EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Wouldn't it be great if, when you're getting hassled at work or school, your own private superhero showed up to address your fears and clobber your bully? The superhero - let's call him Captain Cyborg - is designed by you, to your own specifications. He shows up when you need him and puts down that punky kid or co-worker who keeps getting in your face. Terrific. However, what happens when you need to learn to stand up for yourself and allow two-dimensional characters to remain taped to the wall where they belong?
Have a look at Captain Cyborg:
The question at the center of Zack Morrison's (EBHS '10) new film Captain Cyborg, shot completely here in East Brunswick, is one that resonates with people who try to learn or try to work in a negative environment, compromised by taunting, insensitivity, and, worse, indifference. Morrison's film was shot as part of his MFA program in Screenwriting and Directing at Columbia University, though his interest in filmmaking started when he was a student at EBHS and continued through his degree program in Journalism at Rutgers.
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The genesis of the story was a project in Morrison's film class in which all students wrote an individual script and then handed it off to someone else to produce. Morrison thought that the script written by classmate Yi Liu "rang true." He then revised and adapted it so that it looked like a suburban story that "felt close to home." "The challenge was to tell the story where the stakes were high enough in the world of a twelve-year-old," says Morrison.
When he was growing up here in East Brunswick, Morrison recalls that even early online communications like myspace and AOL presented bullying problems for kids. Indeed, the most troubling moment in Captain Cyborg occurs when a student is surrounded by his classmates whose cellphones start pinning, and he knows that the texts are about him. For a kid, the sound is clearly terrifying. It is most certainly a "high stakes" conflict.
Says Morrison of his "on location" filming in East Brunswick, "It was very important for me to film this in town because of how personal the story was for me. I went through a very similar situation when I was Jake's age. The notebooks he uses in the film are the same ones I used for my own superhero drawings in elementary school (I called my hero Z-Lightning, which is given a small subtle nod via the lightning bolts on Jake's shirt towards the end). I also used my bedroom as Jake's bedroom. Granted, the fight at the end never happened! But everything about my classmate Yi's original script resonated with me, so I wanted to keep this film as close-to-home as possible. We spent the 3-day shoot period camping out at my parent's house in EB, which, despite the chaos that always comes with filmmaking, was so much fun. It was like summer camp.
There were many day-of conflicts during shooting--several scenes got cut and our schedule was rearranged on the day, every day. I have so much love and respect for the whole crew--everyone stepped up, rolled with it, and helped each other out. They're all exceptionally talented at what they do!"
Says Morrison of the "Arts Network" in East Brunswick, "Kathleen Elle
was instrumental in helping. Kathleen was able to bring the project to Dr. Valeski who was extremely kind enough to give us the ok. Beth Warren was also a great help in allowing us some access. The original plan was to have Kathleen's song in the film, but we eventually decided to use Owen Danoff
's score. However, I would probably still
be looking for a place to shoot this if it weren't for Kathleen, so I cannot thank her enough for all her amazing help, and I'm looking forward to working with her in the future. Her song Don't Let Them In
is simply incredible."
Captain Cyborg was filmed entirely in East Brunswick.
Here are all the local cast and crew involved in the project:
(Theater/Humanities teacher @ EBHS) as The Principal
Jennifer Margolies Smith (Teacher @ Memorial) as The Mom
Joseph Csatari and JoAnn Yonchiuk were the contacts at Warnsdorfer
Tyler Yonchiuk (EBHS '10), Hallie Eisenberg
(EBHS '10) and Michael Cioffi (EBHS '09) helped on set.
Adam Rectenwald (former EBHS Humanities teacher, now currently an administrator at Red Bank Regional High School)
Jeffery Davis, Amy Eisenberg, and Stephanie Margolies were also helpful in finding in-town actors and students as extras.
The School: Warnsdorfer
Jake's House: Morrison family home
The Park/Woods: Country Lane Park