For his 12th birthday, Caleb Smith ’11, a tight end on the football team, received a video camera and caught the filmmaking bug.
He decided to major in film studies at Yale, but because of his commitment to football he was not able to produce a film. That changed after football season ended, and he began producing his first major film, “The Belly of the Whale,” which he wrote and directed, with the support of many of his teammates. In fact, for many other senior athletes, the end of a season gives them an opportunity to pursue a broad range of new activities.
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“It seems to me that there are those who go into party mode and drink themselves into oblivion, or there are the people who are focused on their careers … and then there’s the third group that does what they always wanted to do but never had time to do,” said Alex Golubiewski ’11, an offensive lineman for the Bulldogs who helped Smith with the film as director of photography.
Since the end of football season, Smith devoted much of his time to the production of “The Belly of the Whale.” The film, which is set to premiere Thursday night at the Whitney Humanities Center at 5 p.m., depicts a bouncer who is blackmailed into doing a favor for a criminal.
Smith said that after receiving exposure to professional film making through the Yale Summer Session “Film and Fiction” in Prague, he fell in love with the process, but limited time during his football career made it difficult for him to pursue. However, immediately after football season ended, the senior began writing the script for the film. After spending some time putting together a cast, he was ready to begin the filming process.
Over the course of one week in February, Smith used a Red One Camera — which has five times the resolution of a high-definition camera — funds from the Sudler and Shoetach fund, and a $3,000 budget to shoot it.
“It was more stressful than DKE hell week and football training camp,” Smith said.
Sean Williams ’11, who stars in the film, said he had done some acting in high school but, like Smith, found it difficult to pursue acting with football. He said he has always enjoyed reading fictional stories and imaging himself as a character in the book. He added that “The Belly of the Whale” was his opportunity to turn a high school dream of making a professional quality film into a reality.
Both Smith and Williams said they hope to pursue professional careers in the entertainment industry — Smith as a director or writer and Williams as an actor. Williams said Smith is preparing a reel for him to submit to agents, while Smith said he is moving to Los Angeles after graduation to pursue filmmaking.
“I think the perception is that second semester senior year for football guys is screw around time,” Smith said. “I think most of all my friends are taking some time off to relax but also setting stuff up for their future. The fact I could get over half the football seniors to help me out says a lot.”
Golubiewski, who is headed to law school next year, said he got involved with the film because it was a fun way to fill time after his athletic obligations ended.
But other athletes do not always choose to pursue non-athletic activities at the end of their sports seasons. Some find it difficult to entirely let go of their athletic commitments.
Annie Killian ’11, captain of the swim team, said she continued to go to early-morning lifts with the team twice per week in the weeks immediately following the end of the season. She said using the varsity weight room remained a perk of being on the team, but more importantly, she values the support of her teammates when completing a difficult workout.
Her teammate, Ileana Lucos ’11 continues to swim with the team two to three times per week. In addition to swimming for therapeutic reasons, she said it is difficult to stop a sport that has been part of her life for 12 years.
“When my life is going through a lot of changes, swimming is keeping me sane,” Lucos said.
Men’s basketball guard Porter Braswell ’11 said he is determined to become an “IM legend” and plans to take up yoga while preparing for a career in finance.
Some seniors who stick with athletics even decide to branch out to other sports.
Women’s hockey forward Bray Ketchum ’11 decided she wasn’t done with Yale athletics when the hockey season ended in mid-February. A mere week after hockey season ended, she had traded her skates for cleats and walked-on to the lacrosse team.
“I think most athletes need that time to recuperate and reflect,” Ketchum said. “I just miss playing a sport. It keeps me active and helps me manage my time.”
Ketchum added that the lacrosse team has been very welcoming and that it was not a rough transition because she was still in good shape from hockey.
But some athletes just need a break.
As Williams said, “It’s just a time to unwind. It’s one last time to drink on the weekdays and chill.”