Over the last four years, filmmaker Christian Sesma has written and directed four feature films (producing three of them) and working with some of genre movies most recognizable faces including Michael Jai White,Luke Goss, Danny Trejo, Michael Madsen, Robert Davi, Jason Mewes, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Bokeem Woodbine, RZA, Derek Mears, Louis Mandylor and Lin Shaye.
His latest film, Vigilante Diaries, began as a webseries before evolving into a feature film which arrives in limited release and iTunes today before an On Demand, DVD and Blu-ray release on July 5th. Christian took some time out of his schedule to discuss his career path and his work with us.
FOG!: You were a restaurateur before becoming a filmmaker. Can you tell me a little about making that transition?
Christian Sesma: I put myself through college managing restaurants…I got my degree in Anthropology but after I graduated I moved back home to franchise the family restaurant business out, but got sidelined by a very bad appendix surgery. And on that hospital bed I read 10-minute film school article by Robert Rodriguez and his Rebel Without a Crew…and was inspired to try to make a short film, having been a massive movie buff and creative writer over the years. A year later it made our local Palm Springs Short Film Fest and I felt the call that this was going to be more than hobby…it was the call to follow this crazy new found passion and become an movie maker.
You’ve now produced, written and directed several projects, with some established names in genre film. How does that come together and ultimately, how were you able to secure distribution from such established companies as Warner Bros., Universal and Anchor Bay?
I’m not quite sure that there has been some systematic and linear master plan. It’s really been a journey of learning and trying play in different genre sandboxes and really try my best at every single movie I’ve been a part of. Some I’m extremely proud of, others are more lessons of what I don’t want to do..but all have been tremendous learning curves… I’ve been fortunate enough to have found distribution for my projects to be honest, with a lot of serendipity and really working different networks and resources.
Vigilante Diaries started as a crowdfunded webseries before ultimately becoming your latest film. What was the genesis of the project and can you tell me a bit about it’s evolution?
The genesis was really trying to create something to do in between our feature film projects. A friend of mine’s company was starting a crowd funding type platform for webisodes where they fund the first few and if people respond and buy, the money made gets put into producing more episodes.
So Paul Sloan came up with this cool graphic novel style web series inspired by what we would want to see in a rated-R version of the Punisher…just a total action exploitation flick. That web series fizzled out and sat on a shelf until a year later, producer/actor Mike Hatton came with Exec Producer Asko Akopyan and wanted us to take that already produced 20 min Vigilante Diaries web series and turn that into a feature film. The rest is one crazy, long story of shoots and added shoots to finally patch together the movie that is now.
What movies and/or filmmakers have had the biggest influence on your work?
I think some of my biggest influencers are of course Robert Rodriguez, Tarantino when I first started…and I would say James Cameron, J.J. Abrams, John McTiernan, del Toro, etc….I mean there’s so many great directors I love and find inspiration from.
Do you find that low budget filmmaking is limiting or does it just force you to be more creative?
It’s absolutely limiting…and it absolutely forces you to be more creative. Bigger budgets definitely gets you the time, tools and talent to really go to town.
What are your upcoming projects?
We have a few sci-fi movies for Starz over the summer…and we’re gearing up for a gritty cop thriller in the fall. Paul Sloan and I are currently in development on a big project, a sci-fi action flick.
What are you currently geeking out over?
Well this is my favorite season. Just like dudes are pumped for the football season, I get insanely excited for the summer blockbuster season. I mean every month we’re going from Civil War, to Batman V Superman, to Star Trek, to Suicide Squad, to bunch of stuff…I geek out over all of it….throw in some Game of Thrones and some Flash….and its over..(laughing).
The Vigilante Diaries arrives in Select Theaters and on iTunes June 24th
On Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand July 5th