A portion of a 20-minute lip-dub video featuring Gotha Middle students and staff was featured on the “Today” show May 28.
Not many middle-school students can say they capped off their school year by making it on national television.
Then again, the students at Gotha Middle aren’t your ordinary middle-schoolers.
A brief part of a lip-dub video the school created was featured on the “Today” show May 28. It was the third lip-dub video the school created, and it featured almost every single student, teacher and staff member.
The 20-minute video features about 80 different songs and involves all 1,200 Gotha students, as well as about 100 school staffers and even the school’s resource officer. The video also features 80 eighth-grade students with main parts. Planning and preparation for the video was a six-month process that began with choosing the songs, which was done by students who took the school’s service-learning elective class. Once the songs were chosen, themes were chosen for different areas of the school, a route throughout the school was determined, and different students were assigned to different places throughout the campus.
Erin Elliott, who handles public relations and TV production at Gotha, helped the students plan the video. She also shot and edited the video itself.
“We basically start at one end of the school and go all the way through the entire school, and we try to involve every student (and) every teacher,” Elliott said. “We try to come up with different themes and things like that. … We did a bunch of ’80s and ’90s songs. We had them do a Michael Jackson dance.”
“There were songs for everybody,” Principal Monica Emery said. “Not only were there ’80s and ’90s songs, but we also did popular songs, rap songs (and) we did cartoon songs. … We wanted to make it really inclusive.”
After plans were finalized, students practiced and rehearsed their scenes and dances for about three months. Aside from a few re-shot scenes, the majority of the video was shot in a single, continuous take. Although the whole process to make the video took months, the actual filming was done within an hour or so of a school day toward the end of the year. Additionally, because of testing, extra-curriculars and other activities going on throughout the school year, Elliott only got to meet and work with students for the video about once a week, she said.
“We talk about it at the very beginning of the year with the service-learning class,” Elliott said. “We film (for) one day. We check lighting and things like that, but as far as filming, it’s just the one day.”
Lucy Dillon and Piper Cristello — both rising freshmen at Olympia High School — were two of the 80 eighth-grade students who have main parts in the video and can be seen dancing in multiple scenes. Cristello was one of the students who took the service learning class, and Dillon was a theater student.
Cristello said one of the challenges of making the video was getting some of the boys to participate.
“Some of the boys were being kind of annoying,” Cristello said. “They were like, ‘I don’t want to get made fun of.’ … We convinced them to do it, (but it) was kind of hard to convince them.”
When Dillon found out the lip-dub video made it on the “Today” show, she wasn’t initially aware of how big that was, she said.
“I didn’t even know what the ‘Today’ show was,” Dillon said. “I was like ‘Is that a big deal?’ (My mom) was like, ‘It’s national news. Your lip dub made national news.’ … I was just really, really excited, because it was something we all worked so hard on, even if it was just (shown for) a few seconds.”
Gotha Middle created its first lip-dub video in 2014, but the school stopped doing them for a few years. They started again during the 2017-18 school year, which was around the time Emery became principal. She said one of the reasons why she decided to bring the lip-dub videos back was to help build a positive culture around the school.
“When I got here in the middle of last (school) year, we kind of wanted to start to build a positive perception of the school and (show) what we were doing to change the culture of the school,” Emery said. “One of the things we’ve been focusing on this year is promoting a culture of kindness and positivity.”
The lip-dub video was just one method of building positivity among the students at Gotha Middle. The school also began doing “Fun Friday videos” with the students and even revamped the morning news announcements. In addition to building positivity among students, the video also served as an incentive for the eighth-grade students throughout the school year, Emery said.
“You get to see it coming up (throughout middle school), and then in eighth grade, you get to have a these starring parts if you want,” she said. “But to do that, you need to do what we need you to do the other 175 days out of the (school) year. I need you on task, I need you (in) class on time, I need you to be well-behaved and follow the rules.”
Although the video acts as an incentive, Dillon and Cristello both agreed doing it also helped bring the students together.
“Some people (who) weren’t close friends had parts together, Cristello said. “I think that made them become a little closer, because they had to figure out what they wanted to do and stuff like that.”
“I had talked to people and became closer with people that I had never seen in school before,” Dillon said. “I try to be nice to everyone and be friends with everyone, but there’s still … people I don’t even know, and I got to know a lot of people through this (video) and through the process.”