The largest student film production in the history of the College of William and Mary is a wrap and ready for its premiere.
“Sergeant Cheerleader,” a feature-length comedy, premieres Saturday, Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. in W&M’s Sadler Center. Admission is $3 for students, $5 for all others.
“Energy on campus is very high,” said writer and producer Matt Pinsker, who held a press and pre-premiere screening earlier this week.
Directed by senior Thomas Baumgardner, the film is based on Pinsker’s sophomore and junior years at the college. He was both an Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadet and Tribe cheerleader, which makes for a hilarious plot.
As ROTC squad leader Will Poole, played by Chris Manitius, prepares his troops for an ROTC athletics competition he happens across a group of cheerleaders. They’re looking for an athletic male to join their squad.
Squad captain Mary, played by sophomore Francesca Chilcote, offers Poole a pizza if he’ll come by during a practice session. Once he realizes an old ROTC pal is on the team he decides to join.
Poole deals with the stigma of being a male cheerleader, feeling compelled to help the cheerleaders but fearful his friends will think he’s “gay.”
Hilarity ensues as he falls for Mary – a prohibited act known as “cheer-cest” – and struggles with hiding his secret identity as a cheerleader from his overtly masculine best friend Lance, played by senior Russel Smith.
Manitius, a senior chemistry major, does pretty well for a first-time actor, looking comfortable in both his role and in front of the camera.
Chilcote, ’11, is a theatre major and it shows with an uncanny ability to control a scene. Even though Sergeant Cheerleader is a comedy it’s obvious Chilcote took the role seriously.
The scene stealer is Malcolm, the other male cheerleader, played by Mohammed Rahman ’10. His comedic timing is well above amateur, with great control over the script.
The jokes are sophomoric at times, but the movie doesn’t rely on them to get laughs. Most of the funny moments come from clever quips that are a bit unexpected.
Making cameo appearances as a panel of judges for a cheerleading competition are College President Taylor Reveley, W&M Athletic Director Terry Driscoll and Williamsburg Mayor Jeanne Zeidler.
A good portion of the film was shot with a handheld camera, so some scenes are a little shaky. It’s definitely an amateur film, but done well and good for a laugh. Pinsker said the crew worked exceptionally hard over the last 15 months to make the film.
The entire production only cost about $2,400 because the crew had access to campus equipment, like cameras and lights, and the actors required no compensation.
“I added it up and if we had to pay for everything it would’ve been well over $100,000,” said Pinsker.
Will there be more films in Pinsker’s future? At the moment that’s not his interest; the government major is looking forward to graduation in May and waiting for acceptance letters from law schools.
Read about the last day of shooting “Sergeant Cheerleader” by clicking here.