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Alumni Blog: Steven Murello

Steven Murello’s 2022 thesis film, False Flag, is a narrative glimpse into the subculture of American “doomsday preppers,” with a focus on the negative effects felt by children within prepper families. Steven is currently submitting his film to a variety of festivals and intends to have a series of independent showings throughout his home state of New York. Here, Steven writes about finding the inspiration for this work and the challenges he and his crew faced during production. 

 

Sometimes your best ideas aren’t the ones that you spend months workshopping trying to get just right. I’ve found that the best ideas come when you least expect them. This was the case for me with False Flag.

Two photos stacked on top of each other. The top photo is a still image from Steven's film shows a person holding pink soccer ball with a smiley face and a pink bow on top. The bottom photo is a 'behind the scenes' shot showing the same person wearing a covid mask interacting with two other crew members, also wearing masks.

During the pandemic I deferred my final year of college in order to work. I was disappointed that I didn’t graduate alongside my friends and peers, but this allowed me to really plan my thesis. After months passed by I found myself unable to decide among three different concepts, all of which I was not very passionate about. This was until I binge-watched National Geographic’s reality series, Doomsday Preppers.

Two photos stacked on top of each other. The top photo is a still image from Steven's film showing two people in a kitchen standing close to eachother. The bottom photo is a behind the scenes photo showing the crew setting up the shot with a camera person holding the camera at a low angle and another crew member holding the slate.

I was drawn to the show initially as members of my own family dabble in “prepping,” however the people in this program take things to an extreme and make their fear-based hobby a lifestyle. Episode after episode, I saw families participate in activities like defense drills, hazard exercises, and ration prep. Despite their enthusiasm I couldn’t help but consider the long term effects of this lifestyle on their children. For the most part the kids seemed willing to participate in a game of make believe. That was until I saw one episode where a prepper’s teenage daughter wanted nothing to do with firearms training and I thought, there is definitely a story here from her perspective which we are not getting.

Two photos stacked on top of each other. The top photo is a still image from Steven's film showing a young person standing outside on a cold winter day with snow behind them, looking stern. The bottom photo is a behind the scenes photo of the shot showing the crew gathered around the actor.

I was surprised to learn that so many of my cast and crew related to the subject matter. Whether it was in regards to the specific “prepper,” extremes or that navigating familial tension have become so tentative that the least inflammatory of ideals can result in a dinner table blowout. My team’s connection to the story and our connection as friends allowed the film to come to fruition even under some harsh circumstances.

Two photos stacked on top of each other. The top photo is a still image from Steven's film showing two people standing outside looking off camera. one of them holds a gun with a concerned look on their face. There is snow on the ground. The bottom photo shows the crew behind the scenes. Three crew members stand in the snow. One operates the camera, another the boom, and the third holds the slate.

Due to some cross contamination of catering cookware, we actually had to utilize the “nearest hospital” feature on our call sheet. Don’t worry, everyone is fine and our super-star key grip returned to set the same night. That was only day one. On day two, we awoke in upstate New York to the most brutal snowstorm of the season and after some serious safety checks and a schedule push we ventured on. Day four, a day of all exteriors in the winter wind, our van broke down.

Two photos stacked on top of each other. The top photo is a still image from Steven's film showing three people looking at each other. The bottom photo shows behind the scenes as a camera operator prepares a shot with a red light glowing.

After all of these things and then some, what would seem to be major issues felt only like minor inconveniences because of an incredibly dedicated cast and crew. My major takeaway from this experience has been “take care of your people and they will take care of you.” Especially on a project that everyone involved is passionate about. I thank everyone who helped bring False Flag to where it is now and wherever it will go.

Poster for Steven's film False Flag features a gas mask over a pink and white hue.

Filed Under: Alumni Blog