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Alex Henry’s horror-comedy ‘Goin’ Green’ refreshes coming-of-age genre

Alex Henry stands in front of Royce Hall on the set of his film “Goin’ Green.” The coming-of-age horror comedy marks the directorial debut of the fourth-year theater student. (Shane Yu/Daily Bruin staff)

By Gavin Meichelbock

April 20, 2024 2:42 p.m.

This post was updated May 7 at 8:30 p.m.

“The Breakfast Club” meets “Scream” in Alex Henry’s upcoming film, “Goin’ Green.”

While the fourth-year theater student is no stranger to being in front of the camera, having appeared in “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” and the reboot of “Sex and the City,” this will be the first time Henry finds himself behind the camera. His directorial debut, “Goin’ Green,” centers around an environmentally-based fraternity, the Green Team, whose initiation goes awry when one of its new members goes missing in the film.

“It’s a coming-of-age horror comedy. … It has a certain twist,” Henry said. “‘The Breakfast Club’ but maybe a darker version, because they are all totally different characters, so this one thing gets them together.”

[Related: Alumni-founded production company Highball Media offers members artistic freedom]

The film is not only Henry’s first time in the director’s chair, he said, but also the first movie to be made by UCLA’s entertainment networking group, The Castel Collective. Formed in fall quarter of 2023, the club was separated into the different houses of film, music, fashion and business after acquiring more members, he said. When the House of Film began developing its first project in the winter, one of the first creative obstacles that shaped the film was its budget – or lack thereof, Henry said.

Without the funds for massive special effects, the writing team needed to focus on telling a compelling story with quality acting that felt realistic, Henry said. With the budget set low and the reflection of real life being a key aspect of bringing “Goin’ Green” to the screen, Henry said it was important for the House of Film to create something it could shoot on campus – a limitation that both helped and hurt the greater production process.

“We wanted to film at the Botanical Garden, (but) … you can only film till 5 p.m., and our shoot is at night,” Henry said. “We are filming (at) the Sculpture Garden. It’s really exciting.”

(Shane Yu/Daily Bruin staff)
Alex Henry directs the cast and crew of “Goin’ Green.” The film’s team navigated its budget by filming on campus in locations such as the Sculpture Garden and Theta Delta Chi house. (Shane Yu/Daily Bruin staff)

While acquiring the permits to film on campus provided some issues for the production, securing the other prominent filming location, the Theta Delta Chi house, was no trouble at all, Henry said. Since some members of Castel are brothers of the fraternity, he said, getting permission to shoot there was a very simple process. The house also supplied the production with a lively filming environment and the ability to use TDX’s pool to craft a memorable scene for the movie, Henry added.

Henry said another aspect of “Goin Green” influenced by its filming locations was the determination of which genre would accommodate that space. The writers considered solely doing a comedy before opting to add in mystery and dark twists, he said, eventually deciding to incorporate all of these elements. This decision naturally developed into centering the film around fraternity initiations and the comedic situations that can come of it, Henry said.

One point of the film’s comedy is based around the premise of the environmental club, said Ella-Rose Hugo, a first-year political science student and one of the film’s writers. Wanting to craft an atypical college experience, the Green Team is rooted in irony and satire, Hugo said. For example, she said although they wear pro-environment shirts, their clubhouse isn’t clean. In the creation of the Green Team, Henry said the writers wanted to have a funny group of people that misrepresent a serious message.

Aside from the environmentally-conscious frat brothers, a majority of the script’s comedic moments come from Ava Kitt, a second-year theater student at Santa Monica College and one of the film’s writers and actors. After hearing about friends’ experiences with LSD, Kitt said she was inspired to include a heightened interpretation of it as a part of the film. With first-time exposure to hard drugs being commonplace during the hazing for an initiation process, its inclusion fills out the conventional college experience “Goin’ Green” is aiming for, Hugo said.

“We wanted to make it based on a stereotypical college experience, and we know that a lot of hazing could often involve (taking drugs), and that’s also where we wanted to include the comedy,” Hugo said. “That’s a lot of where the comedy in the script comes out, and that is definitely heightened by their use of substances.”

[Related: Q&A: Unpacking the Nebraska nostalgia of ‘Snack Shack’ with Mika Abdalla, Conor Sherry]

While the Green Team’s potential members’ first exposure to psychedelics provides the bulk of the initial laughs of the film, Hugo said it is also what shifts the tone from comedy to horror. Hugo said after one of the characters is caught off guard by the effects of one of the substances, they have a panic attack that suddenly changes the mood of the entire film. This dramatic shift in tone is used to show the drastic effects of the hazing process, Hugo added.

Although production has yet to wrap on the film, Henry said there are already extensive plans on how to further connect with audiences. Apart from expanding “Goin’ Green” into a full-length feature or mini-series, The Castel Collective plans to venture into creating content for TikTok and Instagram, Henry said. Already looking ahead, he said their next film will be set in 1999 and geared towards millennials while being aesthetically pleasing for younger generations.

“I think it’s very important for original stories and stories of young people to be heard and be made since we’re living in an era of constant remakes and stories that have been told a million times,” Henry said. “I think it’s very refreshing to have stories that young adults can relate to.”

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Gavin Meichelbock
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