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Lee Cataluna

Kamehameha students roll with a lip dub music video

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It isn’t quite the entire school dancing to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go." It just looks that way.

In the last week, Kamehameha Schools’ seven-minute music video has truly gone viral, with more than 14,000 hits on YouTube and so much buzz in the community that the morning TV shows are calling.

The piece is called a lip dub, a mixture of lip-synching and dubbing the music to video. It is the latest thing in high school video classes, so new that Kamehameha film and production teacher Leah Kihara had to look it up.

"A friend sent me a link to a school on the mainland that did a lip dub, and I thought, ‘What’s a lip dub?’" she said.

Kihara showed the clip to her advanced students, who took it as a challenge. They figured out the elements of the form: It had to look spontaneous, it needed to involve hundreds of students and the music had to be fun, singable and retro.

Kihara is a graduate of Kamehameha and the University of Southern California film school.

She has worked on a number of documentaries, independent films and television projects in Hawaii and around the Pacific Rim. She just finished her first year teaching at Kamehameha.

"Throughout the year, the students were working on projects by themselves or in small groups. The lip dub was the first time the entire class worked together on one project."

The video includes five songs, weaves through the staircases and fields of the beautiful Kapalama campus and involves close to 300 students. It looks spontaneous, as if it was somehow shot in one take, and indeed it almost was.

"It was May 21. We shot it all in one day after school," Kihara said. "We said, ‘OK, you only get one chance. If you mess up, you mess up.’ We told ourselves it would be an epic — either an epic success or an epic failure."

Though it was shot in a day and edited over a weekend, the pre-planning involved many intensive hours.

The section of the piece that runs backward required the most preparation. Student Skye Sonomura took the oldie song "Magic" by Pilot, played it backward with a computer editing program, wrote down the way the lyrics sounded phonetically and then memorized the sounds.

The day of the shoot, the advanced video students put tape on the ground to mark where the wrestling team should go and where the cheerleaders should stand. And then they called action, started the music and worked with whatever happened. There’s so much charm to the piece, but one especially memorable moment is two minutes in when two boys break into a geeky strut to the lyrics "I would walk 500 miles."

Though it is summer break, some of the students are working on a "the making of" video that will be posted soon. Meanwhile, Kihara has the summer to think about how her students might try to top this next year.

"I know!" she says. "Everyone keeps asking us how we’re going to do that."

Lee Cataluna can be reached at


» See the Kamehameha lip dub at

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