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D.C. filming brings out roller skaters

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Dozens of area residents strapped on roller skates Sunday — most for the first time since childhood — for a chance at stardom, or at least to be an extra in a skating-themed short comedy film shot in Northwest Washington.

It wasn’t quite the “giant roller skate race” with 300 people on Sixth Street NW that local filmmaker John Hibey had envisioned for his Internet comedy series “Friendship Test.” But for Hibey, 29, and the soggy crew of about 50 friends, family and skating enthusiasts who filmed through the rainy afternoon, it was all about having fun with a silly story.

“It’s pretty intensely crazy,” said Patrick Taylor, 30, Hibey’s partner in the District-based film company D Dot Films. “It’s just plain, fun comedy.”

Hibey said he plans to put the seven-minute film on YouTube and is considering entering it in film festivals. Hibey said he saw the appeal of short comedies at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where a 17-minute dramatic film he co-wrote and produced about Somali pirates called “Fishing Without Nets” won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking.

The producer of “Friendship Test,” Stephen Mack, 31, of the District, said he expects the skating film, the second episode of the series, to appear on YouTube by the end of the year. Thefirst episode of the series, five minutes long and filmed in 2010, has gotten 1,187 hits on YouTube.

Hibey, who lives in Columbia Heights, said he considers the series a “thought experiment” for a potential feature-length film. The short films focus on friends who prove their commitment to one another by engaging in a silly act.

In need of extras for the skating scene, Hibey and others spread the word to friends, local roller-skating clubs and roller derby teams via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail. Hibey raised $3,488 to help cover expenses, including the filming permit and two District police officers to close off Sixth Street between P and Q streets. The crew and actors worked for free, Hibey said.

Filming continued in the rain, although actors and crew members scrambled into cars and under nearby porches during downpours. Hibey, who also stars in the film, careened around in roller skates and a white jumpsuit.

Once in awhile, a shout of “Whoa!” would go up from a skater flailing arms and trying to stay upright. Most of the extras said they were simply out to have fun in a comedy about a guy who tests a friend’s devotion by asking to use her giant skate sculpture in a race.

“I’m just the guy who’s going to fall and hurt himself,” said Jason Koitz, 35, a real estate agent and friend of Hibey’s who lives in Petworth.

PJ Gudac, 39, of Bethesda said he found out about the filming from the Facebook page for the Washington Area Roadskaters, a club that promotes in-line skating.

“I thought, ‘Why not?’ ” said Gudac, a patent searcher. “It looked zany and different enough. I thought it would liven up a Sunday afternoon.”

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