'Hope for Christmas' artwork

“Hope for Christmas,” a 30-minute short film from Middleburg nonprofit A Place To Be, will premiere virtually Dec. 20.

Continuing its efforts to creatively help children process the impact of the COVID-19 health crisis, Middleburg music therapy nonprofit A Place To Be will virtually premiere “Hope for Christmas,” a 30-minute original short film, for free at 7 p.m. Dec. 20.

Twenty-two APTB clients will star in the film, as will Tony-nominated Broadway actor J. Robert Spencer, best known for his work in musicals like “Next to Normal” and “Jersey Boys.”

APTB debuted its animated web series “The Land of Music” earlier this year, and like that series, “Hope for Christmas” combines animation and green-screen technology — the latter to a much greater extent, in order to accommodate the large cast while respecting social distancing guidelines.

“Something that’s major is how innovative we are, because we had to film these kids over two-and-a-half months one-by-one against a green screen,” APTB co-founder Tom Sweitzer told the Times-Mirror. “My team here at A Place To Be are making it possible to have them on-screen together at the same time.”

Sweitzer added, “We’re all so desperate for a hopeful message, and I think we’re going to hear that from everybody [in the film].”

One of Sweitzer’s former classmates at Shenandoah University, Spencer reached out to offer his talents to the project, for which he penned original music.

“He and his whole world of Broadway performers, they’re literally doing nothing. They’re out of jobs, and that he reached out to me knowing that I run this nonprofit that could use his help, I think that says something about him,” Sweitzer remarked.

“Hope for Christmas will premiere at 7 p.m. via A Place To Be’s YouTube and Facebook pages, and will be preceded by an eight-minute documentary chronicling the film’s creation.

More details are available at aplacetobeva.org/hopeforchristmas.

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