Ashley Tisdale, Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Monique Coleman, Corbin Bleu, High School Musical 3 Cast

AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac

Kenny Ortega is getting a glorious feeling and he's happy again.

The director of the über-successful High School Musical series is once again channeling the muse—namely, his former mentor, Gene Kelly—as filming on the franchise's third installment gets underway at East High School in Salt Lake City.

"Every once in a while, I feel his presence in the room with me, and I get a smile and a little 'Atta boy,'" Ortega said at a press conference Friday, during which the director and castmembers remained tight-lipped about the plot of HSM3: Senior Year (aside from the whole impending-graduation thing).

"One great thing I learned from Gene Kelly was how to design choreography for the camera versus designing choreography for the stage," Ortega continued. "Gene used to say there should be a raison d'etrea reason for being. What's at the center of everything?"

Pretty deep for a movie whose average audience member may be too young to have heard of the iconic performer, much less gotten all the way through Singin' in the Rain, An American in Paris or Anchors Aweigh.

Then again, even if only 1 out of every 10 people who's seen the first two HSM movies has seen a Kelly film—Xanadu, even—somewhat recently, that's still 25 million.

Numbers-wise, will it be possible for HSM3, the first sequel intended for the big screen, to match the previous films' performance?

"I kind of think of it as the third act," Zac Efron, who plays jock and song-and-dance stud Troy Bolton, said today. "This is the third movie. We're not looking to top anything, just to do it justice."

And if the cast is even half as joyous as their characters appear on the film's official poster, then they can consider the next few months time well spent.

"We've done the first and second one here, and it brings back so many memories," Vanessa Hudgens, aka Troy's sweetheart, Gabriella, said. "Just being here feels like home—being back here with everyone, it's amazing."

The finished product is due in theaters October 24.

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