Drum Corps International
"Pulse" film features Jersey Surf

"Pulse" film features Jersey Surf

by Drum Corps International

The upcoming IMAX movie "Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey," which is open in some East coast cities and overseas and will open soon in other markets (go HERE to see listings), heavily features DCI's own Jersey Surf in a marching scene that spans the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

Members of the Jersey Surf march across the Brooklyn Bridge.
The film has been receiving great press, which, in the wake of the popular recent film "Drumline," translates into increased visibility for the entire marching music (and here, specifically, the drum corps activity) genre. A film reviewer for the Associated Press said "Pulse" is "An IMAX feast for the eye and ear that roams the globe in search of a universal beat. Each act is unique yet has the same goal: to inspire." Bob Jacobs, director of the Jersey Surf, put together a "behind-the-scenes" look at the Surf's involvement in the project, which you can view HERE (it's a big download). Jacobs viewed the corps' involvement in the picture as fitting in perfectly with the corps' philosophies. "We try to view everything we do from the perspective of "enjoying the journey" and not just focusing on the "competitive destination." This was a tremendous part of the journey for the members of our organization, and a source of pride for everyone who's ever been involved with us. I hope fans and friends of drum corps will have the chance to experience the final product when the film comes to a theatre in their corner of the world," Jacobs said. Jacobs also took some time to answer a few questions about the project. DCI.org: How did you guys get involved with the making of the movie? Jacobs: The Surf was recommended for the project by George Hopkins, executive director of Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!), after last-minute sponsorship issues prevented the YEA! corps' participation in the project. DCI.org: Did the filmmakers seem to understand the concept of drum corps? Jacobs: Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell, the creators of "Stomp" and the directors of the film, were quite familiar with the competitive drum corps art form, and specifically recruited an "American drum corps" to participate in the Brooklyn Bridge sequence, in which we appear. Some of Steve McNicholas' thoughts are included in the promotional materials for the film and on the film's Web site. "Everyone knows how skilled drum corps players are and how complicated [the music] is, but people don't realize that outside of the States, it is very rare. You can find it here and there ... but the talent level is nowhere near where it is in the States. The amount of sacrifice these kids make is incredible," McNicholas said. DCI.org: Describe the corps' involvement in as much detail as you can. Jacobs: The period of time in which we were considered, accepted and were going to be shooting our scene for the film was less than a week. After getting the word out to prospective participants within 48 hours of finding out we'd been selected, we met on a Thursday night last January and rehearsed for four hours, literally fitting folks for uniforms while they were learning the cadence for the filming. We then traveled to a soundstage in Brooklyn for rehearsal on Friday, at which point we were introduced to the Jackie Robinson Center Steppers, with whom we would be appearing on the Brooklyn Bridge. Our cadence was then adjusted to "line up" with the Jackie Robinson street beat, so that the entire ensemble could be filmed from overhead via helicopter, with the militaristically inspired rudimental drum corps style meeting the funky step team style literally head-on. "Stomp" creator and filmmaker Luke Cresswell worked with Surf staff members Bill Woodward and Jason Powell to adjust our cadence "on the fly," during a rehearsal session lasting several hours. The members of both groups were treated to a "Hollywood-Style" craft services lunch buffet, before making the trek back to South Jersey for the Surf's regular January rehearsal camp weekend. The filming was snowed out on Saturday morning, as freezing winds whipped the Brooklyn Bridge and ice pelted the entire NY/NJ area. Since it was a holiday weekend, all but one of the performers were able to attend the postponed filming on Sunday morning, requiring a 5 a.m. departure to be on location for technical instruction and audio microphone placement starting at 8 a.m. After waiting for snow and ice removal from the pedestrian deck of the bridge, waiting a while longer in the bitter cold and after another huge craft services lunch spread, the filming took place on the bridge in bright January sunlight ... just what the film crew and the helicopter pilot had been hoping for. DCI.org: Was your whole corps involved, or just a few performers? Jacobs: The producers wanted a battery-only percussion ensemble of 40 performers, which we created from alumni, staff and members auditioning for the 2002 corps, which included some 18 snares, 10 basses, plus tenors and cymbals. Our percussion equipment partners at Premier Percussion and Zildjian cymbals responded incredibly to our need for additional loaner instruments to ensure that we looked great. It all came together amazingly ... just in time for the filming.

DCI.org: Did your corps enjoy the filmmaking process? Jacobs: Although it all happened so quickly, it was truly a great experience for all of us. The performers are still talking about it, and I'm hoping that the film will eventually be released on home video so it can become a permanent memory for them, as well as a teaching tool in classrooms all over the world. DCI.org: Do you think the drum corps idiom translates to the silver screen well? Jacobs: I think the recent interest in the precision of marching music is a testament to the stunning visual and aural impact of our activity. Films like "Pulse" and "Drumline" will undoubtedly help create more interest, and will hopefully spur other creative thought for more stuff like this to happen in the future. DCI.org: What was the trickiest part of being involved with this film? Jacobs: The short time we had to get our act together made it a tremendous challenge. Our percussion section manager, Jason Powell, jumped into action and really made the whole thing logistically possible; it simply wouldn't have come off without his incredible efforts. Another challenging factor was that our uniforms are designed strictly for summer use and were pretty much like wearing tissue paper up on top of the Brooklyn Bridge in January ... the kids toughed it out though, and the experience has now added to the "back of the bus" folklore of the Jersey Surf. DCI.org: What was the most gratifying part of bring involved with this film? Jacobs: When I viewed the film for the first time at its premiere last fall, I was overwhelmed not only by seeing members of the Surf on a screen 40 feet tall, but also knowing that drum and bugle corps was being represented in a massive, wordless documentary of the world's cultures as told through the universal language of percussion. The filmmakers used the Imax technology to its fullest, and the sweeping views of incredible locales and landmarks provide a stunning background to infinitely fascinating rhythms of the world. I was very proud of the job we did, and I'm even more happy to know that DCI was represented well. The groups shown in the film are incredible ... and to be showcased in a situation like this is a tremendous honor for our organization. This wasn't just about playing "clean" and without "tics," but was about doing something very cool with the potential for a lasting and far-reaching impact. I hope the vision of the film's producers are realized, and that one day libraries and schools around the globe will have access to this film as a celebration of life as told through music.

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