Behind the Scenes of Palmetto’s 18th Annual Mr. Panther


Valentina Arias

Mr. Panther contestants practicing their opening pose and dance.

Sofia Strohmeier, Copy Editor

One of Miami Palmetto Senior High’s most esteemed and admired school events, Mr. Panther is currently assembling this year’s contestants to prepare for January’s: “Panthers Assemble.” In the show, a group of male students compete for the honorary title of “Mr. Panther” in a series of pageant events, where they are judged by teachers and staff. In a lengthy planning process developing dances, photography, interviewing and filming music videos, Mr. Panther is one of Television Production’s (TVP) largest events and requires month-long composition by TVP’s hard-working cast.

Once the theme is decided, TVP announces it by filming an introduction video to excite students for the highly anticipated event. This year, TVP will be producing a Marvel Studios-inspired show, where contestants will wear superhero costumes and dance to classic Avengers songs in addition to the original swimsuit modeling and talent portions. Behind the scenes, the members of TVP divide themselves into groups based on their skills and work on different aspects of the event: interviews, behind the scenes for the candidates, editors, writers and more.

“Once we have all of our contestants we start dividing things up. Me and my vice president Lucas [Hudson] and Ms. Valero will sit and we will divide up all the TVP crew members based on their talents in different areas. And then we will assign people to the intro video or interviews or gathering behind the scenes footage or whatever their expertise is. And then they will each be in charge of completing a certain task for one of the videos because we have multiple videos throughout the show. And then they will also have an assignment the day of the show. So whether that’s running lights or music or being a backstage hand, they will each have one assignment for videos and one assignment for the show,” MPSH senior, TVP president and Mr. Panther host Sebastian Soto said.

During second and fourth period, TVP members work on their own projects in preparation for the event. A usual day behind the scenes consists of writing questions for interviews, coming up with the script, creating the main PowerPoint, editing videos and filming content. Currently, the staff is off the air to solely prioritize Mr. Panther work. 

“My section was TVP behind the scenes, so we are filming the behind-the-scenes of us preparing for it. And I am doing interviews for Ms. Valero, Sebastian Soto and Lucas Hudson, and everybody has their own assignment. So there [are] groups, so for my group, it is three people, and some groups are more than three. And there is [an] interview group and there is [an] intro group. Behind the scenes, there is Mr. Panther behind the scenes because my behind the scenes is the TVP, but then there is a behind the scenes of the boys,” MPSH senior and TVP member Amanda Diaz said.

For such a large show, Panthers Assemble requires months of planning. The TVP staff wastes no time and takes on the project once school starts. Alongside TVP, other fine arts groups at the school are involved in creating the show.

“Usually, we start the planning for Mr. Panther right when we get in in August, and then we will typically send out applications in September and then by mid to late October, we have our first meeting and we are just starting the process. It is a very long process. It takes, you know, a huge team of people, a huge crew; we work with variations, all of our contestants, all of TVP and then a crew for the show that extends to stagecraft. Sometimes it will take some drama kids and have them so it is like 60 plus people some years helping plan it,” Soto said.

One of the principal aspects of the show is the music video introducing the year’s contestants. Recently, TVP went to Brickell to film the iconic music video for the show with lip-syncing and scenic views.

“The music video is definitely the most comprehensive video. It is definitely the hardest because it has the most moving parts. And we always try to make it like a big project, something that people enjoy. So this year, we decided with the theme, the concept of the music video, which you will see at the show. It was kind of essential to have some Miami icon places. So we decided Brickell and Bayside would be nice places also because they are really pretty. They have great shots for us. And of course, the boys were super excited,” Soto said. “It was stressful. Obviously, we had to take huge bags of equipment. We took all of our cameras from the studio and all of our microphones. So it was like a big production team going out there, but it was a lot of fun and I think it is gonna come out really nice for the show.”

After filling out an application, boys of all grades filled out questionnaires to participate in the show. MPSH junior and first-time contestant running as Mr. Chess Club, Jonah Kempler, was motivated to participate in Mr. Panther because it seemed exciting and served as a great opportunity to represent the school and embrace Palmetto pride. In filming the behind-the-scenes videos and interviews, Kempler enjoys the group efforts of everyone who puts in work to produce the event.

“The film and music videos [are a] big collaborative effort. It is fun to do. We just all hang out, we have a fun experience. For Mr. Panther, the preparations are all day or a couple of hours. There are short interviews but since everyone goes through it like we all share all we think about it,” Kempler said.

For MPSH senior and returning Mr. HOSA contestant, Lucas Suarez, filming and participating in Mr. Panther has provided a closer community. 

“It is fun. [I am participating again] because it was fun. It was a good experience last year. And I became really close friends with a lot of the senior class last year when I did it,” Suarez said.

The most practiced event among the participants is the famous dance performance. For months, the Mr. Panther contestants choreograph, rehearse and memorize dance moves to present a synchronized and organized number on the day of the show.

“For some people, [the dancing] is hard. I think for me it was whatever, but it was just hard to get it all together. Like last year I remember there was one part where we all had to move at the same time [in] two different ways, and we messed it up every single time like we did it two or three times. We messed it up and they almost took it out of the show. And then the one time we did it right was the day of the show. Like in the actual show. It was the one time we ever did it right,” Suarez said.

For staff members and participants alike, Mr. Panther brings together representatives from various school organizations and grade levels to develop one of the most exciting shows of the year. Mr. Panther continuously serves as an iconic MPSH tradition, embodying the strong school spirit of the student body, and lives on as one of the largest representations of Panther pride. After all, the title of Mr. Panther holds prodigious importance, and whoever is crowned will live on in Panther history.

“Seeing such a big community come together, not only TVP and the contestants to make the show happen, but the whole Palmetto community that like everybody loves going to the show. It sells out every year and the fact that there is so much love for this show,” Soto said. “I think it is just a testament to how important it is and I hope that as the years go on, some of the things that we have put in place and the changes that we have made to the show to make it more immersive and to make it more exciting, will continue to live on and just get better and better from here on out.”