Sean has built heavy steam over the last few years, earning several film awards for his independent shorts and features, including a win for Best Feature Film at the London Lift Off Festival in January 2020 and winning The American Film Award in 2018 for his short The Last Trespass. To ring in the new year – he signed his newest film Redville with TROMA Entertainment – to be featured on their streaming service in 2021. Redville is written by Sean’s long time friend and collaborator, Scott Thomson, who asked him to direct the film after attending the premier of Sean’s 2018 film: Highlighters (currently featured on Amazon Prime Video). Redville began pre production a month before the world was struck with the pandemic, but through adversity and friendship, the film was fully completed and had it’s official one week virtual premier in November 2020 on the BingeWave platform.
What is the town of Redville to you?
It’s everywhere, USA.
What is the film saying about Redville or home towns in general?
2020 was a year that a lot of things got put under a microscope for everybody. A disease quarantines us all like cattle and creates this ultra divide in families and community during one of the biggest election years. On top of all the rioting and need for reform – there are certainly underlying themes of politics and corruption in real life that play a role in this film – but not right on the nose. Scott Thomson wrote it end of 2018, and we didn’t end up shooting until early 2020, so it was like fate that shooting the film aligned with pandemic/election year. For me, All the themes just feel relatable if you come from a small town like RedVille. Scott writing his role of Julian Johnson’s character a town mayor running for a second term against the more modern persona, Jerry Bradford (played by Rich Bellamy) was a perfect conflict. And then add in another layer of Paul’s character, Tony Rinaldo – a man with a lot of pent up anger who feels the need to isolate, self medicate, self loathe, and not be able to trust a soul except his wife, but has the redeeming quality of someone who was once a best friend to you twenty years ago. Now the wife dies. These were all things that just struck a chord with me personally. It was brilliant conflict and drama.
Where did the idea for the story come from?
My friend Scott Thomson (vocalist of Dead-Lift) came up with the bare bones story towards the end of 2018 and he was real excited about pitching it to me, so the next day – I heard him out and immediately thought it was brilliant, original, and could be doable as far as the resources we were all working with. I play drums for Dead-Lift and so at our band practice that same evening is when Scott pitched it to Brian, Joe, and Paulie. They also thought it was something, and he assigned them parts. Then we all revised the story to be made into a screenplay. We had all decided to finish their third album first and that Redville would feature songs from that album. So after I wrote the screenplay – away we went!
How much of the story is inspired by high school experiences?
From what I understand – none of Scott’s story is based on real life – mostly just a viewpoint of how common drama can turn into something more sinister if you allow it. His vision was very clear and that was enough for me and everyone else involved to relate and lend our own personal experiences to the story.
How did you work with actor Paul Sacchetti for his character’s experience in losing a loved one?
Paul had the most on his plate as far as emotional range he needed to be in. He and I went through some pretty traumatic times that involved losing people we cared about and we’d hang out to help each other stay motivated. I spent a lot of time with him prior to shooting just golfing, jamming music, watching films, and this film was a catalyst for both of us to take our pain and put that energy into the art. It was nerve racking for him cause he and the others had never done a film – and they all relied on my belief we could pull it off – but we did somehow! For Paul’s first film and as a lead role – I think he killed it and hope to see more from him.
What was the catalyst that got the project from just an idea to a film?
Five very determined handsome devils. 😉
How did you raise money for the production?
We took about a year to develop our script and once it was finished, I figured what the rough costs were going to be to fund it. So we had to have a few meetings, but we eventually agreed on a budget. We all work day jobs and so we pooled our own funds together. That was it. No sponsors or anything. Joe Reilly (bass player of Dead-Lift/”Joe Dichachio”) even came through with his catering and provided us with fresh meals every shoot. That was some top teir cookin and one of my favorite experiences of the film.
Can you share some unexpected hurdles that came up in making the film and how you overcame
At one point – while we were still in pre production – we had a major blow out argument that nearly turned to a fight between Scott and I. It was just one of those nights were everyone was was feeling emotionally drained and we were gonna blow if someone sneezed wrong. I was so furious with him and everyone that night that I drove home thinking that this movie was not gonna happen and we would not be friends after that. I’ve had a lot of falling outs unfortunately – and that never leaves you feeling well. Scott and I, thankfully, pushed through the bullshit and realized we were both being clowns. You don’t always get two people to admit when they’re wrong or hold themselves accountable, and we have a lot of history that wasn’t worth throwing away. Strong ties for sure. So that got resolved quick and we were all tighter for it and all ten times more motivated to make this film. Then – Covid hit – haha!
What does the film say about friendship and regret?
We were recently reviewed on Film Threat and they said we were like a Stephen King “coming of age” film – I don’t disagree with that entirely because a large part of what sold me to direct the film was that theme of how innocence and friendship can turn sour – even horrific and violent. And how do you come back from that? Can you come back from that? But I hadn’t thought of any recent original films that had done that.
What’s the message in terms of grudges and jealousy?
My dear friend John McGhee just said this to me last week – “How do you contend against an evil that doesn’t care? – you can’t.”
How did you go about casting your actors?
The main four were obviously decided – but almost everyone was a friend or related to us. We only hired three out of town actors, whom I’d worked with prior – John McGhee from Boston, Vinnie Velez from Hudson, and we flew Alyssa Brackley in from LA. I think that’s what gives it the small town vibe we needed – just keeping it mostly people who all are from the same area and know us.
As a Director, what is your process in working with your actors/extras?
I have a motley crew of people that I do enjoy working with when I make films, like Mike Hayes and Sara Alonge – unfortunately not everyone is or can be around to make every project – but every opportunity to make a film is also a means for me to meet and work with new faces as well. So I always try to include people I’ve never worked with. I think that’s what keeps it fresh and makes each experience unique. The new faces kind of reignite who I am and what I’m there to do, and pushes me to take that job more seriously for some reason. Its a chance to reintroduce myself and reaffirm my time spent pursuing this craft. I hope the same for them and that they, too, come away feeling like it was something special and meaningful.
How does the music of Don Clarke and Bobby Lavoy add to the drama?
Bobby and Don both were integral in helping us complete the film. Bob is a fun dude to hang with. He helped us engineer the song “Carousel” at the end, as well as take on scoring the bulk of the film. He was Dead-Lift’s drummer years ago, and we all go way back, so he understands their chemistry. We sat in his studio for a few sessions and just discussed what we wanted to hear and feel during the scenes. We’d experiment with sounds and ideas until the six of us agreed on one. We all watched the premier at his house too which was a great night. Don is like family to me and he worked diligently to score that grad party scene, which in my opinion, really makes that scene feel alive and of the time period. He really didn’t have much to work with other than some 90s pop tunes I sent him and said “I need 90s music!” He hadn’t even seen the film!! But that’s the mark of a true artist – someone who can just take what they’re given and make something special from that.
What was the challenge in finding similar looking adults/teenagers?
Surprisingly, that came together fairly easy thanks to Paul’s daughter, Sophia! She got her theater group to take on the roles of the young characters and they all were very respectful and just all around cool to work with – and that scene was shot in June right in the middle of the pandemic! They were telling me how thankful they were that we gave them an opportunity like that because of how the pandemic robbed them of their final semester in High School Theater. That made me feel great to be able to provide that as someone who was big into High School Theater myself. I couldn’t imagine not having that. New York State was just starting to open its doors to the public at that time and the covid fear cloud was certainly there. But everyone was so good about it, eager to break free, and we all pushed through the fears for a day of filming. No one died or got sick and it was THAT scene that finally completed our picture. If everyone flaked and got scared – Redville may not have come out and we wouldn’t be doing this interview. It was a beautiful moment for all of us.
How did you decide how far you would take the conflict between all the main characters?
Again – that was all Scott Thomson and his vision for this story. He had all the plot twists and turns and my job was to help him develop that into a cohesive story board. We had a LOT of discussions and phone calls and meetings before things were set in stone. The big hurdle of the film is gaining their friendship back and we knew that we had to keep throwing the most wrenches at that particular plan.
As ending twists go, how do you feel your film stacks up?
That was probably the biggest review we got from everyone during the premier week, and even to this point! “The twist ending is worth the whole ride!” I think that’s fantastic its connecting with people. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s experience of the film so I’ll let them watch for themselves, but I hope it’s worth the ride!
How did you manage filming around the Covid19 pandemic?
Most of RedVille but the grad scene was shot in early February, before anyone even knew that would hit. We had planned to finish the film in June but obviously that plan seemed to get farther from us as the months went on. We had a lucky break in the clouds come June and we took a big risk getting everyone together in that situation. Once we wrapped the grad scene, it was all just keeping in touch mainly through texts and zoom calls. The mighty Jim Powers was our editor and he would send us a draft for review every couple weeks. We worked at it like a job, little by little, day by day – and it’s something to be thankful for that we can look at this finished product and say we pushed through Covid to make that. F***in badass is what it is!
What’s next for you?
Big year ahead! Dead-Lift productions signed with TROMA Entertainment – so everyone can stream “RedVille” and Dead-Lift’s music videos on TROMA NOW! very soon. I know Scott’s been writing and developing a new comedy series and I have a few new films in the works as well – including a short film written by my friend Bailey Victoria. I just directed a music video for the band MIND POWER that’s gonna drop soon and will be releasing some new music with my band COOLER OPTIONS. I upload my paintings to Fine Art America that you can check out and purchase. Lots of content – hopefully you get a chance to enjoy and celebrate with me! I don’t do social media anymore so if you want me – you’ll have to come find me – 🙂