GLENS FALLS — The Charlottesville alt-right protests that resulted in the death of a Virginia woman seem like an interesting choice for a musical.
However, 2015 Queensbury High School graduate Ben Rowley said it is exactly the type of material he wanted to tackle.
“We’re confronted with so many stressful, chaotic, social events, our first instinct is to jump to fantasy,” he said in a telephone interview last week.
Rowley created the movie musical “Millennial,” which follows 10 young adults during the night of the “Unite the Right” protests in August 2017. A group of white men carried torches and marched in the streets chanting Nazi slogans and saying “Jews will not replace us.” The following day, a protester drove his car into a crowd and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer, a paralegal and an activist for civil rights, and injured 28 others.
Rowley’s movie takes place the night before the tragedy, as these young adults — all of whom are against the alt-right demonstrators — are trying to process what they are seeing.
Filming is set to take place Sunday in City Park from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Rowley said his idea for the musical is “to turn the story of my generation kind of finding itself in the midst of so much social chaos into a movie musical given the success of ‘La-La Land’ and ‘The Greatest Showman.’”
He said he did not want to re-create the protests. There already was a documentary, “Charlottesville: Race and Terror,” made by Vice News on HBO about the protests and aftermath, so he wanted to go in a different direction.
Instead, the majority of the movie involves following 10 young adults who are waiting in the aftermath of the initial protest — just processing it all.
Although it is a largely a work of fiction, Rowley said he did want to re-create one particular real-life scene that occurred the night before the protest, where a group of young people were standing around the Thomas Jefferson statue in the park, arms linked.
Among the themes covered in the musical are social media addiction, society’s obsession with “fake news” and mental health issues among young people, according to a news release.
Over 5,000 people applied for one of the 10 principal roles. Rowley cast 10 up-and-coming actors, mostly from the New York City area and involved in theater, film and music.
Rowley said he based each character upon the real-life actor that he cast in the part, and that made it easier to be able to paint the picture based on the actor’s life story.
He also has cast extras from local production companies, including Lake George Youth Theater.
Rowley did some crowdfunding for the production, but received about 90 percent of the money from so-called angel investors.
He described the music as “acoustic pop with some Southern elements.” There is also some country, R&B and hip-hop influences.
Rowley has worked on a couple of off-Broadway productions. He is attending New York University, where he received the Menken Scholarship for Composition. He took last year off to work on projects including “Millennial.”
Rowley teamed up with Chris Gaunt, who spent 30-plus years in corporate America. Gaunt decided to get out and pursue acting. In December, he found Rowley’s post on a website called backstage.com, which recruits actors.
Gaunt, who plays a reporter in the movie, said he fell in love with the script and the musical score. He liked it so much that he offered to be the executive producer.
After the filming in Glens Falls, they will do some shooting in some rented houses and around Brooklyn. The production is set to wrap around June 25, according to Rowley. He also will be adapting the work into a stage play.
The initial plan is to debut the film at the Toronto Film Festival in September and then the New York Film Festival, according to Rowley. Then, possible at Telluride. He plans to debut it nationwide in late November or early December. He also wants to bring it to Glens Falls as part of the Adirondack Film Festival, but has not yet had those discussions.
“We’ll be releasing the soundtrack to the score ahead of time to garner nationwide attention,” he said.