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Posted on November 13, 2015

The Christmas caroling season stretched into spring for nine members of the California Singers, who expect to be part of a motion picture scheduled to premiere in November.

The students performed as featured extras for a scene in Love the Coopers, a CBS Films production starring award- winning actors Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Marisa Tomei and Diane Keaton.

Filmed in Pittsburgh, the romantic comedy follows the exasperated members of an extended family as they attempt to gather for their annual holiday celebration.

Students Justin DiPerna, Charles Heiser, Allison Killen, Hannah Kovscek, Laura Moeller, Matt Shorraw ’15, Kate Sickels, Eric Streshenkoff and Mia Zazac were part of a scene shot at The Galleria of Mt. Lebanon.

Dressed in Dickensian-style costumes, they sang “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and “Carol of the Bells.”

“Being an extra in a movie has been on my ‘bucket list’ for years,” says Kovscek, an honors student with a dual major in elementary and special education. 

Hollywood came knocking at the carolers’ door in the form of Nancy Mosser, a Pittsburgh-based member of the Casting Society of America. She contacted her longtime friend Dr. Yugo Ikach, chair of the Music Department, with a request for skilled carolers.

The California Singers give 20-30 caroling performances during the holiday season, so Ikach was happy to recommend the group.

“You talk about experiential things you do in college that are not necessarily always tied to a class, but (instead) with some of the clubs and activities you’re involved with,” Ikach says. “Hopefully this will add to the students’ fond memories of Cal U.” 

The carolers witnessed the meticulous movie-making process while spending two days on a scene that may last for less than a minute on-screen. 

“It’s just amazing the amount of work that goes into such a short amount of film time,” says University Choir president Shorraw, who graduated in May with a degree in commercial music technology.

“It makes sense to us now why it takes so long to film a movie.”

Shorraw said the mall remained open for business during the filming, although it was decorated for Christmas and a live Santa was on hand.

“We got some weird stares from people walking past us and seeing us in our puffy Dickensian caroling costumes, skirts and all that,” he recalls. “Those people who missed seeing the notices (posted about the filming) certainly looked confused.”

Kovscek says she was impressed with the movie-making process.

“As an education major, what stood out is how they incorporated so many different people of all age groups. Even during our experience, which will be a small part in a scene, you see how much time is invested in things like the costumes, the hair, the makeup, the multiple shots.

“I honestly could not see being at any other school,” she adds, crediting Cal U for her moment in the spotlight. “I’m just really excited to see how my years here will progress and the opportunities that might open up.”

Carolers singing during Christmas in Love the Coopers movie.