Feature-length faculty film to premiere at State Theatre

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When a group of 1960s British pop rockers gets mistakenly launched into space and lands on a planet populated entirely by women, some groovy craziness can follow -- and that’s exactly what happens in “Ripped!” the latest feature-length comedy produced by a husband-and-wife filmmaking team in the College of Communications at Penn State.

The film -- which will make its world premiere at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, at the State Theatre in State College -- follows Norman’s Normans, a mop-topped quartet who work at the British Space Agency. They get sent into space when a trained chimp accidentally punches in a launch code.

On the faraway planet they meet women wary of anything male, although the queen’s daughter falls in love with the band’s music and its lead singer, Norman. At the same time, officials back on Earth are working to help the band return home. The film trailer is available to watch online.

“Ripped!” -- a 105-minute, comedy sci-fi musical -- provides a tip of the cap to some well-known movie-and-music combinations. The film is the fourth feature-length film from writer/director Rod Bingaman and producer Maura Shea, both of whom are senior lecturers in the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies.

“It’s what they used to call a jukebox movie. It started with Bill Haley and the Comets in ‘Rock Around the Clock,’ has 31 Elvis variations, has a Herman’s Hermits version, a very trippy Monkees movie and was raised to what might be called an art form by director Richard Lester and the Beatles,” says Bingaman. “What I see in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘Help!’ are the unscripted and charming personalities of John, Paul, George and Ringo, not to mention their music. The films themselves have all the attributes of the band: spontaneity, an openness to improvisation and a feel for the audience that neither preaches nor panders. You wish you were in the movie yourself. That’s the flavor we went for in ‘Ripped!’”

The film’s debut comes on opening night of the College Town Film Festival, a celebration of independent film, scheduled April 16-19 at the State Theatre. The festival, and this film, made by faculty members committed to their profession and teaching, complement each other well.

Led by Bingaman and Shea, “Ripped!” was produced with professional actors in lead roles but with dozens of Penn State alumni, students and community members playing vital roles in making the production possible.

“This cast and crew were not hardened, industry-connected impresarios. We were a mix of modest film/theatre professionals and young energetic newcomers,” Bingaman said. “About as regular folk as it gets with lights, boom ops and jibs. The technology has changed, but ‘Ripped!’ is still a garage movie. Its real spirit is in the people making and performing it -- a groovy collection of fun-loving creative people.”

Photos of the cast and production crew and more information about “Ripped!” may be found at rippedthemovie.com online. In addition, Norman’s Normans have their own Facebook fan page, which includes an interview with the band about the film.

With their production company, Ma & Pa Pictures, Bingaman and Shea previously produced “Chasing Butterflies” (2009), “Hooray for Mister Touchdown” (2004) and “A Holiday Affair” (2000).

Bingaman has more than 20 years of industry experience, including work on feature films, broadcast television, commercials and corporate communications as a writer, director, cameraman and editor. Among his directing credits are various commercial spots, including a national March of Dimes campaign and an award-winning short narrative film, “Why Wilbur Bowls …” (1994). “A Holiday Affair” (2000) earned the Audience Award at the Brooklyn Film Festival 2000 and “Chasing Butterflies” earned a national distribution agreement. He is the former recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Grant and has received both the College of Communications Excellence in Teaching Award (2001, 2011) and the College of Communication Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award (2005).

Shea boasts experience as a sound designer and editor on projects ranging from independent feature films to award-winning documentaries such as “Malcolm X: Make it Plain” and two segments for “Sesame Street.” She served as producer of all the Ma & Pa Pictures’ feature films. She also wrote, directed and produced the award-winning short drama “Under Control” (1992), which won first prize in the National Council on Family Relations Media Awards Competition. She teaches non-linear editing and beginning and advanced film-video production.

Last Updated April 10, 2014