Locally filmed movie portrays a new kind of prom

“Death to Prom” provides a romantic comedy involving gay and straight relationships

Ivy Kaplan

It’s not everyday a movie comes out filmed completely in Minneapolis suburbs, or where the characters wear dresses make out of balloons and attend an apocalypse-themed prom. However, in the new movie “Death to Prom”, these are only some of the high points.

Co-produced and directed by Minnesota residents Matthew Stenerson and Jeremy Wilker, “Death to Prom” features an unusual relationship between lead characters René, Frankie and Sasha.

“We have been calling it a romantic comedy drama, but it’s also kind of a confused love triangle,” Stenerson said during an interview.

While Vázquez (René) and Khan (Frankie) have been best friends throughout high school, Keives (Sasha) arrives and causes drama, as both of them develop feelings for him. Tensions become high as prom approaches and the three of them compete amongst themselves to be each other’s dates.

Before the filming and production took place, multiple factors influenced the film and its message.
“Death to Prom” was inspired by Stenerson and Wilkers’ mutual enjoyment of “Pretty in Pink” by John Hughes. However, they wanted their movie to have a twist, prompting the creation of a lead gay character, René.

In addition to “Pretty in Pink”, Stenerson and Wilker had different motives for creating “Death to Prom”. According to Stenerson he wanted to portray experiences from his own childhood.

“When I was in high school I started out kind of with the jocks and then as I got older I started hanging out with the punks and the artists so I knew a little bit of both sides of it,” Stenerson said. “I thought it would be interesting to have them interact with each other.”

Wilker, on the other hand, was influenced by the Anoka-Hennepin School District and the troubles occurring there within the past five years.

“Something that was stuck in the back of my head was all the bullying and suicides from the Anoka School District over the last five years and it was making me furious,” Wilker said. “I thought maybe these kids just need to see a film and need to see characters represented who are them, whether they are straight or gay.”

After viewing “Death to Prom”, senior Nekita Newstrom said she agrees with Wilker and believes the film provides an accurate portrayal of what it is like to be gay in high school, as she is openly out.

“I would suggest that other people go see the movie because it’s interesting, creative, and really gives people insight to what life is actually like once you’ve come out,” Newstrom said.

“Death to Prom” conveys a message of acceptance between all people, specifically teenagers despite their sexual orientation, according to Stenerson.

“I think our main message is one of understanding between different types of people,” Stenerson said. “It’s to keep your sense of individuality going even if it might be hard to do that in high school.”

Additionally, Wilker said he believes “Death to Prom” promotes an anti-bullying message among teenagers and lets them know that they are not alone.

“This film can let kids know that there are other people out in this world just like you and you don’t have to put up with being harassed all the time,” he said.

Since “Death to Prom” was first released in Oct. 2013, the main goal of the crew is making the movie as accessible as possible to all kinds of audiences according to Stenerson and Wilker. Wilker said they hope to tour schools around the Twin Cities and the Midwest, specifically to show it to teenagers.

“You probably see a lot of documentaries in school and it’s like ‘Oh God, this is just a downer.’ They are so depressing and so brutal,” Wilker said. “We really want to go on a school tour because we could show it, and then have a discussion about it afterwards. I just think it would be so much fun and a good thing.”

Senior Josh Kuether said he believes the movie will positively influence many teenagers and would make students more tolerant of all people within Park.

“I would definitely be interested in seeing this movie,” Kuether said. “It will help make students more confident because it will give gay students support and will help them become more proud of who they are.”

More information about “Death to Prom” can be found at deathtoprom.com.

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