Production on the sequel (titled "Camp 2: Freaks In Nature"), which Graff describes as "completely meta," will begin next year. Fans of the cult film who are hoping to see a reunion with original stars Anna Kendrick, Robin de Jesus and Sasha Allen, may get their wish. Graff says he is hopeful the original cast will return, but in a completely unique manner. Without divulging plot details, Graff explained that they will not be playing their original characters.
Graff did tease that he has initial agreements from Tony Award winners Patti LuPone and Donna Murphy to appear in a "hilarious and ridiculously dark" Dreamgirls sequence that will be choreographed by Tony winner Jerry Mitchell.
The writer-director is heading up to Stage Door Manor, the upstate New York theatre camp where the film is set, to workshop the material with campers there over the next two weeks.
Crowdfunding on Indiegogo.com is expected to launch within the next month.
In the exclusive interview below, Graff looked back at the cult appeal of the original film and revealed details on what fans can expect in the sequel.
When this film came out, every theatre person I knew said, "You have to see this movie!" Why do you think it has had such staying power?
Todd Graff: I think the reason why it reached theatre people, I hope, is because it is an authentic theatre movie made by somebody whose life and background is infused with musical theatre. It's my world, and I think that I brought an authenticity to it that people whose bullsh*t detectors are very well honed [could] say, "Okay, you passed the smell test."
There also aren't that many movies about musical theatre with big splashy musical numbers. I think beyond musical theatre people, what spoke to audiences in general was that it had heart. It had universal themes of feeling like an outsider, finding a community, acceptance, people who are questioning their sexuality, dealing with body issues. All of the things that can make people feel insecure. That was relatable on the macro level. And then on the micro level, it got all the musical theatre details right, so the people it was really about bought into it as well.
How did the sequel come about? Have you had interest in making one before?
TG: There were definitely people who wanted to revisit that world and wanted a sequel for a long time. There were also people, including Broadway producers, who would take me out to lunch and say, "You should do it as a stage musical. It could be a big hit Broadway show!" This was when I would remind them to go re-watch the movie and that it was an indie film produced by Killer Films, and it opens with a drag queen being queer bashed and closes with a naked 15-year-old boy trying to c*ck-tease a gay kid who has a crush on him. It's so not what people like that remember. They remember, "Oh, there were big musical numbers." But it actually has all kinds of weird, gritty stuff in it. I could never really see how to make it a stage musical.
My problem with doing a sequel was that I didn't want the lame, cheesy version where they come back as counselors. But I wanted to be able to use those actors. So, I hit on an idea that's never been done before for a sequel. It doesn't make any cheesy choices. They're not counselors and, in fact, it's completely meta. It's as if Charlie Kaufman decided to write the sequel to "Camp."
Are the original stars expected to return?
TG: We'll see who's available, and who wants to do it. I would like to use them all. I haven't asked any of them yet. We're all still friends. We're still in touch and we love each other. Everyone is so proud to have been in it.
There will also be all new campers whose lives and insane relationships we follow. It's going to be everything: new characters, and in a very specific way, hopefully all of the actors from the first one will be in this movie. They'll be used in a very meta way, even though they don't play any of the characters that they played.
Is Stagedoor Manor the fictional setting for the sequel?
TG: Yes. They still have our poster up, and they're letting us shoot the sequel there. They're not charging us a penny. They're letting everybody stay there. They couldn't be more helpful and anxious to continue the relationship.
The first film had some amazing cameos and musical theatre moments. Can you tease us with anything that's planned for the sequel?
TG: In the script there's a fantasy musical number that takes place, as written (I haven't negotiated licenses yet), "Steppin' to the Bad Side" from Dreamgirls. It's all female and it's led by the reigning Broadway female divas. I've been sending it around. So far I've gotten "Yes" from Donna Murphy and Patti LuPone. Jerry Mitchell is going to choreograph it. We have it out to three more stars, and I hope and pray they say yes. It will be a demented, all-female moment. It's meant to be hilarious and ridiculously dark.
Will there be original songs used in the sequel alongside musical theatre favorites again?
TG: I write the script and put the songs in it, and then we contact the writers and ask permission to use their songs. We were really lucky the first time around that everyone said yes. I hope that people will say yes a second time. Sondheim has agreed to let us use some of his songs again. We're going up to the camp this week and next week to workshop the scenes and songs with kids there for nine days. So I may learn that certain areas may need original songs instead.
When do you expect production to get underway?
TG: We are hoping to get up an Indigogo website next month. There's also Camp2theMovie.com that people can visit so we can get in touch with fans. The film will happen next year. The thing is, you can't shoot when the camp is in operation. Also, coordinating the stars and cameos takes time, so we have to be flexible about when we shoot.