When a beloved hero dies, how should one carry the torch? A new student film dares to ask this question using superheroes and latex makeup.
Yale undergraduate film group Bulldog Productions’ major project for the spring semester, “Captain Invincible is Dead,” explores the aftermath of the death of the namesake superhero — portrayed by Seth Lifland ’15 — and the comical attempts of his five sidekicks to carry on their mentor’s legacy. After Alexi Sargeant ’15 pitched the idea to the BP board last spring, he drafted the 45-minute screenplay over the course of last semester. The team began shooting the film at the beginning of this semester and will finish the production process in May. Travis Gonzalez ’16, the film’s executive producer and president of BP, said the script defies the conventions of a typical superhero movie, adding that the film uses humor to address serious emotional themes.
“In my opinion, dark things are best approached through comedy,” Gonzalez said. “That nervous laughter is honest laughter.”
Gonzalez said BP has, in the last couple of years, followed a module of creating several short narrative films and then undertaking a larger, organization-wide project in the spring. The last two spring projects were dedicated to “B-Roll,” a web series composed of several short webisodes parodying student filmmaking.
Russell Cohen ’17, the film’s director, said the crew and cast each consists of about 17 people, which is a large ensemble for a student film. Cohen added that he thinks the large cast and crew bring a myriad of perspectives into their individual roles in the production process, making it more rich and collaborative.
“Everyone comes in with some specific vision, and each person in their specific field is able to enhance that vision,” Cohen said, noting that the actors created the backstories for their respective characters and interpreted their roles in ways that he had not anticipated.
Lifland, who acted primarily in theater roles before joining the cast of “Captain Invincible is Dead,” said he thinks acting for films is more challenging than for the stage. When preparing for a theater performance, he explained, there are extensive rehearsals and time to delve into a scene before opening night, while filming runs on a much tighter timeline.
“You have to find the complexity of a character and try to convey it at a moment’s notice, without as much time to work through different choices or development,” he said.
In order to capture the superhero world in the script, team members said they are utilizing a number of spaces around campus, including the Hall of Graduate Studies, the Davenport basketball court and Dwight Hall. Gonzalez noted that the wide variety of architecture at Yale makes the campus as versatile as a movie set.
Cohen and Gonzalez each said that setting up shoots for this film has been a more complicated and time-consuming process than in past BP projects. Gonzalez pointed out that makeup application for one of the characters, the ghostly Corporal Brown, requires up to 30 or 40 minutes. Kendall Teare ’17, a co-director of photography for the film alongside Evelina Zaragoza Medina ’17, added that a number of scenes involve advanced technical equipment, such as a small crane from the DMCA.
“That’s how filmmaking really works: It takes a lot of effort and setting up,” Cohen said. “In some ways, I’ve got classes, and classwork, but when the week ends and I head off to set, my ‘work’ really begins.”
Editing and post-production work for “Captain Invincible is Dead” will take place over the summer, and the film will premiere this fall.