SALT LAKE CITY — When Sam Featherstone was elected president of the Men's Association at Skyline High School, he continued the tradition of auditioning and creating the school's all-male dance group, "Lingeries."
It was as Sam and the other boys were rehearsing at his house that Sam's father, Scott Featherstone, watched his wife and son leading the team through choreography and thought, "This is funny. We need to turn this into a film."
And they did. The film "Unitards" will begin playing in select theaters Jan. 27. It was written, directed and produced by Scott Featherstone and is being distributed by Excel Entertainment.
The story begins with Lewis Grady (played by Sam Featherstone) being elected Men's Association president and challenged by Vice Principal Spooner (Michael Buster) to create and implement a plan to increase school spirit at Skyline.
Lewis and his friends Greg and Jake (Jamison Featherstone and Zack Spurlock) brainstorm ideas but come up empty until they see the award-winning girls drill team, "La Nichees," practicing and decide to form a guys-only dance group. They hold auditions and invite guys from all sides of the social spectrum to join.
The next challenge for the boys is naming the team — a task that the filmmakers had also struggled with in naming the film.
Skyline's real-life group "Lingeries" had been around for a long time, and came from a play on "La Nichees," the name of the girls drill team.
"Everybody seemed to like it," Sam said. "I'm not sure how the administration liked it, but it stuck and it's been around for years."
However, for the group's name in the film and the film's title, there needed to be a change, Scott said. Then one of the producers remembered a line in the film where an auditioning boy asks if the group could wear unitards like the dancers in "Cats," and the title "Unitards" was considered.
In a post on the Facebook page for "Unitards," Scott wrote, "We chose the name 'Unitards' because it is a quirky word for a funny article of clothing that depicts our dance theme and the concept of 'unity,' which are both themes of our film. Because we have sons with disabilities, we recognized that the (third) syllable of the title could potentially be misconstrued as derogatory, so I wrote dialogue specifically designed to clarify any misunderstanding and diffuse any possible misinterpretation."
Once named, the Unitards face opposition in the form of Ms. Zarolla (Karen Dodge), coach of the La Nichees, who sees the boy's team as an embarrassing mockery and who is willing to go to extreme lengths to see it disbanded.
While the film's plotline takes a detour from actual events, the characterizations of the main protagonists are, according to Scott, mostly accurate.
"Our three main characters, we really played to their strengths and their own personalities as much as we could. The kid across the street, and my nephew (Jamison) — for the most part, these are all just real kids, so it helped us a lot to sort of not ask them to go against their personalities."
Take Lewis' frequent response of "I don't think so!" or Greg's uniquely delivered greeting of "Hello my friends!" for example.
"I heard (Jamison) say that, and that's how he greets people normally," Scott said. "I borrowed lines from the kids themselves because they're funny, and it's also natural for them to say that."
Even beyond the scripted lines, Sam sees a lot of himself in his character Lewis Grady.
"The only difference is that in some scenes Lewis uses bigger, more eloquent words than I would use," he said with a laugh. "But other than that, we are pretty much the same person."
Sam graduated from Skyline High School in 2007 and returned a year later to film "Unitards" during the summer. The filming took place over a three-month period and was completed six days before Sam left for his LDS mission to Mozambique, Africa. Sam is now a student in the film program at BYU and works as an editor for BYUtv's weekly sports show "True Blue."
Scott considers "Unitards" to be a tribute to his sons and their friends who have come through his home over the years.
"They're funny, they're smart, they're charming, they're random. Really out there. But they're so respectful," Scott said. "There's a lot of great kids out there who are often portrayed in a way that's not wholly accurate or representative of everyone; it's just representative of one group. So this is for the other side, for the other kids."
"Unitards" has a running time of 104 minutes and is rated PG for brief mild language.
For theater locations and additional information, visit www.unitardsmovie.com.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company