- The director of Disney Channel’s “Camp Rock” shared some behind-the-scenes secrets about the film.
- Taylor Lautner almost played the lead, and the Jonas Brothers were added once Joe was cast.
- The movie was filmed at two different real summer camps that are about 20 miles (32km) apart.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“Taylor Lautner did audition, and we liked him a lot,” director Matthew Diamond said. “I think we kind of said he wasn’t exactly right for the part.”
The director said that they could “tell how talented he was” but he wasn’t “quite Shane Gray enough.”
“I remember thinking he’s really good-looking and quite charismatic,” Diamond added.
Even though Lautner didn’t get the “Camp Rock” gig, he ended up landing his iconic role as Jacob Black in “Twilight” (2008), which came out the same year.
“I went to see them, and thought, ‘Well, he obviously can sing, and he’s obviously got the boy rock-star thing,'” the director said, speaking of Joe Jonas.
The singer sent in an acting audition tape for Shane while he was on tour with his brothers, Nick and Kevin. After checking it out, Diamond “gave him some notes” and asked him to audition again.
After earning the director’s approval, Joe just had to get yeses from the producers and Disney Channel president Gary Marsh.
With huge viewership numbers, a successful sequel, and hit soundtracks, casting Joe seemed to be the right call in the end.
“He’s fantastic in this film, he really was, he delivered emotionally, comically, and romantically,” Diamond said.
“They were not in the original script,” the director said. “The original idea was Shane Gray was the nephew of the head of the camp or something like that, and it was just him.”
Once Joe was cast in the role, the execs decided to add parts for Nick and Kevin. Instead of Shane being a troubled solo artist forced by an adult to attend Camp Rock and fix his behavior, they switched it so his bandmates are forcing him to improve.
“They say, ‘You have to go to camp and cool your jets and learn to behave,’ and I thought it was a very cool idea,” Diamond told Insider. “Because then it’s not parents making somebody behave … it’s friends making somebody behave, which is a far better paradigm.”
This didn’t end up being an issue because Diamond said they had “great chemistry and great friendship.”
“It seemed almost instantaneous,” the director said, explaining that the only thing he did to help them come together was organize a few dinners with them.
At the dinners, they discussed the script and how it related to their real-life experiences to help them better understand their characters’ journeys.
Diamond said he “just wanted to make sure that they were so comfortable with each other” before and during filming, but “it seemed almost immediate anyway.”
The pair even briefly dated in 2010, the year “Camp Rock 2” came out.
Diamond said he told the writers, “She’s a self-centered character, who thinks the world of herself, so we need to do the teenage equivalent of ‘I’m Too Sexy for My Shirt.'”
About three weeks later, writers Toby Gad and Pamela Sheyne created “Too Cool” after taking inspiration from the Right Said Fred song.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing, it’s a fantastic song,'” the director told Insider. “It’s amazing to get something and know how good it is.”
But movie magic made the fire look closer to the stage than it really was. Diamond said it was actually “probably 50 feet” away.
“We’re obviously going to protect our performers and our crew members,” the director said. “But that is a real fire, and the way that I shot it, which is just part of the directing technique, makes it look like they’re 5 feet (1.52m) away, but that’s a bit of an optical illusion.”
There was “plenty of room” between the actors and the flames, but there were also crew members kneeling below the stage with fire extinguishers and water “just in case a single spark flies.”
One particular moment, when Shane serenades Mitchie with “Gotta Find You” on the dock, has left fans wondering where all the extra instruments and backing vocals came from.
Diamond said he loves how closely people are watching this movie, especially all these years later, and explained that Joe’s non-solo solo performance was all about “dramatic license.”
“Obviously nobody else is there, you can see, there’s a wide shot and it’s just the two of them, and it’s designed as a great romantic moment,” he said.
Everything came together to create the “rich, musical experience” Diamond wanted, and he applauded both Joe and Lovato for both being so “wonderful” in the scene.
The director was, again, flattered by some fans’ attention to detail, but he shared that the main reason no one eats in the cafeteria scenes is to avoid continuity issues.
“You don’t want their plates to mismatch,” he explained. “If they ate an entire taco the first time, but they only feel like one bite the second time, and I have to cut between the first take and the second take, you can’t really do that.”
Throughout the course of the movie, Lovato was tasked with a lot of messy stunt work, and the director said they were “absolutely willing to do anything,” leaving him “so impressed.”
He added that Lovato “wanted to do whatever it took to make this great in any way, shape, or form — stunts, comedy, dancing, music, singing, emotion,” and that they “were all there.”
Diamond said he wasn’t surprised Lovato went on to a “wonderful” career after working with them on “Camp Rock.”
“We scouted a lot of beautiful summer camps, and we found two that we used,” Diamond said. “One was named Camp Kilcoo … And then we used additional locations, as well.”
But those two sets were much farther apart than they seemed in the movie.
“The ‘kitchen,’ which she goes into and works in with her mom, that’s not in any way, shape, or form a real kitchen,” the director said. “We were looking at real kitchens, and then it was pointed out to me that if we used a real kitchen, the refrigerators could never shut off, the stoves could never shut off, there would be all this sound.”
They ended up renting fake equipment that they placed in an empty space at the other camp, located about 20 miles (32km) away from the cafeteria set.
“I think we were just OK with it,” the director said. “I think it probably was kind of like, ‘Why not? It doesn’t look like he’s married. He’s a guy who wears a ring.’ And we’re not ever pointing it out and saying this is his purity ring.”
After starting her career as a backup dancer in Missy Elliott’s music videos and joining the cast of “Step Up” (2006), Stoner was given the space to throw in some of her own dance moves during her Pajama Jam performance in “Camp Rock.”
“She’s like, ‘Look I can do this,’Pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa and then play,’ and I was like, ‘That’s so fantastic,'” the director told Insider. “And I said, ‘Well, do it. We’ll shoot it. If we use it, great, if we don’t use it, no harm no foul.'”
He said her skills “didn’t surprise him,” and they ended up using the take in the film.
He added how “remarkable” it was for a 15-year-old to be putting it all out there on the stage in front of the cameras.
“I don’t remember how many takes we did, but, believe me, had we only done one take, it probably would’ve been almost as good,” the director said.
“You gotta do something you haven’t done before. It’s gotta be bigger than ever,” the director said.
Diamond based the Final Jam set on Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts, which is a theater inside of what looks like a big barn. Then he started to brainstorm “a complete background story” for how the camp director, Brown, would’ve been able to get all the expensive technical equipment for a little summer camp.
He decided that Brown was a touring rocker, and at the end of his career, they didn’t pay him for his final tour.
“So he said, ‘You know what, see all of that lighting equipment over there, I’ll take that. Ship it over to my summer camp.’ And it seemed like a good idea,” Diamond said.
The director said no one ever asked, “Where does a summer camp get all of that amazing lighting equipment straight out of a Led Zeppelin show?” But he had fun coming up with a justification nonetheless.
“I’m sure somebody said, ‘Why don’t they kiss?’ And yet, that’s not the script because then what do you do for the next movie,” Diamond said. “What these people don’t seem to understand — and they’re not supposed to understand — is what they really want is conflict, what they really want is to hope for something, what they really want is to root for things, what they really want is to anticipate.”
He added that it “certainly felt” like an unwritten DCOM rule that you don’t have the love interests kiss if there’s a strong possibility of a sequel. For example, leads Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) didn’t kiss until the second “High School Musical” film.
“They’re supposed to want more,” the director said. “Everybody’s gonna want to come back for the next movie to see, will they kiss?”
“I do remember I had a good time with the cast and crew,” the director said. “They were great kids.
“My joke, honestly, would be that I took all these kids to summer camp to make a movie about summer camp …” he continued. “When they were not shooting, they might be outside playing with a soccer ball or taking a little walk around the lake or something like that.”