Huntington High School’s principal is playing badminton in his office, while out in the hallway kids are getting into fistfights and in the science lab several students are holding another student down so they can pour a beaker of chemicals down her throat.
It’s high school gone wild, but it’s for a greater purpose — a schoolwide video project in which hundreds of students, teachers, administrators and even the Huntington School District superintendent freeze in comical scenes to complete a “Mannequin Challenge.”
The seven-minute video, filmed over two days during some classes and after school, is now posted on YouTube and has had more than 7,000 views so far. The school will likely enter it in the Cinema Arts Centre’s annual film festival in May.
“I love stuff like this,” says principal Brenden Cusack, who says he decided to “go with the flow” and allow scenes that would never actually happen at school in an effort to make the video as funny and interesting as possible. “I felt comfortable that people would know that the things that were a little more crazy weren’t real. If high school can’t be fun, we’re missing something.”
There were also serious scenes of students practicing violin, concentrating on a portrait in the art room, taping a TV commercial assignment in the video room, and more.
The Mannequin Challenge is an Internet-based fad — a group of people enact a scene and freeze in place while it’s videotaped. The more complex the positions and facial expressions are to hold, the better the video. Even first lady Michelle Obama has participated in a Mannequin Challenge with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at the White House.
While schools have certainly done classroom and sports team versions of the challenge — the phenomenon is said to have actually started with high school students in Jacksonville, Florida, who posted a video in October — the Huntington students and teachers believe they are the only ones on Long Island to enlist the entire school in the project, traveling from the principal’s office, through the hallways and into the orchestra room, cafeteria, wood shop and robotics room, video classroom and chemistry lab.
Lindsay Martin, 16, a junior from Huntington Station, appears in a scene in the wood shop in which her long hair gets stuck in a woodworking tool called a sander. “I think the hardest part is trying to make a face and hold it still,” she says.
Martin and the 11 other students in teacher Healther Swan’s advanced video class originated and spearheaded the project, mapping it out, recruiting volunteers from the 1,560-member student body, directing and filming it. They used an iPhone but employed sophisticated techniques such as suspending a water bottle from the ceiling in a cafeteria bottle-flipping scene using fishing line and then wiping out the line during the editing process.
In each spot where they taped, the students tried to imagine what could go wrong and pose it — a girl slips on a banana peel in the cafeteria, students steal tools from the wood shop while the teacher naps, and kids duel with music studio stands in the orchestra room.
Student Jackie Caravetto, 16 and also a junior from Huntington Station, filmed the entire thing. “After we were done in the hallway, everybody was cheering,” she says. “I should have counted how many high-fives I got after that.”
“It was epic,” says Martin.
“Legendary,” echoes advanced video student Charlie Ehrman, 17 and a senior from Huntington.
“It was just incredible,” agrees superintendent James Polansky. “The fact that they were able to involve the whole building in something like this is just phenomenal.”
“The kids were very serious about it,” Cusack says. “They did an amazing job.”
You can watch the video here.