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Alumni & Friends

The Sound of Colma, the Muscial

Do we really need another coming-of-age film with teens clamoring for acceptance, love and fake IDs? If it's "Colma the Musical," an independent featuring the talents of three SF State alumni, critics from coast to coast have answered affirmatively, including one L.A. Weekly reviewer who found "more wit, energy and imagination in any one frame" of the film "than in an entire decade's worth of lame Hollywood attempts to revive the genre."


"We didn't expect the overwhelming response," says Producer Paul Kolsanoff (B.A., '01), recalling the packed Kabuki Theatre at the film's premiere in March and the positive reviews that followed as it screened across the nation.


Portrait of L.A. Renigen. Photo by Richard Wong

L.A. Renigen, whose theatrical career has included stints with Teatro ZinZanni and Bindlestiff Pinay Collective, will soon reunite with the Colma team on another film. — Photo by Richard Wong

The musical focuses on a trio of fictional friends fresh out of high school, all of whom live in Colma, the small cemetery-laden city between Daly City and South San Francisco.


In spite of the quirky setting, coproducer Angel Vasquez (M.F.A., '06) believes the musical's appeal lies in its universal themes (among them, the unfulfilling mall job, a crush that won't die, and for one gay character, the difficult decision to come out to family).


The shoot took place in 18 days. Vasquez worked on the musical during a short break from teaching cinema at Bowling Green State University. Kolsanoff, a VFX production coordinator, squeezed in the film between projects at The Orphanage visual effects studio. Although they had a total budget of just $15,000 for the musical (supplied by H.P. Mendoza, who wrote both the songs and screenplay), Kolsanoff says that he and Vasquez, both cinema graduates, learned to be "resourceful, efficient and make the most of what we have" while creating student films at SF State.


L.A. Renigen (B.A., '02), a drama graduate who stars as the brash yet vulnerable Maribel, also says her training at SF State came in handy on the Colma set. Professor Bill Peters' "Playwriting and Development" class gave her an opportunity to work collaboratively on every aspect of a project: writing, directing, acting and technical aspects. "Colma was very much a low budget guerilla operation, where everyone wore more than one hat," says Renigen, who handled the cast's hair and makeup between takes.


Although it's still in the early planning stages, the team hopes to release a sequel to "Colma the Musical."Look for a lyrical romp through the city's retail headquarters: "Serramonte: The Musical."


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