'Spirit Squad' moviemaker adds hazing scene to new film made in Ogden

May 19 2012 - 9:33pm

Images

Mercedes Hargrave (right) gets ready to act out a fight scene for the film, "Spirit Squad," in Ogden on Saturday. NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner
Kayla Schiffer (left) and Mercedes Hargrave act out a fight scene for the film, "Spirit Squad," in Ogden on Saturday. NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner
Mercedes Hargrave (left) gets ready to act out a fight scene for the film, "Spirit Squad," in Ogden on Saturday. NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner
Kayla Schiffer (left) and Mercedes Hargrave act out a fight scene for the film, "Spirit Squad," in Ogden on Saturday. NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner
Mercedes Hargrave (right) gets ready to act out a fight scene for the film, "Spirit Squad," in Ogden on Saturday. NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner
Kayla Schiffer (left) and Mercedes Hargrave act out a fight scene for the film, "Spirit Squad," in Ogden on Saturday. NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner
Mercedes Hargrave (left) gets ready to act out a fight scene for the film, "Spirit Squad," in Ogden on Saturday. NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner
Kayla Schiffer (left) and Mercedes Hargrave act out a fight scene for the film, "Spirit Squad," in Ogden on Saturday. NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner

OGDEN -- When Thom Rockwell began work six months ago on a trailer for his upcoming film "Spirit Squad," depicting five crime-fighting Ogden High School cheerleaders, he never imagined he might have to alter the fictional movie to include a dose of reality.

However, last week's suspension of nine Ogden High cheerleaders for hazing other cheerleaders on the night of May 4 has prompted Rockwell to consider adding a scene that takes a stance against hazing.

"Bullying any time is a mistake," Rockwell said. "It's not what we need for our society."

Several movie cast members, during a break in filming Saturday in Ogden, also spoke out against hazing.

"It's really unfortunate because everyone looks up to cheerleaders," said Shay Williamson, an actress from Layton who portrays the Spirit Squad's head cheerleader.

Flo Donelli, another "Spirit Squad" cheerleader from Draper, believes those who participated in the Ogden High hazing have learned a valuable lesson. "They made a mistake and thought it was funny," she said. "Hopefully, they won't do it again."

The hazing incident is completely at odds with the movie's positive message, Rockwell said. "They (the Spirit Squad) are role models for young girls," he said.

The film is unique because it portrays young women instead of men as superheroes, said Rockwell.

"I don't know of other superhero movies made in Hollywood with women in the lead role," he said. "They've made Superman, Batman, Spiderman, X-man movies but still no Wonder Woman movies. My movie has five wonder women."

The movie's Spirit Squad is made up of local actresses who wear orange and black cheerleading uniforms which are the same colors, but not the same uniforms, as Ogden High cheerleaders.

No actual cheerleaders from the school are cast in the film.

The Spirit Squad's nemesis is the evil cheerleading squad, the Vicious Vixens, and a drug lord known as Big Day Cash.

After the Spirit Squad women realize they have super powers, they make it their mission to take down Big Daddy Cash and clean up Ogden.

Rockwell went with cheerleaders as heroes to show that they are good role models and to make the film unique.

Fight scenes between the Spirit Squad and Vicious Vixens for the movie's trailer was shot Saturday at a former landfill off Avenue A in Ogden.

The filming had the trappings of a Hollywood production with a director barking out instructions to the cast, while a technical crew made sure each scene was correct. When the camera was rolling, the Spirit Squad and Vicious Vixens were bitter enemies, but during a break in the action they joked with each other while sipping bottled water and munching on snacks.

Rockwell, owner of Ogden-based Rockwell Digital Motion Pictures, is the writer, director and producer of "Spirit Squad," his fourth movie.

His last movie, a 17-minute musical titled "Zombie Prom," was produced in 2011 to promote Strankenstein's Zombie Prom event at Ogden's Union Station, an annual fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Salt Lake City.

Rockwell hopes to raise $50,000 to $100,000 to produce the Spirit Squad in 10 episodes that will be shown on the Internet. After the episodes are completed, a full-length DVD will be made for mass distribution.

Rockwell said he was stunned to learn of the real-life hazing and feared it could impact his film because a scene for the trailer is set to be filmed inside classrooms and hallways at Ogden High today, with permission from school administrators.

"Ogden High has a rich tradition as a film location," he said, adding the comedy "Three O'Clock High" was shot there in 1987.

Ogden School District spokeswoman Donna Corby declined to comment on "Spirit Squad" because she was unaware of the film.

Even if the hazing incident was meant as a harmless prank, there is no excuse for the way the senior Ogden High cheerleaders treated the new underclass cheerleaders, said Rockwell.

"I know the (underclass) girls had to be pretty excited to have made the cheerleading squad," he said. "It (hazing) is not what cheerleading is about. The sport of cheerleading is about encouragement, not discouragement."

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