Did you watch High School Musical and think to yourself, “There should be a Christian version of this?”
Well, if you didn’t, writer Alan Powell did--and he made it happen. Crosswalk had the opportunity to chat with Alan about his newest film, A Week Away, along with Adam Watts, who actually wrote the song “High School Musical”, and lead actors Bailee Madison and Kevin Quinn. This project's standout feature, which meant so much to all four of them, was this film’s music.
A Week Away centers around Will Hawkins (played by Kevin), who is on very thin ice with the law. As a last resort to stay out of juvie, he agrees to go to a Christian summer camp. Straight off the bus, Will is greeted by the grand musical dance number “Great Adventure” that lets him know he has been dropped off into a whole new world.
He quickly encounters Avery, (played by Bailee), the camp director’s daughter who is in love with this camp. Through their budding relationship, Will is shown an example of how to wrestle with his faith and find the love God has had for him all along.
The soundtrack, made up of reimagined Christian anthems from the likes of Amy Grant and Steve Curtis Chapman, and several original tracks written by Adam Watts, is as fun as it is heartfelt.
Here’s what the cast and crew of a Week Away had to share about this film’s music and its impact.
1. The Music Was at the Heart of A Week Away from Its Start
The music for this film has been intimately tied to its story from the beginning. Alan shared how it all started:
“My kids were watching High School Musical, which is the song that Adam wrote and produced for that movie … We're listening to that music and I go ‘Oh, we should have one of these the faith-based space,’ because that's the world that I come from. And then of course it evolved and grew into so much more than just that kernel of an idea ... So the fact that years later he came on board to do the music is incredible.”
It was the opportunity to work on the entire collection that really convinced Adam to take on this project. Not only could he reimagine old classics and create an overall music aesthetic that permeated the whole film, but he got to share his personal faith through themes of grace, faith, forgiveness, and acceptance throughout the soundtrack. “It was an easy yes,” he declared.
And for Bailee, who has been an actress for practically her whole life, has always wanted to work with music in her career as well. Add that to the fact that this movie can be enjoyed by a whole family together, and that it shares her personal faith--she called it a “no-brainer.
2. The Music Communicates the Movie’s Deeper Themes
Not only will some of the songs make you want to dance, but there a few that will really tug at your heart strings.
As with any great musical, the more melodic numbers communicate what the actors are feeling deep inside. And as Bailee puts it, they’re not just releasing a movie, but rather putting sections of their heart out into the world for people to watch and love.
Alan shared that there were two main motivations behind the music: the first, to disarm the audience, and the second, to “... Just to be honest. You know, we can't shy away from the impact that faith has on us and then it can have on us ... we certainly weren't afraid to let Will go on that journey and really wrestle with that and that's where Bailey's character Avery came in in such a meaningful way.”
He continued “Will thinks he's got her figured out at first. ‘She's the perfect one. So I have to be perfect to get her,’ and then she comes in-- and Bailee did such a beautiful job delivering this-- but she is honest and surprises us with her own wrestling with faith, which is just a flip side to the same coin in a way.”
One particularly memorable session recording Kevin’s vocals left “God Only Knows” with a raw authenticity.
Adam recalls “We had this incredible moment of sharing our own personal struggles that day right before he walked into the booth to sing that--and that almost brings me to tears now thinking about it, but--it was profound. I mean he walked in and sang that vocal, it was as much Will as it was Kevin singing that vocal, and you can hear it in that moment when it all settles down and [he] sings ‘God knows what you've been through.’ We were all in tears, all of us that night, and it was no joke.”
Kevin beamed “Recording that soundtrack was just such a deep, beautiful experience."
Photo Credit: ©Netflix
3. The Music Is a Little Cheesy on Purpose
For anyone who grew up going to Christian camps, you know that being corny is all part of the experience. And because we’re going on this journey through Will’s perspective, Alan really leaned into giving the audience that feeling.
He freely admits that some of the music, along with the dance numbers, is a “... Little bit cheesy. It's a good amount of cheese. I heard Adam say the other day that cheese is great, cheese goes on everything.”
Why so intentional about something that is typically seen as a negative? Alan emphasizes that their intention with the whole film was to “Kind of poke fun at it in a way that felt the disarming for a general audience, but also for those of us that grew up in that world and understand that world, there's aspects of it that are just funny and a little odd. So I love that one of Will’s first lines in the movie, especially when he's experiencing [this] world, is ‘This is weird.’ I love that.”
Bailee added “it does kind of just hit you in the face. And that is what I love about it, is that it doesn't take itself too seriously, because you can't do that in life ... No one person is the same, no one's going to respond to the same situation and the same matter. So I do love that we kick it off, and it's like you're not supposed to be comfortable. It's supposed to be like ‘Welcome to Camp!’ You've got to settle in as well."
4. The Music Will Have You Falling in Love with A Week Away
When asked what they all want the audience to walk away from this film with, Kevin immediately shared “The music. I just want them to walk away loving the music.”
He continued, “I like to call it the Goosebumps effect ... When you combine moving picture with music, within the context of a musical, and you're able to successfully pull it off, it's like that Goosebumps effect. And that's where the love comes from. That's how these kids fall in love with these films in my opinion. That's how I've fallen in love with musicals in the past and I hope kids get that same sense of spirit.”
Adam added “You know what I’d like them to come away with? Is the idea that they may have just had a guilty pleasure and that they're not guilty about it.”
A Week Away is rated PG and is now streaming on Netflix.
Photo Courtesy: ©Netflix
Kelly-Jayne McGlynn loves her role as Family Editor for Crosswalk. She sees the act of expression, whether through writing or art, as a way to co-create with God and experience him deeper. Check out her handmade earring Instagram and Etsy for more of her thoughts on connecting with God through creative endeavors.