Last weekend, BYU Vocal Point’s newest music video “The Greatest Showman A Cappella Mashup,” received over 1 million views on the group’s YouTube channel. The video brought together aerial artists, dancers, singers and cinematographers to feature four songs from the movie—“The Greatest Show,” “Come Alive,” “Rewrite the Stars” and “This Is Me.”
The video’s views are not the only indicator of success. It received positive feedback across the board, including from one of the film’s main stars, Hugh Jackman, who called the video an “amazing effort” on Twitter.
However, the video’s greatest success may actually lie in the behind-the-scenes work that went into creating the video.
McKay Crockett, BYU Vocal Point’s artistic director and music producer, said viewers have no idea just how much work and sacrifice went into creating the video from simply watching the final product. From overcoming illness to creating a circus tent to film in, nothing about the making of the video was easy.
Step one was creating a collaborative environment for students from various disciplines and areas, including The School of Music, The Department of Theatre and Media Arts, Performing Arts Management, Contemporary Dance Theatre and the BYU Cougarettes. Students not only worked with each other, but also had the opportunity to work with professionals, including filmmakers, BYU Broadcasting staff and circus performers from Aeris Aerial Arts.
The next step was filming the video. The four-and-a-half minute video was shot within 12 hours during a single day. The cast and crew were faced with the task of filming three perfect, continuous takes — the longest being over two minutes long—and then editing these together in post-production. Jeff Parkin, director of the video and BYU film professor, said filming under those circumstances “was a high-wire act with a lot of intensity and stress, but created a special energy on screen. The ability to pull off such shots successfully says a great deal about the professional abilities of our BYU students.”
According to Crockett, Vocal Point member Jason Bromley (BA ‘20) had one of the most difficult parts in the video. Bromley trained for weeks with former Cirque Du Soleil performer Darla Davis to learn aerial choreography for “Rewrite the Stars.” Bromley stated, “This was by far the most difficult part of the video because it was unlike anything I’ve ever done. It took weeks for my body to acclimate to that kind of strain and I endured some pretty gnarly rope burns. However, it was an amazing experience and one I doubt many other college students get the opportunity to enjoy.”
In addition to learning aerial choreography, Bromley had to sing at double the normal tempo while filming “Rewrite the Stars.” This allowed the post-production team to slow down the aerial work later during editing while still matching Bromley’s lips to the normal tempo of the song. Bromley stated perhaps the most amazing part about this minute-long scene is that it was filmed in one continuous take.
Difficult filming circumstances were not the only barrier students had to overcome. Vocal Point member Logan Shelton (BA ‘19) was one of many cast members to get sick leading up to filming. “I wasn’t sure if I had the energy to embody the message of the video,” Shelton said. “The whole project ended up being a miracle. Everything just fell right into place. I hope people feel empowered to be their best selves from watching our adaptation.”
Crockett said despite various complications, the crew and cast were able to come together to create an unforgettable experiential learning project. “It was really meaningful to see all the energy on set and all the sacrifice that went into making the video,” Crockett said. “The final video is a real testament to how great BYU is.”
This BYU Records production and its success was made possible with the help of various faculty and staff across campus, including Ben Fales (executive producer), Jared Cardon (producer), Jodi Maxfield (BYU Cougarettes director) and Jenny Tingey (choreographer).