CringeFactor: Things Ben Wrote When He Was Twelve Or Thirteen
Part Three: An Unforgettable Experience – Making My Own Superman Movie
English Class Essay, 1997
One night, two years ago (I was ten at the time), I had a dream that I was a famous film star. Bright lights, cameras, magazine pictures, the lot. The next morning I woke up and said to myself: ‘Wow! Wouldn’t it be great to act in a film!’ Those words were the start of one of the biggest disasters in my life to date.
You see, a week later I decided I was going to make my own movie, with my friends, my sisters and myself as stars. I asked my pals Michael, Jacob and Shane if they would like to take part, and they said they would. As for my sisters, Ruth and Jess, they would never want to miss out on anything as important as this. So they agreed to act in the film as well.
Now, we didn’t have a video camera, so…Hang on a minute, you don’t think I’m serious about this, do you? You think none of this ever happened, don’t you? Well, it all did take place, and I do not care what you think because I know I’m not lying. Getting back to the story, we didn’t have a camcorder of our own so my dad, Des, had to borrow one from a friend.
Okay, so now we had all the actors and equipment, but…oh dear, I hadn’t thought of either a storyline or a title! The answers to both these puzzles hit me like a ton of bricks while I was watching Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.‘Of course!’ I said aloud to myself. ‘We can have a movie about Superman. We can have Supergirl in it as well, and it can be called Superman and Supergirl!’ (A lot of ‘cans’ there, aren’t there?) Anyhow, that is what it was called. I wrote a script, had it photocopied, and gave everyone lines to learn off.
Looking back on it now, I have to confess that the storyline was pretty stupid and unoriginal. In fact, the same plot is likely to have been used by a thousand people a million times the world over. But, the story had violence in it and violence is entertaining and if your product is entertaining that’s all that matters, right? Wrong! But that is what I thought back then anyway. The story went as follow – now concentrate:
One dark night in his underground lab, Lex Luthor, Superman’s arch enemy, creates a robot strong enough to destroy the Man of Steel himself. Luthor sends his robot off to terrorise Metropolis (a made up American city). Superman and Supergirl come along and after a load of violent battles, evil laughter from Lex and people being kidnapped, Superman manages to destroy Super Evil Man (Luthor’s robot). Okay, now that’s a stupid enough plotline to qualify as a Superman show, the only thing left was costumes – what were people going to wear?
Before you know the costumes, you have to know who was going to wear them, in other words, the cast. Right then: I was Superman; my sister Ruth was Supergirl; my friend Michael was Lex Luthor; my friend Shane was Lex Luthor’s assistant Otis; another of my pals, Jacob, was the robot Super Evil Man; and my youngest sister, Jess, acted as Miss Tex, Lex Luthor’s other assistant. My dad, Des, was the cameraman, and my mum, Mai, was that person you need to cook you a lovely meal when it’s all over because everyone is starving with the hunger.
Now, the costumes. Well, as you can guess, Mai and Des did not have to wear anything special, but the rest of us did. The bad guys’ costumes were easy enough: Michael and Shane each wore one of my dad’s suits (it took a lot of ‘persuasion’, but in the end Des agreed to let them use the suits); Jess wore one of her own dresses; and Jacob put on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Simple. But now came the hard part: How was I going to dress up as Superman? Not to mention Ruth dress up as Supergirl? It worked out like this: I wore my mum’s blue tracksuit bottoms (which were far too big for me), a poloneck with the neck cut off and an ‘S’ sellotaped to it to signify ‘Superman’, and a pair of red Wellingtons that belonged to my dad. I also draped a red towel around my neck to serve as a cape, and, for the famous red underpants (seeing as I didn’t have a pair myself), I had to wear my mum’s red knickers – with the frilly bits cut off, of course. But Mai was too fat and they kept falling off so I had to hold them up around my waist with sellotape! (I swear to you this is true!) Basically, I am trying to tell you that I looked like a complete eejit.
Last but certainly not least, Ruth wore red socks as boots, a red towel as a cape, a red kilt as Supergirl’s skirt, and a poloneck (no neck cut off this time) with an ‘S’ stuck to it as the main body of the costume. Now, at very long last, everything was ready: the movie could be filmed.
The filming took place on a Saturday. Some Saturday in 1995 – don’t ask me which one because I forget. I do remember, though, that is was a fiasco. For one thing, nobody had learned their lines, and I was furious. Because of this, we had to go over each scene ten times. I (who had appointed myself director as well as star) was hopping around, so heated with anger that you could have fried an egg on my head. My friends, though, thought it was really funny and were literally rolling around the floor laughing. I felt like crying, but instead I told them to get up, shut up and be serious. ‘Lights, camera, action – take twelve!’ I said. ‘Hold on, stop, er, cut, I mean. Now Shane, look, it is all right to smile while you’re holding up the credits, you know.‘Ben, would you make up your damn mind!’ Shane screamed back. ‘A minute ago you were sayin’ to be serious!’‘Being serious about something does not mean you have to superglue your mouth in a straight line and never smile, you know! Oh, I give up, you’re all useless pigs!’ I shouted. Then: Bang, I walked out, slamming the door behind me.
Despite what was said there, I did not give up, and we all found the courage to try the movie once more. This time it worked, everybody played their parts correctly. Probably only because they were afraid I would take their heads off if they didn’t! But anyway, the recording of Superman and Supergirl was over, and I was happy with it. I could not wait till it was put on video and we could all watch it and laugh at ourselves.
The final disaster came a week later. I asked Des if he had put Superman and Supergirl on tape yet. He said he hadn’t, but he was going to do it now. He walked out of the room. A few minutes later he came back in. His face was pale.‘What’s the matter?’ I asked.
‘Now, Ben, don’t get upset’, Des said. ‘I accidentally recorded over your Superman thing with your sisters’ ballet.’
No, really, come on now, I promise you this story is true. Am I obsessive? [Mr. Agnew commented here: ‘I wouldn’t know!’ – Ed.]