Jeffrey Hornaday has work choreography with tons of great talent including Madonna and Michael Jackson, as well as tons of films including “Dick Tracy”, “Flashdance”, “A Chorus Line”. His latest film is the Disney Channel film “Teen Beach Movie”, which he is toke on the role of both director and choreographer. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Jeffrey about “Teen Beach Movie” and its impact on pop culture this summer.
Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you became attached to the Disney Channel film “Teen Beach Movie”?
Jeffrey Hornaday: I had worked with Disney Channel before on a film called “Geek Charming”. It wasn’t a musical but it was a romantic comedy. It got really good ratings and I got nominated for a Director’s Guild Award. So we all came away very happy with how it went. So when this came up given Disney’s background and mine also with musicals, it was a natural fit.
MG: Tell us about your approach to making this a true summer film?
JH: When you look back at the old beach party movies from the 60’s, you think about those and get this sort of nostalgia and warmth. If you go back and look at them now, they are kind of flat [laughs]. The choreography is kids basically dancing a little at the beach. They are not full blown production numbers. We decided instead of trying to clone what those used to be, let’s do something that makes you feel like when you think about that nostalgia feeling. We sort of took the gloves off and gave ourself the right to go past what the original genre was. We really tried to tap into what it is feels like to think about those movies.
MG: Tell us about your approach to the music in the film?
JH: The music department was really great and wanted to approach it like a Broadway show. Rather than giving them a laundry list of catalog songs, we got together with the composers on number and really talked about it and work-shopped the ideas. It was really like we were putting on a Broadway show and that was really fun.
MG: How was it taking on the role of both director and choreographer on this project?
JH: Because my background is in choreography in Los Angeles not Broadway, I learned about design choreography for camera, which is a very different world. I was lucky that I got to work with really good directors in the past. So it is kind of coming full circle and having more control it actually made the process easier to translate to someone who doesn’t have the choreography experience. I also had help with the choreography from a brilliant young guy, Christopher Scott, he was just incredible to work with. It was a great collaboration and we had this unspoken connection. He came into the project with a lot of ideas. That made it really fun and easier to share the load.
MG: What was your most challenging song to film?
JH: The physical aspect of just shooting on the beach was first a big challenge. Working with sand is not easy. It is hard enough to walk or even run on the beach yet alone dance. There is a number called “Crusin’ for a Brusin'”, which was challenging but in a fun way. There is a song from “West Side Story” called “Cool” and I had that as a prototype in my mind. You could really feel the cinematographer’s hand in the song and it was an homage to that. It was very carefully designed and quite the challenge.
MG: Let’s talk about the success of the film since it has aired on Disney Channel?
JH: It is hard to predict that type of success, especially in pop culture. I remember when I choreographed “Flashdance” at the time and we just thought we were doing this little movie but had no idea that it was going to touch a nerve on pop culture. The thing that was interesting to me was the connection of the old school American musical. You wonder about if the younger audience was going to be able to connect to this, especially since this film deals with aspects from the 60’s. But they have been really able to connect to it.
MG: Any plans to for a follow up to “Teen Beach Movie”?
JH: There has been no confirmation yet. I know that they are certainly thinking about it and their story department has it in development. It would be a no-brainer for me. So I am on-board. I am also currently writing a screenplay for Disney right now. It will have music but is also a contemporary piece. So I am hard at work right now.