Keeping time to the music, a group of fraternity boys breaks out in vigorous footwork before an audience of hundreds of young people.
While the scene at Morgan State University the other day suggests students in the throes of the rites of spring, this is more serious business -- show biz. The high jinks were being staged for a full-length motion picture, "The Weekend It Lives," written, produced and directed by Michael Mfume, son of Representative Kweisi Mfume, D-7th, for his 2 Smooth Film Production company.
The 21-year-old Morgan sophomore, majoring in business and political science in preparation for a career in entertainment, dropped out of school during the current semester to work on the low-budget movie.
Mr. Mfume also plays a leading role and has been working exclusively with local talent -- with four of the 12 principal actors chosen from among Morgan State students.
The young filmmaker describes the 90-minute movie as the "first black horror feature film with an all-black cast and director." Like "Blacula," the 1972 black version of the Dracula vampire tale, Mr. Mfume's film is replete with comic overtones.
"When you're dealing with black people in a horror situation, their immediate reaction is to run away," he says, elaborating on the motivation. "They're scared, they run into the woods and they don't know their way around. They're being chased. It looks bad for them until they finally reach their car. The characters are scared all this time, but to the audience, their reactions are funny."
The screenplay, written by Mr. Mfume in 13 days, follows a group of college friends who take off for a carefree weekend in the country. At the same time, a mysterious villain returns from the past to strike a murderous blow, terrorizing the students.
Filming has been under way at various Baltimore locations since Jan. 2, including Leakin and Druid Hill parks, the Carrie Murray Out door Educational Center, Walbrook Junction and the Ashburton area. The recent shoot at Morgan State, creating the BTC movie's opening scenes, actually concluded more than 2 1/2 months of filming.
To create a naturalistic effect, Mr. Mfume often used cinema verite techniques such as a hand-held camera and natural lighting during the filming. He says his previous experience includes nine months of working with professionals on music videos, commercials and TV shows, most recently with Baltimore producer/director Daryl Pugh.
Mr. Mfume plans to premiere the film sometime in May, preferably in Baltimore. He says several distributors have expressed interest, along with a cable network. He is also exploring the possibility of a video and a book.