Cool in hindsight, ‘Meatballs’ film shoot wasn’t fun for real-life campers at Camp White Pine

The idea of a movie production coming to your summer camp is the kind of thing that sounds like a fun story to tell years later. But for the campers at Camp White Pine in the late ’70s, being part of the movie shoot for the iconic summer camp comedy Meatballs wasn’t exactly their idea of fun in the moment.

After all, movie productions are long, repetitive and boring. Which is, for most people, the opposite of what summer camp is all about.

Zany and fun as the finished product would become, the shoot for Meatballs was something campers weren’t too cool with after the initial excitement wore off, according to a recent oral history of the 1979 movie published by Vanity Fair.

Blum: I remember that things got tense with the campers. They were very excited when we arrived, but within a week, maybe less than that, they understood that this was not going to be fun for them. There is nothing more boring than being an extra on a movie shoot.

Adam Kronick (former camper, current camp director at Camp White Pine): I was 17 years old when they shot the movie at our camp. I don’t remember a lot about it, other than that there was a lot of grumbling.

Kay Armatage (location coordinator): There was one day when Ivan wanted to shoot the little kids doing a potato sack race. So these little kids—they looked like they were five, they were absolutely darling—they were waiting for us, waiting to start their potato sack race for what seemed like hours and hours. They were missing their swimming time and their naps and their crafts projects and whatever else. They were starting to get seriously pissed off. Eventually Ivan or Danny, I forget which, said, “I think we’re not going to have time to shoot this scene.” Well, I just blew my stack. They’ve been sitting here for three hours! These kids are going to do a potato sack race! I don’t care if you want to pretend to shoot it, but you’ve got to do it!

Kronick: It’s hard to make a film in a summer camp when there are 400 campers who have other ideas of how they want to spend their summer. It was certainly disruptive.

Armatage: The campers started to mutiny and sabotage. It was wild.

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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