By Steven Duchon | The Grand Rapids Press
It may not have been a red carpet event for a blockbuster movie, but the premier of the Grand Rapids Lip Dub at Celebration Cinema North on Wednesday night was a shining moment for the city.
Grand Rapids event organizer and lib dub creator, Rob Bliss, along with hundreds of people from the area got their first look at the video that was filmed in downtown Grand Rapids this past weekend. Young and old clapped and cheered as the first lines of Don McLean's "American Pie" played the theater.
Local WOODTV weather man, Bill Steffen, opened the video, lip-syncing and walking down the streets of Grand Rapids. He was followed by other well-known faces like Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and philanthropist Peter Secchia. However, it wasn't all local celebrities who graced the camera. There were 3,000 other local Grand Rapids residents: everyone from high school football players, marching band members, kayakers, swing dancers, musicians and gymnasts who took their tiny roles and shined, as they took place in what they knew would soon be a YouTube sensation.
"Most of the people in the video were known faces that people would recognize, I thought that would make the most sense," Bliss said. "They are generally people that are good to be on camera and they don't get shy. Those connections are able to promote the event because they are involved, so it made sense to do it from that standpoint."
Anyone who has used a digital camera to film their child's soccer game or birthday party knows that this film process was much bigger and more difficult than you might think. The lip dub video was shot in one continuous take, with people coming in and out of the camera with every few lines of the song.
"We did five takes, we did not get many chances, but the last one was perfect," Bliss said.
Bliss, who has created and produced extravagant events around Grand Rapids in the past few years, realizes this was his biggest to date. However, he made sure he had everything figured out before the shooting was to begin.
"Honestly I have never been so prepared," Bliss said. "It was my first time that I took off a little bit of the heat, and got a crew of like 40 people to have different roles, and that honestly made a world of difference."
Stan Kistie, whose son was a production assistant for Bliss, went with his wife to watch the filming, and ended up getting a chance to star in the video. Kistie was extremely impressed with what Bliss is doing for the community.
"How cool is it that to live in a community where that type of thing can happen," Kistie said. "People with different gifts doing their part to make this a vibrant community. We have a lot of people in the business community who do their part, and lot of philanthropy. But then we got these young people like Bliss that are playing their role, using their gifts, doing what they can to showcase the community, too."
So what does Bliss hope everyone around the country who sees this video takes away from it?
"I think the message is that something like this can happen; that all these streets can be shut down so we can film; that all these organizations and people can come together on this enormous scale." Bliss said. "Even if it is a pretty glossy version of the city, the fact that it can happen, and that a city would even allow something like this to happen, really speaks about the openness and excitement of the area. I wanted to take all that energy that I see in the area... and put that in a 9 minute time capsule of 2011."
Bliss has some other things in the works, but was vague on what those future ideas are.
"We want to do some other things, some other music events. There is a potential ArtPrize thing I would like to do," Bliss said. "It's such a crazy hectic thing that you kind of just have to live by the day, it's difficult to plan. With me, I try and do something and move on and continue to try new things. There is so much that we can do, it seems pointless to just focus on one thing, and just do it forever when there is so much we can work on accomplishing."
If you had to sum up the video in one word, well, it's bliss. If you have lived in Grand Rapids your whole life, or even just arrived, it would be hard to not say that the tiny hairs on your arms don't stand straight up when you see the shots of the city's most well known landmarks and the people who make this city so wonderful. Bliss has a lot to be proud of with the lip dub video.
There are few young adults who love their city more than him. His passion for having fun, being adventurous and bringing together a community is worthy of many pats on the back. It's safe to say that the 3,000 people who sang, danced and smiled through the lip dub video are ready for Bliss' next slice of American Pie.
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