Writer/Director Michael Tully hasn’t kept his fondness for Ocean City, MD or the nostalgic vacations of his youth a secret. In fact, he’s written a comedic homage to his memories in Ping Pong Summer, the movie currently filming in Ocean City.
Tully’s film stars a young cast—all from Maryland and Virginia, and features Ocean City, MD native Emmi Shockley as the female lead. Ping Pong Summer’s cast also includes some heavy-hitters—Lea Thompson, John Hannah, and Susan Sarandon, who all sat down this week at the Hilton as part of a press conference to introduce themselves and their characters to the community featured so prominently in the movie.
Veteran actors Thompson and Hannah, neither of whom had been to Ocean City before, had already begun filming their scenes in the movie. Thompson recalled an experience during filming in a little oceanfront cottage, in a scene involving a bushel of crabs just steps away from where she presently sat. Thompson’s sister lives in Baltimore, and she filmed a movie, Mayor Cupcake, in Dewey Beach; she’s no stranger to either eating Maryland crabs or visiting the Eastern Seaboard. But there was just something about eating a bushel of crabs at this cottage on the beach, and filming a scene with all of these crab shells strewn about, that stood out.
Hannah, who was born in Scotland and has traveled at length, spoke of what he thought of the scenery in this part of the world,
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful beach. Assateague is just stunning; it’s a really stunning part of the world.”
Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon had only just arrived in town, but she had already managed to see Trimper’s famous carousel, which she called, “really beautiful,” and visit Berlin, MD. Sarandon mentioned that,
“People here are really generous and we are having fun which is half the battle.”
The young cast all spoke about the audition process, and most were surprised in fact, to get a part. For Emmi Shockley, who plays Stacy, the female lead, it almost didn’t happen. Shockley was in Baltimore working on an independent film when she was told there was going to be a movie filmed in Ocean City.
“It was just too perfect for someone who wants to be an actress – a movie that is shooting in my hometown,” recalled Shockley.
But having missed the auditions, Shockley thought she lost her chance. Willing to give it a shot anyway, Shockley emailed her interest, and ended up on a series of auditions, met Tully, and got the outcome she had hoped for—a starring role in a movie about her hometown.
In speaking of Ocean City, the town and its actual businesses, is as much a part of the film as the actors. Filming locations such as the Boardwalk, Trimper’s Rides, Phillips Crab House, and the Green Turtle have nostalgic qualities largely unchanged since the 1980’s. Writer/Director Tully, reflecting on filming just two weeks into the process said while laughing,
“We are making one of the most fun and strange commercials for a town.”
Tully’s Ping Pong Summer paints a universal picture of youth, summer vacations, and nostalgic memories. But underneath it all are the memories of Ocean City that lit the spark for Tully to write this script in the first place. Which begs the question: what will the veteran actors, brought to this seaside town for the first time, and who have traveled to many locations all over the world, take with them as their Ocean City memory?
“It was the first day shooting on the beach, with the sun coming up, it was just stunning, and John [Hannah] had to run into the water, “ began Thompson.
“I was surprised, the water was really warm,” continued Hannah.
“We got it all in one take, which is unheard of. It was the perfect sunrise at about 6:50 am. There was no haze, and in talking to one of the shop owners that never happens, but we got it,” finished Tully.
To see that perfect Ocean City sunrise, and John Hannah frolicking in the water at 6:50 am, the rest of us will have to wait for Ping Pong Summer’s release. The movie continues filming for the next several weeks.
Photos by Ami Reist.