At midnight on Halloween, a herd of costume-clad students packed into Woolsey Hall to witness a tale of romance, school spirit and lost puppies.
The annual Yale Symphony Orchestra Halloween Show drew an audience of more than 1,000 people this year. For many attendees, the highlight of the show was the silent film that accompanied the musical score. The film’s storyline was inspired by the “The Wizard of Oz,” and the production process was spearheaded by director Joan Rhee ’16, who plays violin in the group. Rhee said she had never worked with film before directing the show.
“It was like being baptized with fire,” she said. “It really changed a lot about how I look at the world.”
The film centered on a Yale student, played by Jaclyn Freshman ’17, who awakens in the alternate world of “Yalippiac,” where she encounters Oz-like characters and must defeat the “Wicked Witch of Harvard” in order to return home to Yale. University President Peter Salovey, Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and television personality Jimmy Kimmel all made cameo appearances in the film.
Rhee said she wanted to produce a film with an easily recognizable plot and score, noting that she hoped to base the film on a fairytale-like story rather than continue with the action genre of the YSO films in recent years. She worked closely with director of photography Jeff Ding ’17, a film studies major and member of student filmmaking group Bulldog Productions. Ding, who was the only ensemble member not part of the YSO and the only one who had a background in filmmaking, described the YSO show as his “first foray into big production.”
The filmmaking process began at the end of August and concluded at the end of Fall Break. Rhee estimated that members of the film’s cast and crew spent an average of 10 hours per week on production, adding that she and Ding dedicated an average of roughly 25 hours per week to the project.
Audience members said that they enjoyed the filmmaking techniques. Madeline Kaplan ’17 said she particularly enjoyed working on the film’s cinematographic elements.
The budget for the film was $500. Ensemble members said the crew did not have to pay for location costs, since all scenes were shot on Yale’s campus, or for equipment, because they utilized the tools provided by the Digital Media Center for the Arts.
Ding credited much of the film’s cinematographic complexity to the technologically advanced tools that the DMCA provided. He cited the opening shot of the film, which featured a leaf falling from the top of Harkness, as an example. The high camera angle was achieved through a large, professional quality crane, which he’d checked out of the DMCA.
Cindy Xue ’17, a YSO violinist who helped produce the film, highlighted several scenes that required the crew to improvise when they lacked certain props. She explained that for a scene that necessitated a special effect of “melting clothes” atop Harkness Tower, the crew found themselves without a fog machine — the tool they had hoped to use. After scrambling and sending countless unsuccessful emails, Xue noted, the group opted to use dry ice in place of the fog machine.
Rogers, Xue and Rhee all emphasized the importance of the YSO film in bringing the Yale community together around orchestral music.
“There’s this issue of classical music [being perceived as] out of date, and people not feeling like they’re able to access classical music in the way they can a rock concert because … you’re not supposed to stand up and cheer in the middle of a song,” Rhee said. “It’s really cool to have a [classical music] performance where that’s encouraged and appreciated.”
Celebrity cameos in previous YSO Halloween Shows included James Franco, Woody Allen and John McCain.