Sundog days of summer: 16-year-old filmmaker Will Merrick directs live show Saturday at LGAC’s Black Box Theater
By Sarah Hall
They say every dog has its day, and for Sundog Pictures ‘ Will Merrick, that day seems sooner than later.
At age 16, young Merrick has already produced several short films. That’s what he does when he isn’t busy acting or writing.
He has appeared in lead roles in Piedmont Players Youth Theatre Shakespearean productions, “As You Like It” and “The Tempest. And he played Jafar in the PPT Youth production of “Aladdin.”
Will is also member of the Amadeus Youth Chorus, and was a featured soloist in their recent show “Simply Showtunes.”
He has been homeschooled since sixth grade and is currently entering 11th grade. He is the son of Bill and Julia Merrick of Salisbury.
Recently, for fun, Will rewrote the lyrics to “High School Musical’ and turned it into “Home School Musical.” You can get a taste of that and more this Saturday, when Sundog Pictures presents a show that’s live rather than on film. Will directs and produces and stars in “Broadway and the Band.”
The show will be presented at 11 a.m., free of charge, in the Looking Glass Artist Collective’s Black Box Theater on the corner of North Lee and East Kerr, in the Railwalk Arts District.
It’s part of the day-long “Hop, Skip, Jump Festival” at LGAC, on the fringe of Rowan Arts Council’s Arts on Easy Street festival (just a hop, skip and jump away).
Performers, besides himself, include his sister, Caroline Merrick, Scarlett Speaks, and Tara Speaks. Playing in the band will be Victoria Byers, Jacob Nelson, Samuel Nelson and Elisa Sanchez.
Also assisting will be accompanist Diane Freeman and David Lore with sound support.
It will be a mostly music program, with a magic trick thrown in for good measure.
Will says they haven’t had a single rehearsal where everyone was present at once. There was one where they had all but two people, but, for the most part, each group has rehearsed on its own.
“Busy high school schedules and summer vacations have made it hard, but they also provide a nice pressure that keeps us moving. Everyone deserves a lot of credit for learning the songs on their own. There are also some pieces we knew beforehand from Amadeus,” Will explains.
The aspiring filmmaker first got interested in video production at age 11, when he attended a homeschool conference. He was in a group workshop led by a “newsguy” who demonstrated filmmaking. When Will got home, he started making movies with his family’s VHS camera. He has since progressed to more sophisticated equipment.
He cites as his best work so far his film ‘Transmission,” a comedy about someone who tries to steal a car but can’t drive.
Will worked on two videos for the Rowan Public Library last year, “Metamorphosis”€and “Catch the Reading Bug,” to advertise their summer reading programs. He says an especially fun project has been making a short video series about Piedmont Players’ new youth theater, currently under construction.
Elizabeth Muth, Piedmont Players Theatre marketing director, watched the filming of the youth theater video, and she also knows Will as a talented young actor in PPT youth productions. She’s impressed by Will’s personality and his talent.
“He’s polite and he’s hilarious and he loves his craft,” she says.
He’s also ambitious.
“I’ve got some ideas for much bigger, entertainment-oriented films in the future. Among these is a script about a man who raises a boy with no contact from anyone in order to prove that love is taught and not innate in humans.”
He plans to start that project soon. He’s working on another idea he calls “Sophia’s Heart.” Will’s being more secretive about that one for the time being, but says “I can tell you there will be a fairy-tale love story, a sorcerer, a spooky forest and possibly even singing. It’s very whimsical, and just a little bit dark.”
To help him, he’s looking for other young local actors, composers, filmmakers, or artists in general. He will find some of these this summer, July 6-10 and 13-17, when he works as a student staff member for a music camp being co-sponsored by Amadeus Youth Chorus and the Rowan Blues and Jazz Society.
Will hopes to attend either California Institute of the Arts or UNC School of the Arts, leading to a career in film.
Asked about the “Sundog” logo, he explains, “I was looking through Google Images and ran across a picture of a sundog, which is basically an orb that forms around the sun in icy weather. I liked the idea and wrote a script about it. The script never got produced, but the name stuck.”
You can see examples of his work at www.sundogpictures.com or www.youtube.com/sudogpictures.
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