Saturday, April 09, 2011

Former Yale tight end finds his calling

Shortly after hanging up his cleats for the final time, Caleb Smith bid adieu to his football career and began to pursue his other passion - film making.

Smith wrote the script, produced, directed, provided the background music, edited and cast the movie with several of his former Yale teammates in prominent parts.

The Belly of the Whale, with former Yale defensive end/linebacker Sean Williams in the lead role as a well-meaning but down on his luck bouncer who was forced into running errands for a mobster, premiered at the Whitney Humanities Center on the Yale campus on Thursday.

The 23-minute screening was attended by the cast as well as other teammates, classmates and the Yale football coaching staff as well as leading figures in Yale's Film Studies Program.

The film was warmly received by those in attendance.

"It has been a labor of love for us," Smith said. "We worked incredibly hard on it. The amount of blood and tears that went into it can't be measured. People reacted really well to us, not just because they know us but I think the connected a little bit. Some people were coming up to me and saying they got some goosebumps afterwards so that is the kind of thing I like to hear as a story teller."

Smith, who has dabbled as a director and intends to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film making, had various versions of the script before ending up with the final product. The filming took place over a span of seven days in February with the entire project costing about $3,000.

"I would have some ideas and I would meet with Sean, Alex (Golubiewski, the film's director of photography) and a couple of other guys but mainly Sean and Alex giving them ideas and they would give me feedback," Smith said. "I had a pretty solid narrative in place so I went back over Christmas break and I wrote it all over Thanksgiving break. I came back, I pitched it to some of my screen-writing peers. They gave me some feedback and I revised it a couple more times. Then I said 'OK, I am ready, let's shoot this thing.'"

Williams, who would like to pursue acting, felt a sense of relief when he saw the crisp, final product.

"I was definitely nervous but at the same time excited to show the product, the fruits of our labor," Williams said. "This was something that was pretty tough to put together because of all the moving parts. It was fun to see on the big screen."

Smith, who drew the praise of both his professors and coaches for his work, has high hopes for the film.

"I am going to look at recutting it, changing, get it better than it is and keep improving it," Smith said. "Then getting it into the festivals is really the next thing, playing it hopefully at some big festivals that can bring it some recognition for the work me, Sean and others have put in.

"I have always liked making videos from the time I was a kid. When I showed up at Yale, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do. My sophomore year I decided I wanted to do film, from there on I have been working on it. I want to take on some more directing projects and stay behind the camera, keep working as a director. I have done a commercial, want to keep doing commercials and music videos and get paid to direct."

Both Smith and Williams believe the process of preparing for a football game and making a movie are eerily similar.

"Moving into the film realm, I feel like the same things transfer over, a different style of working together," Williams said. "It's the same thing of being able to feel out each other, kind of the way that they work and how their mind ticks. It helps to know that because it makes for a smoother run through.

"The preproduction stuff is watching the film and looking at the playbook. The actual filming is kind of like game time, it is Saturday for us. There is the breakdown and post production so it is almost like the same exact thing."

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