Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Film and Electronic Arts
Project Advisor 1
The Making of a Superhero Musical: Artist’s Statement
The summer following my sophomore year, wanting to gain more experience with narrative directing, I made a short film that ended up a disaster. Some problems with the movie were just beginner mistakes, easy to learn from (e.g. awful lighting, breaking the 180 degree line). What turned it from a silly summer project into a trainwreck was an impossible to work with lead actress. I could deal with her blaming me for every mistake she made (as director, taking blame’s part of the job), but the way she’d attack her co-stars (many of whom supposedly her “friends”, just as I was before this project) went out of line. Then, on the final day of shooting, she dropped a bombshell: she claimed one of her co-stars had possessed her with a succubus.
At the time, it was maddening. I’m amazed I was able to ease tensions just enough to finish the damn shoot. In hindsight, it’s hilarious. Perfect movie material.
I didn’t want a movie about making my older movie, that would be too self-indulgent. Instead, I took the central idea that fascinated me (what could possibly drive someone to accuse a co-worker of demonically possessing them?), and transposed it to the setting of live theatre. I wanted the theatre piece to be an adaptation of a preexisting property, rather than having to explain an original play-within-the-movie. Since I met the inspiration for my main character Brina through the world of cosplay, comics, and “nerd culture,” I went with an idea I’d previously thought up as a lark: Watchmen: The Musical (changed to Clockmen for copyright reasons). A superhero musical brings up memories of the Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark debacle, and it only made sense to build off the personas of Julie Taymor and Bono for the characters of Danielle and Jons. Watchmen specifically brings in the issue of author Alan Moore’s distaste for adaptations of his work and his eccentric public image, threatening to “curse” said adaptations.
In preparation, I watched various films in the mockumentary (Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman) and “insane actress” (Sunset Boulevard, Mulholland Drive) genres. The TV shows of Dan Harmon (Community, Rick and Morty) were also a major influence in how to tell complex stories about interpersonal problems using the lens of pop culture. Midway through preproduction, Birdman came out and blew my mind. Inarritu’s film about theatre, superheroes, and madness certainly casts its shadow over my project. I couldn’t hope to make a better film about these themes, but I can provide a distinct perspective: that of the young fan rather than the jaded older actor.
Production went far smoother than I expected. Working with a team of competent semi-professional actors (and a couple Bard professors) has boosted my confidence in directing, a big concern of mine in the wake of less successful experiences with unreliable student volunteers and the whole succubus disaster. Major thanks go to J. Mark Inman (Jons in the movie) for lending out and educating me in the use of professional-grade camera and lighting equipment. Some things I’d do differently if I had the chance (sound could have been recorded better), but overall I’m happy with the final film and hope audiences enjoy it.
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Baron, Reuben, "The Making of a Superhero Musical" (2015). Senior Projects Spring 2015. 184.
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