When middle school film teacher Brett Beckett and school district video producer David Tybor set out to film a horror short called "Invisible World" this summer, production became more difficult than expected.
First Beckett broke his foot falling off a ladder before filming began, taking him out of commission. Then Logan Smart, the thirteen-year-old they had cast, faced the horrors of a school shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch on May 7 — the same shooting that left teenager Kendrick Castillo dead after he rushed one of the shooters.
As a budding actor, Logan tapped into his horrific experience for the film, which was all about his character's nightmares.
“My acting teacher said if you find a good experience, use it for your acting, because it will make it more real," Smart says. "There is a good side for me to the shooting, because I can use it."
The film’s script was inspired by Tybor’s own insomnia and his young son's night terrors. Tybor and his wife would wake up in the middle of the night hearing shattering screams from their son or find him asleep and wandering around their basement in the dark. The son never remembered the dreams when he awoke, and it terrified the parents.
In the film, Logan’s character, Nolan, begins to have the same nightmares as his father. The film explores the gray area of good and evil through generations and hrough Nolan’s journey with the nightmares.
While Logan's not much of a horror buff — he prefers sci-fi and comedy — he is eager to learn from the production.
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“I thought it would be fun pretending to be scared when there is nothing to really be scared about,” Logan says. When he got cast in “Invisible World” this May, he looked forward to seeing behind the scenes of creating terror on film. Production wraps up this fall, with a series of scenes taking place in the woods, and the movie is slated to drop in early 2020.
The last scene of the film, which involves a gun, created a special dilemma for Beckett and Tybor, who did not want to add to Logan's experience of trauma. They decided to film the sequence so he would never be in the same room as the gun.
The fear and trauma associated with school shootings aren't lost on the educators. “Not a day goes by that I don’t walk into work and it crosses my mind that it could happen,” Beckett says.
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Leisa Smart, Logan's mother, appreciated Beckett and Tybor's sensitivity to how the filming of scenes with guns might affect her son. She's still haunted by memories of the shooting herself. Both of her children were inside the building when it happened. When she came to pick them up, her daughter came out first, but Logan was inside for an hour, leaving her wondering about his fate.
She can’t help but think that if directors were more sensitive to violence, it might create change.
“I’ve always wondered what part [violence on screen] plays in thinking guns don’t harm people, and in real life they do,” Leisa says.
Correction July 26: An earlier version of this story mistakenly described Nolan as the film's protagonist.