Thursday, April 17, 2014
At 8.1 million YouTube views and counting, USN Films of Brunswick is one hot producer of ultra-violent videos.
A young actor aims a weapon at two others in this screen image of a scene from “The Extraction,” one of more than two dozen violent videos produced by USN Films of Brunswick.
Screen grab from Web
A scene from “The Extraction” demonstrates a muzzle flash, one of the “new effects” the owner of USN Films – a Brunswick High School student – boasts about having learned since 2010.
Screen grab from Web
USN YOUTUBE CHANNEL
Due to the graphic violence depicted in the videos, viewer discretion is advised.
YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/usnfilms
We're talking roving packs of teenage boys, armed to the teeth with what look like fully automatic assault weapons.
We're talking carefully coordinated assaults, complete with real explosions and smoke bombs and the occasional point-blank shot to the head.
We're even talking blood spatter so realistic-looking you'd swear that kid on the ground -- just outside the entrance to the local library, no less -- will never draw another breath.
So is the town of Brunswick, where on Friday police corralled 15 kids at Brunswick High School and served them with criminal trespass warnings for turning their hometown into, quite literally, a horror show.
"I have to tell you, in all honesty, I'm still aghast at it," said Elisabeth Doucett, director of Brunswick's Curtis Memorial Library, after watching "The Biohazard: Part 1" for the first time Friday morning. "I was more than a little shocked."
She had good reason: Half of the 8-minute, 33-second video was shot without Doucett's knowledge inside her library -- including a scene where two zombie-like teens take shots to the head just outside the main entrance.
That video alone has received just under one million hits on USN Films' YouTube channel.
Then there's "The Extraction," an equally graphic production that's fast approaching 200,000 YouTube views. It was shot on the grounds of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, now known as Brunswick Landing.
That was news last week to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which shares control of the 3,200-acre site with the U.S. Navy.
"It's pretty disturbing, actually," said Steve Levesque, the authority's executive director, after perusing the more than two dozen USN Films videos now posted on the Internet. "It's something we would never support."
So how did as many as 20 kids (the number police have identified so far) spend the last two years mowing each other down in broad daylight with gas-powered, pellet-shooting Airsoft weapons without someone noticing?
And where, as they paint themselves with fake blood and hang out the doors of a speeding minivan with guns blazing, are their parents?
Even better question.
And why would they spend so much time, money and effort staging these productions in the first place?
Maybe for fun -- and maybe for money:
USN Films' oft-visited YouTube channel is draped with advertising. And in a recent Twitter feed, a Brunswick High School student who identifies himself as the "owner" of the video operation complained, "Pumped to pay $8,249.45 in taxes for 2012 to the Feds."
I first heard about USN Films last week when a reader emailed me a link to the videos. She noted they're being produced in Brunswick -- one even includes an exterior shot of Brunswick High School -- and wondered, "Think their parents and teachers know this is going on?"
According to its website, USN Films (the USN stands for U.S. Navy) has been posting the videos since late 2010.
"Since then, I've learned new techniques and effects to use in my videos," boasts USN Films' owner, an honor-roll student who uses his real name. "I can do muzzle flashes, bullet hits, explosions, 3D aircraft, cloning, and much more."
Everyone on the film crew, according to the website, is in high school. And while the weapons aren't real, the goal is clearly to persuade viewers that actual bullets are flying.
"We use Airsoft guns in our videos. We get them on the Internet from Evike and Airsoft GI," wrote the owner. "I add in special effects to make it look like the guns are really shooting."
Indeed he does: Whenever a weapon discharges, the budding editor enhances the video with bright muzzle flashes and the sound of actual gunfire. And whenever someone gets shot -- as in every few seconds -- he envelops the victim in a cloud of red mist suggesting massive bloodshed.
At times, lest we still not get it, he even edits blood spatter onto the camera lens.
In addition to the actual videos, USN Films features several "Behind the Scenes" sequels showing how the crew put it all together.
"One Shot Left," filmed at a quarry in Topsham, includes a real explosion that was produced by tossing a full can of spray paint onto an open fire while the actors huddled only a few feet away waiting for their hard-to-miss cue.
"If I die, I donate my stuff to Africans," says one boy before tossing the aerosol can onto the fire and diving for cover.
In "Behind the Scenes: The Extraction," the ringleader notes that the former Brunswick Naval Air Station closed in May 2011. But, he tells the camera with confidence, "it's open to the public now."
Which, in reality, it isn't.
He adds, "We're military anyway, so we can go on the base whenever we want."
Which, in reality, they can't.
Levesque, upon seeing the sprawling naval air station here, there and everywhere in the videos for the first time Thursday (one kid gets shot point-blank in the head while sitting at a desk inside an old weapons supply building), contacted Brunswick police immediately to request that the kids be served with criminal trespass warnings.
Brunswick Police Chief Richard Rizzo, after taking it all in on his own computer, readily complied.
"I'm very concerned," said Rizzo, who quickly notified Doucett, the library director, that her facility had also been compromised. (The police warning bans the boys from entering the library for the next year.)
Rizzo's biggest fear: That someone might see the kids and call 911, at which point one of his officers could find himself face-to-face with a teenager in full camouflage gear holding what looks very much like a military assault weapon.
"Especially today, after what's been happening throughout the country with young kids and guns, we could get a call and before the officer can determine what's happening, the call could get away from him," Rizzo said. "You only have a split second to decide what you need to do. Depending on the circumstances, anything's possible."
Rizzo had no trouble figuring out who the kids were -- "The Biohazard: Part 1," which begins with a boy inside the apparently closed library brandishing a handgun, ends with a list of credits identifying the actors and crew by name.
Thus it was relatively easy to alert school officials on Friday, call in the 15 students for a sit-down with the assistant principal and the school's resource officer, and pass out the criminal trespass warnings.
Contacted later, school Superintendent Paul Perzanoski said no disciplinary action was taken because there's no evidence the students violated any school rules.
That said, Perzanoski added, "I'm a little dismayed that these kids are involved in using violence on film -- especially in light of what happened in (Newtown,) Connecticut. Any crazy thing could have happened."
And what say the young cinematographers?
My request for an interview, posted on USN Films' Facebook page, went unanswered.
But shortly after the warnings were handed out Friday, the young "owner" took to his Twitter account to proclaim, "USN Films Vs. Town of Brunswick."
Don't miss it, parents of Brunswick.
It's coming soon to a minivan near you.
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: