H-F Students and Teachers Make Feature-Length Film “Ranked: The Musical”


Anne Calderon

The cast rehearsing in the new Performing Arts Center.

In April, H-F’s theater and film departments partnered to begin shooting the feature-length film, “Ranked: The Musical.” When finished, the production may be featured in a documentary by HBOFilms. 

The process started with cast rehearsals under the direction of J.R. Willard-Rose, H-F English and theater teacher. The cast memorized their lines, choreographed dances, and began blocking scenes. 

Morgan Barber, a senior, has been in the theater program since freshman year. She plays the lead character. 

“For the whole month of March, we had three to four days of rehearsal,” Barber said. She also said the time and day of the rehearsal varied each week.

Then it was time to film! Under the direction of English and film teacher Matthew Holdren as well as four student directors, students collaborated to capture the actors’ work with professional video equipment. 

“The best part of this was the collaboration between the students,” said Anne Calderon, English teacher and assistant director, who directed some scenes for her Master’s in Directing thesis. “It was really fun to watch all these creative minds work together on something so huge.”

Calderon, right center, directs actors during a shoot.

Kieran Hanley, crew member and lighting designer, talked about the adaptive nature of the filming process:

“There’s so many different directors and people in leadership roles, and it differs from day to day,” Hanley  said. “I have to be ready to do anything.” 

It was an adjustment for the actors, too. Barber said she had to get used to film acting: “As a theater kid, it’s so different to have the crew and a bunch of bright lights right in front of you.” 

Now, the project is moving into the post-production phase, where film students will edit audio and video. Editing responsibilities are divided amongst 16 film students and supervised by Holdren and the assistant directors. 

“The hardest part of the process is putting it all together,” Holdren said. “Creating a feature-length film in one month, with a total of 20 days of production, is super difficult.”

Still, he said this affords students an opportunity unlike any other. “For me, what’s most exciting is the experience the students are going to receive from it,” Holdren said. “We’re doing something that’s pretty unique.”

Calderon said she hopes H-F does more projects like this in the future. 

“I think it’s a kind of collaboration that H-F has never done— and I hope we can continue doing something like this,” she said.

At the end of production, the students’ work may be featured in a documentary for HBOFilms.

According to Willard-Rose, they were “approached early on from producers who are making a documentary film on the journey of Ranked.”

“They have asked us to send in footage from our production to hopefully be featured in the final Documentary being made for HBO Films,” Willard-Rose said. 

The school was given exclusive access to the script and are being produced by Break Thru Films, Inc.