of exposure for a sophomore, but it’s been okay.
“And doing the project was awesome. I put so much work into it, and to have people appreciate it, that’s when you feel really happy about it.”
Check it out: https://youtu.be/sv4YgfdceJ0