By Tyler Hinton
“It”s the start of something new.” Or its sequel, anyway.
The sequel to the Disney Channel phenomenon “High School Musical” is currently being filmed at Utah locations with the help of BYU students.
Sarah Burroughs, a junior in dance education, attended dance auditions for “High School Musical 2” at East High School in Salt Lake, where the first movie was filmed.
“I knew seeing the movie that it would be pretty intense,” she said. “But they made it a really fun atmosphere.”
Kevin Jordan, a Music Dance Theatre major in the pre-dental program, participated in three days of filming in Salt Lake before the production moved to St. George.
“We shot the big opening dance number at East High School,” Jordan said, noting that it was his favorite part of filming, although dancing up and down the stairs proved tricky.
Jordan said he got a lot of camera time as an extra because he had a better work ethic than many of the teenagers who just wanted to be near the stars of the movie.
“They realized I knew how to take direction, so when it came time to do more close-up work, they would ask for me,” he said.
Jordan said once when the extras were waiting for a long time in the heat, director Kenny Ortega sent someone to buy them all ice cream with his personal money.
“Kenny was really interested in all of us,” Jordan said. “He said he wouldn”t want to film it anywhere other than Utah because of the talent in the state.”
Ortega, who also directed “Newsies” and the first “High School Musical,” was familiar with Utah talent from his experience as artistic director of the Salt Lake Olympics opening ceremonies, said Aaron Syrett, director of the Utah Film Commission.
He said Ortega enjoyed his experience filming the first movie in Utah, but plot and time constraints caused
the production company to consider filming the sequel in such places as San Diego, Palm Springs, Florida or Australia.
To provide financial incentive for producing “High School Musical 2″ in Utah, members of the Utah Governor”s Board of Business Development approved a 10 percent post-performance rebate for the production, not to exceed $500,000. In addition, the film commission scouted creative locations that complemented the script, Syrett said.
A main reason it was important for the production to be in Utah was that it would likely ignite tourism in the state, he said. Last summer, many families planned vacations around “High School Musical” and requested to tour East High School. The school also received requests for the building”s architectural plans so communities could build a new high school like the one featured in the movie.
The soundtrack of “High School Musical” was the best-selling album of 2006, producing five Top 40 singles on Billboard. Its television ratings and DVD sales were also record-breaking. Now Disney is planning a theatrical release for “Haunted High School Musical” in fall 2008, not to mention numerous brand extensions such as “High School Musical: The Ice Tour,” to hit Salt Lake”s EnergySolutions Arena in November.
“The reason I like ”High School Musical” is not necessarily because it”s the best movie ever made, but because it”s a fun, feel-good, happy movie,” said Jessica Mains, a senior majoring in marriage, family and home development. She, like many other fans, is anxiously awaiting the new movie.
“I think a lot of people will watch it because the first one got so much publicity and so many people liked it,” she said. “Sequels aren”t usually as good, but you can bet I”ll be watching it when it comes out.”
“High School Musical 2” is set to premiere on the Disney Channel on Aug. 17.