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Faculty & Staff Spotlights

Faculty expert, students give new movie a musical voice

April 12, 2016

The producer and music composer for 'Wig'd Out'

Sandy Ott Rusk, left, not only produced the new movie "Wig'd Out" but was part of the basis for the story behind the Indiana-based film, which was scored by IUPUI lecturer Ricardo Laranja, also pictured, of the School of Engineering and Technology. | PHOTO COURTESY OF RICARDO LARANJA

Ricardo Laranja will showcase his skills on the red carpet in Carmel on Wednesday, April 13, when the new film "Wig'd Out" makes its debut in the area of Indiana where the film is based -- in and around Hamilton County, north of Indianapolis.

The red carpet celebration will begin at 6 p.m. Flix Brewhouse in Carmel has sold-out showings of the movie at 7 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available for additional screenings at 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Registration is available at Eventzilla. Members of the cast will be on hand to meet fans and sign autographs.

Movie poster for 'Wig'd Out'

The movie playbill captures the essence of the new movie scored by a team from IUPUI.

Laranja produced the orchestral score for the movie, as well as some of the songs heard in the film. He got involved in the project through past work with the Indianapolis-based director, Kate Chaplin. "Wig'd Out' is the story of a teenaged woman totally bald due to the medical condition alopecia. Despite the loss of her hair, the girl's mother wants the young woman to don a wig and follow in the mother's footsteps by participating in a beauty contest.

Laranja is a lecturer in the music technology department in the School of Engineering and Technology. His team included students Kevin Grove and Raul Padro from Engineering and Technology, Lynda Sayyah from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Lynzi Stringer from the School of Liberal Arts. The team also included School of Informatics alumnus Adrian Otey and former IUPUI student Suraia Abdelhak.

"Some of the songs were independently composed by the students," he said. "We not only produced all of the recorded tracks of music, but also the lyrics in some cases."

Laranja was impressed by the students' dedication to the project.

"They are really excited to have their music in a movie," he said. "They understand the importance of this film for society. This is the first film ever to raise awareness of the condition known as alopecia. Kids with this condition, in which they lose their hair, encounter mean comments, bullying and discrimination."

He said that his team's assignment helped the students understand what it takes to produce music specifically for a movie. They learned how difficult it can be to write a piece of music based on a description, without seeking how it affects the overall story.

"The funny thing is that they can't wait to see their name in the credits," Laranja said. "They also are excited to go to the red-carpet premiere. This project gave them incentive, a taste of success and a feeling of accomplishment."

During the production phase, Laranja became acquainted with the producer of "Wig'd Out," Sandy Rusk, who is also the mother in the movie, which was inspired by a true story. Rusk's daughter Olivia, played by actress Georgia Simmons, is a student at Ball State University.

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