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Talking to 'The Wolfpack' Brothers About DIY Designer Props

Read about the Angulo brothers' secrets for creating your own cinematic world at home.
June 24, 2015, 3:45pm
Photos and thumbnail courtesy of Crystal Moselle and Megan Delaney

The Wolfpack, an award-winning documentary by Crystal Moselle, follows the lives of six brothers who are home-schooled and confined to their Lower East Side apartment by the father’s strict doctrine. The six Angulo brothers, referred to as the titular “wolfpack” find solace in watching movies at home, and in turn, spend countless hours recreating those films from the bedrooms of their family apartment. They say that movies were their only connection to the outside world so they feverishly took on the production of movie sets, costume designs, and script memorization to make their own versions of Pulp Fiction, The Godfather, No Country For Old Men, The Dark Knight Returns, etc.x

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The Wolfpack documentary sympathetically surveys the boys' first experiences with the outside world. Given Sanskrit names by their Hare Krishna father, the brothers Narayana, Mukunda, Bhagavan, Govinda, Krisna, and Jagadesh are passionate about filmmaking.

Since the release of the film, the brothers have experienced the culture of filmmaking firsthand after winning the Grand Jury Award for Documentary at Sundance, being photographed by Bruce Weber for Vogue, and now having countless opportunities for creative collaboration.

Today, VICE releases Mirror Heart, a homegrown collaboration with the wolfpack brothers. The Creators Project spoke with Mukunda Angula about the creation process, how the brothers get into character, and how they handmade their props depicted from things they found in their apartment.

Watch the Angulo brothers' original short film, Mirror Heart, below: 

The Creators Project: Tell us about Mirror Heart

Mukunda Angulo: Mirror Heart is a film about characters doing their own thing individually but nothing is working out for them and eventually they find out that teamwork is the best way to work together. The power of teamwork. You can bring something back to life. I came up with the idea in the office where I work. It came from taking calls and hearing ‘wait for the… press 1, press 2’ and there was a fly in the office but it sounded like a bee to me. I came up with a giant phone, a bee, a flowerist, a zombie guy, and an octopus. The phone represents the maniac sense of humor. The bee represents a physical being doing its thing. The flowerist represents sort of magic, like creation, if you will. The octopus is a creator of everything. The zombie represents the human mind; confusion, anger, feeling love, and having fear rolled into one. He is the closest thing to a human being. The bee and the zombie have one thing in common and it’s death. The zombie is dead already but he has a hard time processing that because he is a human being. He is a person with a mind and feelings.

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Who was involved in the production and the shoot?

We pitched to VICE and they were interested. They gave us a budget. We shot in a studio and it took a week in a half to make each costume. All of us pulled ourselves together to make these costumes day and night, day and night. All of my brothers were involved. My brother Govinda was DP on it. The rest of my brothers acted in it as well as my mom and my sister.

We are obsessed with the Batman costume featured in the Wolfpack film. Can you tell us how long it took to make, what it’s made from, and the technique you used to construct it?

One Batman costume took me two years to make, the first one you see in the film. I was following the structure of how the costume was made from a toy. It wasn’t making sense to me. It couldn’t fit my body because I didn’t have the body of how the toy was designed. It was the first big project I took upon myself.

I threw away the doll and started watching BTS [behind the scenes] of the movie Batman Begins until I reached the point where I could see how I could make it. I could see how it could fit, how I could take it on and off. By the time I finished all of it and had enough cereal boxes to finish it all, before I realized it, it took two years to make.

The second costume was made of yoga mats. It took me a while to find out how to bend the costume. As I was making the costume I was also designing the costume upon myself. How I could move in it, bend with it instead of holding still like a statue. So I discovered yoga mats and I got to a point where I could find yoga mats that could look precisely like the material in the movie. In The Dark Knight, the armor has these square spots on it and I found a blue-colored yoga mat and when I spray paint it, it looked just like the material in the movie. That costume took me about half a month to make.

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All of the hard stuff you see on the costume is made from cereal boxes, cardboard, and I sew it on, glue it on, and tape it all together with scotch tape. And the technique I used was my body. I would look in the mirror at myself everyday and see it fit and would look back at the TV at the BTS of the movie and see if it matched exactly, the style, the shape and if it looked like it fit me. And of course to make it look like I had muscles.

The mask is made out of cereal boxes as well. That was the hardest thing to make of all. You want it to fit on your head but you also want it to look like it’s frowning at you. You want it to look serious and make sure you can talk in it and move around in it and bend in it. The neck I was testing it for two years. Both masks are made from cereal boxes, cardboard tape and masking tape and color the entire thing with Sharpies.

>> Click here to watch the Making of Mirror Heart.

In the doc, there is a scene that shows your prop collection, how many props have you all constructed through time and which ones are your favorite examples of skill?

I would say definitely over 100. We made firearms, masks, blades, swords, pitchforks, small guns, knives, wristbands, and just bits and pieces from the things you see in movies.

The other one was the Michael Myers mask. It took me forever to get that right. It was easy to make but the look of it was not easy. To get his hair to look the way it does. To get the eyes looking like no expression. To get the nose done right, not too fat or too thin.

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Photo courtesy of Mukunda Angulo

How did you decide who would play which roles and who would make which costumes and props?

For reenacting movies, it came natural. Whoever could see how it could be done. For instance, my favorite movie at the time was the The Dark Knight so I would be in charge of the entire film: getting the lines, writing the script out, making the props, and getting the sound and music.

Sometimes we would take a vote or we just got to know who was good at different types of roles.

Photo courtesy of Mukunda Angulo

What is an overlooked material more people should utilize? Scotch tape and duct tape have been my best friends in all of this. Tape holds everything together.

Now that you get to make actual films outside of your house, how has that process changed?

Now it’s all about who wants a career out of it. Before we would all perform reinactments, now that we are actually making real films we each have a role to play. For me, it’s writing and directing. Govinda is learning to love the camera and likes to shoot. Bhagavan has taken on a performer role. He likes to be up there experiencing the feeling of it. Narayana loves writing. I think his role would be in screenwriting. And Glenn and Eddie have moved on from being performers for reinactments to making music and stylizing their look.

Photo courtesy of Mukunda Angulo

The Wolfpack is in theaters now.

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