What do Jack Black, Mark Shaiman, and a couple of college students have in common? Perhaps more than you’d think: they all worked on Shaiman’s Prop 8: the Musical, which starred Black and went viral. Three years later, Gallatin sophomore Joe Ehrman-Dupre and UNC Chapel Hill sophomores Rachel Kaplan and Jordan Imbrey have created a sequel of sorts.
In response to North Carolina’s Amendment One, which will appear on the May 8th ballot and would define marriage in North Carolina as between one man and one woman, the students created NC Amendment One: the Musical, which aims to educate viewers and protest the amendment. We had a chance to speak with actor and assistant director Ehrman-Dupre about the musical and the impact the group involved hopes to make on voters come May.
How did NC Amendment One: The Musical come about?
My friend Rachel called me up and said that she wanted to create a video in the vein of Prop 8: the Musical, focusing on the amendment that will be voted on in our state in May. She cited a lack of voting interest in her peers as the impetus for her passion. We wanted to get voters in North Carolina to realize the importance of their vote within the larger frame of the state.
Prop 8: the Musical’s creator Marc Shaiman notes that his work was written and produced in under a week – when did you guys get the idea for this musical, and how long did it take to get it from idea to YouTube?
Rachel came to me with the idea in mid-November, I believe, and we had rehearsed, filmed, and edited it by the end of December. It didn’t take a week like Prop 8: the Musical, but Rachel’s passion helped the process move quickly as she wrote the script, commissioned the music from another friend, Mike Griggs, and got our friends together for two short rehearsals before filming over a 5-hour time span.
What kind of response have you gotten so far?
Well, so far all comments on YouTube have been positive, and we have 167 likes and only 3 dislikes. I’d say that’s pretty good! No one has really spoken out against the musical – it really seems to be attractive to the demographic we were aiming for, voters who need only be prompted to vote against the amendment. We’ve gotten tons of support from our families and friends; I think that most everyone is just proud that a small group of young people, age 20 or younger, took the initiative to get something like this musical out to the public!
Prop 8: the Musical has been called a “viral picket sign,” and since its 2008 release, it has had well over 6 million views. What do you think about this entertainment-as-protest trend that has come about in the past few years? In some ways, does it make your cause more accessible?
I think that entertainment-as-protest is a vital and fantastic way for people to get their points across, particularly in our age of viral videos. Our goal with this video was to get our central message of the need to vote out to the public; in a way, we wanted to achieve this through a viral video. What better way to reach as many people as possible? Video protests keep the viewer more entertained than a photograph or an article might, and a protest in the form of a musical does this even more so because of its fun, straight-forward, and flamboyant approach. YouTube and viral videos have made people’s passions more accessible to the masses in recent years. Our video has 7,653 views as of today (pretty good for a small production, I’d say) and by spreading the word through this article and any other exposure, we can get our point across to more and more people!
Shaiman has also spoken about his guilt regarding the timing of the video (mostly that it came out, as he says, “four weeks too late” and therefore didn’t have much time to sink in before the vote). Certainly, with the vote on this amendment in May, NC Amendment One: the Musical is far ahead of the game. What are you plans for keeping the sentiment alive long enough to impact voters in May?
This is one thing that we hadn’t really considered when planning the video. I think we were more concerned about getting it done over winter break and less concerned about what the result would be after the fact. Now that the video’s view count is leveling out and less of our cast and crew are posting it on Facebook or urging it to be shared in other ways, we really need to consider how it will help in May. I think that the 7,500 or so people who have seen our video will remember it when they are in the voting booth — the music and video format once again helping to trigger those memories — and will be more inclined to vote against the amendment. However, we will definitely need to launch a preemptive attack of sorts soon before the vote, posting the video on Facebook, sharing it with blogs and other media sources, and generally spreading the word once again. I have no doubt that our work on this project will impact the vote come May.
Any plans for a sequel?
Well, hopefully there won’t need to be one! If all goes according to plan, NC Amendment One will be voted down in May and the threat to marriage equality in our state will be reduced greatly. However, while this amendment would deny hope for marriage equality, even its voting down does not ensure that same equality. So, should an amendment to specifically encourage this equality be proposed, I think that our team would definitely get back together! I would be interested anyway. And hopefully such an amendment is not far off.
While this article is making our video accessible to the NYU community, most of which has no impact on a vote in North Carolina, this does not mean that your support is not valuable. We wanted this video to spread as much as possible, to be seen and heard by the masses! So, watch, comment, like, share, and keep our message alive. Even if you aren’t a citizen of North Carolina, you are or can be supporters of marriage equality, a right being threatened all across our country.
Watch NC Amendment One: the Musical: