Martin Whittier spent several weeks scouting high schools between Baltimore and Cecil County—but when it came to finding the perfect backdrop for a major scene in his upcoming short film, one stood out among the rest.
"Perry Hall is probably the most neutral and one of the cleanest. It also has one of the most cooperative staffs," said Whittier, writer and director of the in-progress movie, "The Hardest Six."
It was no surprise to Whittier that a portion of the 1987 version of "Hairspray" was filmed at the high school. A documentary film about Holocaust survivors was also filmed in part at the school last year.
"Mr. Arnold, the assistant principal, he's been great with helping out with whatever. He said 'We're accustomed to Hollywood around here,'" Whittier said.
Principal George Roberts told Patch he was looking forward to the school's part in the project.
The 25-minute film, produced by Whittier's company, Brumar Films, is about a teenage boy who moves in with his grandparents after his soldier father is deployed to the Middle East. While adjusting to his new life, he faces challenges on his school's wrestling team.
By naming the school in the film Patrick Henry High School, Whittier can keep up all of the school's "PH" signage and decorations.
The central scene in the film involves a wrestling match in the school's gym, but it also calls for about 400 extras in the stands. Filming is scheduled for June 30 and Whittier said he is hoping for volunteers from the surrounding community.
"We're looking for everybody, families, older people," he said, adding that anyone interested should sign up on the film's website as soon as possible.
The 27-year-old Belcamp resident said the film is partially autobiographical. Whittier wrestled for four years at Perryville High School and said his experiences with the sport were a major part of his own coming of age.
"It's frustrating to know you can't beat that one guy. Mentally you just have to accept it," he said. "My buddy and I back in high school always joked how cool it would be to make a film about wrestling."
But Whittier said the film will appeal to more than just wrestling fans.
"A lot of the movie is relationship based, between the main character and his grandfather. The themes in the movie can apply to anything in life outside of sports," he said.
"The Hardest Six" will likely be shown at film festivals and released on iTunes and DVD. Whittier said he hopes production will be fully funded and completed within the next year.
"So far, we've raised about $3,500. The rest has just come out of my own pocket," he said. "The movie's never been about the money, just about getting it done and showing it off, and hopefully it could turn into a feature film."
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