An inside look at student-made satirical film “Save Yale Now”
Ella Attell ’24 and Zoe Larkin ’24 satirized the pro-life movement in their film, “Save Yale Now,” which was released on Nov. 4 and drew consequent legal action.
Courtesy of Maya Weldon Lagrimas
In the wake of the June 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, Ella Attell ’24 and Zoe Larkin ’24 decided to use satire to send a message.
In their Nov. 4 film with the title “Conservative Women for Conservative Values Presents: Operation Save Yale Now, Our Movie,” they lampoon the anti-abortion movement, providing social commentary on the dissolution of reproductive rights protections in America. The satirical film, with a run time of 13 and a half minutes, features Attell and Larkin playing Reagan Adams and Roberta “Bertha” Child, self-proclaimed “conservative women for conservative values” who seek to galvanize Yale students against abortion.
“It’s comedy that serves a purpose, and comedy that has a point,” Larkin said. “We wanted to start with the truth, like pro-life or pro-choice, people sometimes act as if pregnancy is no big deal. And then we thought, how can we escalate that to an absurd degree?”
Masquerading as right-wing activists, Attell and Larkin used megaphones to amplify their messages across Cross Campus, performed an original song and even hosted a podcast with Students for Life America president Kristan Hawkins. Hawkins was unaware at the time of the interview that Attell and Larkin were playing satirical characters.
During their interview with Hawkins, the filmmakers sought to underscore contradictions within conservative pro-life ideology by asking her a series of increasingly pointed questions, ranging from the viability of maternity wear aimed at teenagers to the possibility for pregnancy to be counted for academic credit in high school or college.
According to Attell, the filmmakers also sought to explore issues such as homophobia and anti-semitism in their work. Attell stated that the film was an “intersectional story,” revealing how issues of reproductive rights are also intertwined with other forms of inequality and discrimination.
Taglining the film as “Sacha Baron Cohen meets Nathan Fielder meets a woman for the first time,” Larkin stated that she and Attell were influenced by several different comedians and actors, such as Maria Bakalova and Amy Schumer. According to Attell, prank-based comedy is often male-dominated or male-centered, leading her and Larkin to be especially inspired by female-driven sketch comedy which meaningfully examines important issues.
Because passersby were unaware that the film was a satire, they were often taken aback by Attell and Larkin’s performances.
“The film shoots sometimes required Zoe and Ella to be quite absurd in public which was sometimes fun and sometimes a bit of a logistical headache,” director Leo Egger ’24 wrote in an email to the News.
Preparation for the film started with an intensive writing process that began over the summer. While Attell was interning in New York City and Larkin was traveling abroad, they collaborated together on a script, unsure of who they would feature in the film. Because much of the film was based on improvisational elements, Attell and Larkin often had to write several jokes and create contingency plans. Developments during the filming process, such as the characters receiving a real cease-and-desist order from Students for Life America, were written into the script.
In order to flesh out the characters, Attell and Larkin imagined detailed backstories for the characters of Adams and Child. According to Larkin, her character, Roberta “Bertha” Child, aimed to become “one of the hot women on Fox News,” while Attell envisioned both her and Larkin’s characters as people who had repeatedly experienced rejection. During filming, Attell and Larkin used various techniques such as improvising with production assistants and method acting.
According to Larkin, the improvisational nature of the film often required several takes of the same scene, resulting in an intensive filming process. Additionally, equipment failures and script changes meant that production assistants had to develop ad-hoc solutions.
“I think one of the things I’m most proud of with this project is that the energy was really high, and everyone was in it to win it,” Attell said. “Everybody really bought in, and it felt like we were rooting for each other.”
Their previous experience with comedy groups at Yale allowed Attell and Larkin to recruit several members of their production crew. Attell and Egger are co-directors of The Fifth Humour, a sketch comedy group of which Emma Fusco ’26, who plays a minor role within the film, is also a member.
Attell, Larkin and Egger emphasized the political nature of the film and the importance of its message on reproductive rights. Egger wrote that the film “required a very quick turnaround” so that it could be released prior to November midterm elections.
“This is a project that is rooted in a strong political angle,” Larkin said. “We are pro-choice. And specifically, we believe that the government should not be legislating women’s bodies. We also want to make people laugh. We want to make people think about the absurdity of legislating a uterus. If we can do both of those things, we will be very happy.”
The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision was released by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022.