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Sean Cisterna: “Working in the creative industry you have to be as hard-working as possible”

Sean Cisterna: “Working in the creative industry you have to be as hard-working as possible”

That rainy night Sean Cisterna was walking down beautiful Arbat thinking about his favorite Soviet film director Sergey Eisenstein. Sean had some coffee, looked at the old buildings and busy people passing by. At the same time two of us – Russian journalists both named Anastasia -were watching his work “Moon Point” at the 6th Moscow International Disability Film Festival “Breaking down barriers” in the historical center of city. The main character Darryl Strozka seems to have somewhat of Russian mentality – huge ideas he has in his head make it hard for him to actually do something. 85 minutes went by very quickly, we had a great time and luckily were able to talk with Sean afterwards. He was very open answering our Russian-style philosophical questions.

by Anastasia Khokhlova and Anastasia Fatova

– Sean, was it supposed to be a road trip from the start?

– Yes, I think every filmmaker who doesn’t have a lot of money to work with wants to make a road movie. A lot of first-time directors think that we can get away with being low budget and having a lot of energy. We don’t need a lot of lights because it’s all outside and in a car generally. It’s like in the movie “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy goes to the yellow brick road and meets the wizard. Every filmmaker wants to tell a story like that – where you travel and meet unique characters along the way.

– How did you choose the characters Darryl, Femur and Kristin met? Is there a concept here?

– I came up with the 5-page outline of the story about two characters going along the road, and then the writer wrote a 90-page script adding these bizarre characters along the way. So that was my writer’s contribution.

– What was it like to work together?

– It was good, because I could go and concentrate on raising the money that we needed to film the movie, while he focused more on the actual getting the 90-page script finished. So it was a good working relationship. I went to the university with him, so I’ve known him for 10 years and we think the same. We both like odd, bizarre, funny things.

– Was it an important detail that Darryl received money from social service?

– It was important to make our main character Darryl feel bad. That happened to me – I was paid in high school to support a young boy with Down syndrome, and I felt very-very guilty about taking government money to hang out with a fun young boy. So I guess it’s my personal feeling of guilt coming out in that character.

– Why did you feel guilty though? You were really helping the boy…

– I felt I was receiving income for that whereas I should be volunteering my time. As a student I needed to make money to go to school, still I feel very guilty about it.

– Is Kyle Mac (the actor playing Femur) disabled in real life?

– No, Kyle is not disabled in real life. I wanted to cast someone with a disability, but we signed a deal with ACTRA (the actor's union in Canada), and all actors had to come from within that organization. Unfortunately, there were no professional disabled actors who fit the description of our character. I also contacted several para-Olympic athletes, but they were a bit apprehensive about taking on a lead role in a movie. Athletes are not necessarily great actors, you know. So, we were forced to cast an actor, who spent a lot of time researching disability and interacting with disabled people for the role.

– Is Darryl against the system or society or being serious and mature?

– I think he is just very immature. Because he doesn’t have a job he feels irresponsible and fills up his time doing silly things. But I think once you become an adult and once you get a bit more responsibility and you have a partner or a job or something to keep you occupied and productive…

– So is there an excuse for him not to do anything with his life?

– I think he is just lazy. I mean anybody can get a job and if they can’t find employment they volunteer. I think he has such big ideas in his head that any work is beneath him. He has all these creative thoughts but…

– But what about his child problem – you can always blame it on something like “My parents hurt me”?

– Yeah, or “my love ran away and I never got over it”. I think it’s just an excuse. Certainly he was hurt because of being rejected by Sarah and it took him years to get over it. I think this is the reason why he wasn’t motivated to do anything. When Sarah comes back in his life it’s a starting point for him to his maturity, to his adulthood. As soon as he closes the gap with his childhood crush he is able to become a man. It’s a trip to become a man.

– Do you think they start dating again? I don’t think he is quite her type of guy.

– I don’t think so either. A lot of people wanted them to kiss at the end, but I didn’t think they would end up together. I just wanted Femur and Kristin to get together at the end.

– I wonder why Kristin likes assholes so much? Why do women do that?

– Your English is too good! (laughs) I think because as creative people we are the ones who silently like girls from afar, and it always seems that the assholes are the ones that get the girls. When I was growing up, when I was in school I always thought that bad guys get the nicest girls.

– Women do have a hard time appreciating nice guys sometimes. Why do you think it happens?

–  That’s a girl question (smiles), I don’t know.

– I am just going to ask you the questions I don’t have the answers for myself!

– I would love to know the answer, but this is just our observation. And I think that’s why she was initially attracted to asshole character. At the end after her journey on the road with the boys we see that she has made the right decisions and then went for the right guy.

– What about Femur? How does his character develop?

– I think he starts as very sheltered, he lives in his grandmother’s garage and doesn’t leave very much. And this is his first opportunity to go out on the adventure. So it’s something that’s out of his comfort zone so he is able to experience new things and grow as a person. This trip was equally as important for him as it was for Darryl.

– Should you be given a responsibility in life or do you take one upon yourself once you feel ready?

– Working in the creative industry you have to be as hard-working as possible. In order to receive money from investors or the government to help make your films you need to be responsible right from the start. It’s a balance of being creative and being responsible with their money, because you have to do a good enough job to sell to television and give the money back to the investors. You are not only playing with investors’ money that isn’t your own, you are also trying to make a good film that will hopefully pay those investors back. As film artists we are encouraged to be responsible with money – otherwise you won’t make another film, if you don’t pay your investors back.

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