OWATONNA — “Summertime Dropouts” commenced shooting in Owatonna Saturday, and, though still early in the process, the prevailing feeling on the set Tuesday was one of optimism about the production.
“It’s been remarkably smooth so far,” said Hamid Torabpour of Owatonna, a producer and one of the screenwriters. “The team is so good, and the vibe is great.”
Actors were similarly buoyant.
“It’s been a blast,” said Caleb Donahoe, who portrays Danny Knoblock, lead guitarist for the Summertime Dropouts, in the movie. “It’s easy to get stressed out” shooting a film, but “everyone is super-professional and positive.”
“We are incredibly lucky with this cast,” added Crystal Lake Evans, who plays Amie, one of three members of an all-female band in the movie. “It’s so special to have these relationships.”
The first night Evans, Serena Laurel (Lucy), and Melanie Brook (Charlie) were together, they stayed up until 3 a.m. watching a film, chatting, and establishing camaraderie necessary for their on-screen friendships, said Laurel. “It was quite amazing.”
“We’re all trying to make (this film) the best it can possibly be,” Laurel added. “We all want to be close and together.”
The fact that Evans, Laurel, and Brook have become friendly off-screen is enormously beneficial on-screen, as it’s easy to believe they’re pals and bandmates, said Brook, who started in musical theater as an elementary student, went to college for theater, and has been performing musically, theatrically, commercially, and on television ever since. Beginning a new film is “always a gamble, because you never know who you’re going to be working with, but we feel like a family.”
“Summertime Dropouts” is slated to continue filming in Owatonna into September, and the production will require plenty of extras Sept. 3-8, Torabpour said. “We’re shooting Battle of the Bands and Warped Tour (scenes), and it’s going to be crazy.”
A Long Island native, Brooks was attracted to “Summertime Dropouts” because of the pop-punk musical element, she said. “That was my scene” — she attended the Warped Tour twice — but she feels that musical world has not been accurately-depicted yet on screen in a movie.
“Summertime Dropouts,” however, understands “how much that meant to me as a kid,” she said. For the characters in the film, music is “their whole life,” and “that dream” should be relatable to current youth.
Charlie, with her blue hair, is the “ringleader” of the girl band, Brook said. While Lucy and Amie are considering other options for their lives, music is Charlie’s “number-one focus,” so “these are high stakes for her.”
Lucy, on the other hand, is at “a fork in the road,” Laurel said. She’s “trying to decide” whether to pursue music or “more practical” endeavors like college and internships.
Though Laurel is a model, social media influencer, and brand ambassador for the likes of the Breaking the Chains Foundation, which promotes creative-arts healing for patients recovering from eating disorders, and Free2LUV.ORG, which looks to kindness to prevent bullying, “music is her passion,” said her publicist, Rhonda Collins. Born in Virginia’s capital of Richmond, Laurel moved to the West Coast due to her father’s career, she started writing songs at 13, and she’s currently studying music composition in college. She’s actually missing her first few weeks of the semester to film “Summertime Dropouts.”
She has multiple films on her resume already, and she’s working on an EP, while a single, “Hold On,” has already been released; she also has a residency on Sunset Boulevard, performing weekly, added Collins, of Monarch PR. “This film is so perfect for her, and she’s ready to explode.”
The role of Lucy wasn’t designed to be as expansive as it turned out to be in the final script, but Laurel so impressed the likes of Torabpour that the character was given an expanded role with more lines, he said. Laurel “was so good, we had to keep her in.”
While the other five actors in the principle cast are a few years older than the characters they’re portraying on screen, Laurel is only 17 and herself a singer-songwriter like Lucy, Laurel noted. “I am where that character is in her life right now.”
For his audition, Nick Podamy, who portrays the lead singer of the Summertime Dropouts, Dave Erickson, performed a “punk-rock version” of The Beatles “I Am the Walrus,” he said. He was encouraged to discover “That Thing You Do,” the critically-acclaimed tale of a 1960s one-hit-wonder written and directed by Tom Hanks, is one of Torabpour’s favorite films — and an influence on the script for “Summertime Dropouts” — because Podamy “picked up drums” after seeing “That Thing You Do.”
Podamy, who started acting at age 6, is from Los Angeles, where he resided until leaving for college at Juilliard, he said. Prior to moving to New York City, he and his three best friends launched a garage band, playing clubs around L.A.
His co-star, Evans, also attended college in Gotham, at New York University, where she ultimately studied acting but “missed music throughout” her tenure, so “it’s really cool” that “Summertime Dropouts” provides an opportunity to indulge both her passions, singing and acting, she said. Evans, born and raised in Boston, began acting at age 7, “grew up doing musical theater,” and was a member of the all-female band Girl Authority, which toured nationally and shared the stage with the likes of the Jonas Brothers and Jesse McCartney.
Podamy relates to the film’s story of a group trying to win a Battle of the Bands competition to snatch the final spot on the last Warped Tour, because he and his friends also played in a Battle of the Bands, he said. Though they didn’t win a seat on a Warped Tour, they did gain enough notice to open for Maroon 5.
This movie — a project of Remnant Distribution — ought to be finished by February or March of 2019, according to Torabpour. Producers are targeting a theatrical release next summer.
“Summertime Dropouts” is based on the anthemic first album, “Rewind,” by the titular Minnesota band Summertime Dropouts, he said. That was “a soundtrack to our lives,” an album “anyone with a dream could listen to and say, ‘Yes, I get it.’”
While this movie is not exactly a musical, it is “music-oriented,” and “music is very much part of this world,” he added. Indeed, while the script is 70 pages, another 35 minutes encompasses 10 songs.
This is a fitting role for Donahoe, because “I love punk-pop music,” he said. “It’s my jam.”
He had his own pop-punk band growing up in Huntington, West Virginia, and “we did a lot of Paramore covers,” he said. He started singing as a child, touring with his parents, before starring in musicals in middle school and ultimately attending college for acting.
His character in “Summertime Dropouts” is often comic relief.
“He’s a total goofball,” Donahoe said. “He sees the silver lining in everything, and he has the most random thoughts in the world,” often focused on food.
“He likes to talk about pizza and tacos,” and he’s often eating in the movie, everything from muffins to marshmallows, he said with a laugh. “I had seven muffins (Monday) for takes,” and “the first two were great.”
Though he is portraying a real person in Erickson, Podamy is “not treating this as a biopic,” he explained. His portrayal is based on the script, which uses “Rewind” as inspiration, and — in this movie — Erickson is “very similar to me when I was in high school.”
The character is “constantly trying to prove himself,” because, while not expressing outright hostility, most of his friends and family believe his musical aspirations are quixotic, he said. “Everyone thinks they know better than me.”
Eventually, however, he realizes “he doesn’t have to carry the whole band on his shoulders,” Podamy said. “He goes from big ego to open arms.”
While Erickson exhibits single-minded musical determination, Amie is more conflicted, feeling as though she must decide between “ruining her relationship with her family or ruining her relationship with her friends” in their band, Evans said. Amie actually keeps her musical career a secret, and “when it comes out, people disapprove,” telling her “you can’t do this with your life.”
At age 18, “it all feels so high-stakes, life-or-death” for Amie, she said. “You have to risk something in order to get what you want.”
Or, as Podamy put it, “chase your dreams, and pray for a happy ending.”