Ricardo Lorenzo directs Ian Schulz and Anthony Carvello, playing Trevor and Murphy in “The Super Exciting Gang.” Photos by Dean Luis Chuqui

Sometimes you visit Maine, and it just gets its hooks into you. Just ask this formerly from-away author or, better yet, ask Portland filmmaker Ricardo Lorenzo.

“I came to Maine from New Jersey in 2015 for a wedding,” said Lorenzo, who now lives in Portland’s Parkside neighborhood. “I saw these punk kids and sort of followed them to this – I don’t want to say ‘shady’ – this interesting building next to the Green Elephant and heard live music. There was this band performing in an abandoned apartment, and it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.”

Such are great love stories born, with the filmmaker also citing his wife’s love for outdoorsy fun and his need for a city with cool stuff within walking distance as reasons for the couple’s permanent move to Portland in 2019. And it’s here that Lorenzo is working on completing “The Super Exciting Gang,” his latest short film. 

And, honestly, it’s pretty exciting. 

It’s the story of a Black artist who, years after leaving an artists’ collective, finds himself coming back once his superhero creations (the titular super-team) are optioned for a major Hollywood blockbuster. Timely stuff there, what with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and, to a far, far lesser extent, the DC Extended Universe) dominating all of pop culture, everywhere. But, as Lorenzo says, the conflicts arising around “The Super Exciting Gang” remain timeless.

“David, the main character, feels he needs to branch out,” explained Lorenzo, “but then they take this thing he created and monopolize it. It becomes this entity, and David sees the opportunity to take back what’s his. He rejoins the group, hashing out the screenplay in this cabin in the woods, and insanity ensues.”

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For Lorenzo, a longtime “comics guy,” there’s a lot more resonance in that world than Marvel watchers and Big Two (Marvel and DC) comics readers generally imagine. “So many comics are so generic,” said Lorenzo, who cites indie publishers like Boom! Studios as more his style. “There are these great authors who make great, different changes, but then those stories disappear. Those short-lived victories – those are the stories I try to find.”

RJ and David, played by Thea Garlid and Marcus Ellison.

The Super Exciting Gang of “The Super Exciting Gang” also represents the lead character’s experiences as a Black man, something his all-white former collaborators can’t see, or replicate, as his creations soar toward the big screen. “There are themes that are more relatable to people like me, people of color,” says the Black Latinx filmmaker. “That’s how society works in your head sometimes. You do these things naturally without recognizing some sort of ingrained racism in you. It becomes subconscious.” 

As David’s thorny reunion with his old colleagues proceeds, Lorenzo says that the character’s frame of reference serves to inform their increasingly strange and heightened confrontations. Citing cult films such as “Sorry to Bother You” and “Being John Malkovich” as influences on his movie, Lorenzo said, “While this film isn’t necessarily rooted in that sort of extreme surreal-ness, it’s what’s ingrained in David’s head. They become more exaggerated characters, almost dangerous versions of the Hollywood producer trope. It’s his perspective of these exaggerated characters. Meanwhile, he’s also got to deal with unresolved issues from their past.”

Lorenzo and key makeup artist Melanie Licata on the set of “The Super Exciting Gang.”

As for his own creative journey, Lorenzo says that he’s headed back for one last round of shooting in New Jersey later this month, and then it’s off to post-production, with an eye toward a 2023 release. And that’s where we come in, as Lorenzo has turned to the crowdfunding site Seed & Spark to gather the last $4,540 he estimates will suffice for editing, sound and color mixing, scoring, and the million and one other tasks every filmmaker must go through to complete a film. (Backers can obtain an early digital copy of the film, among other choice perks.) 

As of last week, he had raised over half of that goal, something the initially skeptical Lorenzo credits to Seed & Spark’s hands-on approach. “They actually put someone from the company there to guide you, piece by piece. That, plus all this support from people, is really exciting.” Super exciting, one might say. Lorenzo also cites the backing of rapper and comics writer MF Grimm, whose autobiographical graphic novel “Sentences” has long been an inspiration. 

Asked whether he’s experienced any similar intellectual property shadiness in his time as a filmmaker, Lorenzo said, thankfully, he hasn’t. “It’s not really a fear of mine,” he said, pointing to his own cadre of loyal and collaborative filmmaking associates, including screenwriter and college friend Matthew Brian Cohen. “But it’s definitely something I’ve seen happen to people. It’s an interesting idea, taking somebody’s culture, taking their intellectual property. The film is about a Black man coming back to claim what is his. They’re his creations, and he wants to be a part of it again because it’s his. He and they should be able to progress, he should be allowed to be a part of it.”

You can find out more about “The Super Exciting Gang” – and donate, if you chose – at the film’s Seed & Spark page. And you can find out more about Lorenzo’s work (including his pitch-dark and funny, comics-adjacent short, “An Unlikely Story,” costarring his wife, Jeannette Berman) at 95films.com. 

Dennis Perkins lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.


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