IFH 079: From Micro Budget to Million Dollar Budget Films with Christian Sesma



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Many indie filmmakers dream of going from micro-budget to million dollar budget films. Well, my friends in this week’s episode I’ve got a guy who not only did exactly that but also had fun doing it. Christian Sesma is an indie film writer/director based in Palm Spring, CA. I’ve known Christian for probably over 10 years now and I’ve watched him grow from a small $15,000 horror film (On Bloody Sundayto his latest action blood fest Vigilante Diaries starring Paul Sloan, Michael Madsen, Michael Jai White, Jason Mewes and UFC legend Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson.

CHRISTIAN SESMA, Vigilante Diaries, On Bloody Sunday, Shoot the Hero, filmmaking,
Vigilante Diaries will hit select theaters and be available on iTunes on June 24, 2016.

Jason Mewes of CLERKS and JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK stars as an in-your-face filmmaker known for his web videos of an urban avenger known only as ‘The Vigilante’ (Paul Sloan). But when The Vigilante terminates a creep with deep connections, it’ll trigger a live-feed bloodbath between the Armenian mob, Mexican cartels, a rogue team of Special Forces commandos, and an international black ops conspiracy that’s about to make things very personal. UFC legend Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Michael Jai White (BLACK DYNAMITE), Jaqueline Lord (MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE), WWE star Sal ‘Chavo’ Guerrero, Jr., James Russo (DJANGO UNCHAINED) and Michael Madsen (THE HATEFUL EIGHT) co-star in this explosive throwback packed with badass swagger, hardcore firepower and bone-crunching action.

I wanted to pick his brain and share his unique journey with the IFH Tribe. Enjoy this one, it’s a blast!

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 5:36
So this episode is a fun fun episode, man. I wanted to bring Christian on for a while, and I finally got him locked down to do the interview with us and Christian, it goes back with me, God, probably about 10 years. He was a big fan of our of my film broken and a lot of stuff he was doing at the time. So we kind of were kindred spirits in that way. And Christian's gone on to be a very successful director in his own right. He has directed he started off with like, I think it was a $10,000 budget horror movie. And now he's in the millions of dollar action movies that he's doing internationally, shooting all over the world. It's kind of crazy. And the story of how he did it coming out of Palm Springs, California, which if many of you don't know, Palm Springs is probably about a couple hours outside of if not farther out of LA. So it's pretty much not la by any stretch of the imagination. So he kind of did it on his own in a small town, not a not not a film town. And he's worked with some amazing talent, and he's done some crazy, crazy action and horror movies. And it's pretty inspiring to hear his story. So I wanted to bring him on the show so you guys can get an idea of how he did it. So without further ado, here's my interview with Christian Sesma.

I like to welcome to the show Christian Sesma. How you doing brother?

Christian Sesma 6:59
What's up Ferrari?

Alex Ferrari 7:00
How you doing, man?

Christian Sesma 7:01

Alex Ferrari 7:02
So Christian and I go back

Christian Sesma 7:04
Way way back.

Alex Ferrari 7:05
Yeah, like at least eight years

Christian Sesma 7:09
Mega fan from the from the red princes. booze days.

Alex Ferrari 7:12
Yeah, back then

Christian Sesma 7:13
From the beginning from like the beginning beginning.

Alex Ferrari 7:15
Yeah, back in the day. So it's at least at least five six years ago. And say like 2007 Yeah, around there. Yeah, so that's Yeah, it's a while. That's definitely like, Oh,

Christian Sesma 7:25
I know why I know how I came across your stuff. Like I was looking to do like, Vf like how to do VFX and came across this guy's dope.

Alex Ferrari 7:34
You did the broken. You saw broken stuff. Yeah,

Christian Sesma 7:36
It's like, Yo, this dude's on point.

Alex Ferrari 7:38
I appreciate

Christian Sesma 7:39
Yeah, no, that's what happened. I was doing a tiny tiny little horror thing. And all we needed was just like a few muzzle flashes like friggin VFX one

Alex Ferrari 7:50
Ohh no you type in the word muzzle flash in Google we pop up somewhere I'm sure total even today I think we still do

Christian Sesma 7:56
Yeah, totally so that's how it happened. I was like man this guy's from the same like you're doing it from the same kind of camp that like you know, film school that I'm from which is just go and do it. Right? The Rodriguez camp

Alex Ferrari 8:09
So yeah so so Christian and I known each other for a few years and I've been watching Christians career flourish on a Facebook some always fake it's it's I always see it and I kind of see his movies as he goes through and I'm always you know, we tweet and you know, like each other. It's great man, congrats, all that kind of stuff. So I wanted to bring him on the show because Christian kind of came you know, he's one of those filmmakers that did not get anything handed to him. He kind of like, Oh, you kind of did it from the bootstrapped himself up and I know a little bit about the show. Yeah, I knew a little bit about the story. So I wanted to kind of get into it a little bit, but first and foremost. So what made you want to become a filmmaker? Because originally you were a restaurant tour?

Christian Sesma 8:54
Like, I mean, literally, my story goes like this. I think I've said so many times. It's so crazy. It's like, I mean, I was always always always a film buff, right? I mean, since frickin Day Zero. I mean, I grew up I'm an 80s kid. So I grew up on everything. That was everything like freakin indie Star Wars freaking

Alex Ferrari 9:13
Yeah, of course everything the best decade the best decade of all time.

Christian Sesma 9:17
I mean, that's kind of like I mean, I was just always in the movie theater, TV, all that stuff. And then anyways, like I went off to college, you know, whatever. And it was supposed to, I got my degree in anthropology from San Diego State. And you know, I went into to teach and you know, anthropology is a lot of writing. So I got into writing and creative writing and all that kind of crap. But I was always I put myself through college and the restaurant business because you know, my family had a restaurant or has a restaurant in Palm Springs and all that stuff. And so after college, like I came back home, which is Palm Springs, and we were supposed to franchise this place out and all this stuff like, you know, like a Chipotle type style, you know, and that summer Like I'd only been home like two months dude in my appendix ruptures oh that's yeah true story appendix ruptures and end up in the hospital bed for a month oh it was really bad I was like it's one of those like no joke It was really really close I mean it was like an actual near death experience got it like no kidding but on the hospital bed I read Robert Rodriguez his 10 minute film school

Alex Ferrari 10:25
Oh yeah the the Rebel Without a crew

Christian Sesma 10:28
Well it was Rebel Without a crew but then there was also like DVDs yeah I think it was online they had like transcripts of like the little things that he would do like the behind the scenes stuff like on like you know spy kid stuff and all those yummy

Alex Ferrari 10:40
Oh yeah there's tons of stuff like that

Christian Sesma 10:41
Yeah all those other things like I somehow I came across all that and I was already a fan of the whole you know Tarantino Rodriguez camp of the bait band apart posse and Dude, I don't know it was just one of those things where I was like super inspired. And I was like, man, I set myself a goal I was like a year from now when I get out of this hospital bed I'm gonna make a short film. And you know because I was right I knew how to write you know cuz I did creative writing and things like that. So man, no kidding. Like a gear to the day I picked up like a shitty little Sony Handycam like the tiny like $500 kind of buy I mean nothing It was like nothing I you

Alex Ferrari 11:27
No, the technology was a little different back then too.

Christian Sesma 11:31
I picked up a tiny camera. It was like a tiny like a literally like in desktop editing software and, and I picked up a copy of pulp fiction, American Beauty and some other screenplays just so I could teach myself the structure of screenplay writing and I made this short film man and it like it got into the film festival here at Palm Springs and they have a kind of Big Film Fest do they do so they had a big Short Film Festival here too? And I got into that for I don't know what how that happened some friggin miracle by some miracle I got it and and it just kind of snowballed after that man I just was like man this is what I was meant to do and want to do and discover my passion for this I was like well I think I have a knack for that you know and ever since it's really just been a friggin trial by fire learning as I go process

Alex Ferrari 12:22
So I can describe it so Robert is a big influence on you.

Christian Sesma 12:27
I would say the single most influenced of it was that and then when I saw Kill Bill I was already a huge Pulp Fiction fan right so for me at the time because I guess that just came out and is I just was picking up a camera dude. I mean teaching myself how to do this and I that one was a huge inspiration to was like wait you can do whatever the F you want to do? Like it was like Kill Bill was one of those movies like hey, you can do whatever you want to do

Alex Ferrari 12:53
You know what the you know the movie was for me and I look back and now it's a fun movie. But the concept was like that you can do whatever you want to do was once upon a time in Mexico. Yeah, that was the one I saw him like doing stuff and I had been a big fan. I mean mariachi came out when I was in high school. So I was working at the video store so I was I followed Roberts career since like, I mean, I saw mariachi in the theater like I mean back I go back with Robert so I studied all this stuff but that was the movie that was kind of just finally I said hey, you could do this and that's when I picked up the the mini DV and shot broke and so we kind of come from the same influences only mini DV little cameras yeah the dv x 100 A which was badass back in the day, man that was that was the camera. So you shot a movie called on Bloody Sunday.

Christian Sesma 13:41
Now Yeah, that was I did a movie a feature before that was my first full length feature which was I did I did two short films. And then I did and then I was like, man, I better step up because every everybody was like man, you better make a show you better make a feature you better make a feature. So again, you know i using all the you know, knowing everybody here in Palm Springs and all that stuff. I made a movie called 630 was like, we made it for like 10,000 bucks. It was like borrowing money from like my dad and my aunt the usual story. Sure, sure.

Alex Ferrari 14:11
Credit cards, right? Yeah,

Christian Sesma 14:12
The whole shabang. Did that and that got bought by a little company called Westlake, but doodoo got put out everywhere like blockbuster fries.

Alex Ferrari 14:20
It was a different time. It was a different time. Yeah,

Christian Sesma 14:22
It was before the DVD bubble burst. Yeah, yeah. And, and so right after that. I did a little movie called Bloody Sunday. And then Warner's home put that out.

Alex Ferrari 14:31
But now with the unbloody. Sunday you have the one big thing that a lot of indie filmmakers don't understand is that you had a star in it. And and from the Robert camp, a big Robert star, which is Danny Trejo. Yeah, so how did you get Danny Trejo on such a small budget? What was the budget on on Bloody Sunday? I believe it was 100,000 bucks. Okay, so you boosted that up? So how and how did you get that 100,000 bucks at the army asking like no,

Christian Sesma 14:55
It was like I had kind of made a little splash here in the in again in your own hometown now and there was just you know local money guys that you know wanting to maybe invest in making a movie this that you know one guy was like well you know you know a kind of financier guy was like well you know i want to maybe look into different stuff and I was like hey man for you know we just did this little 630 movie for nothing you know with like 75 G's 100 G's we can make something cool at a time like horror was selling like crazy and we teamed up with another distributor that somehow I gotten in you know whatever with and it was and they had an output deal with Warner Home and it just was like a really you know again this was like the third time ever picked up a camera type shit you know right right it's like I always said that for me man my film school is like on shelves so it's like it's been and like you said me You said it it's like it's been like that process it's never it's been very unapologetic it's been like making mistakes publicly. It's been I which I think is like it's again it's unapologetic, but it's also like it prepares you for like what's to come because if you can't handle like the internet you can't handle

Alex Ferrari 16:14
Oh brother Listen man when when I came out with with broken man I I got I was it was awesome but at the time because I got so much love and then I got a Roger Ebert quote and the haters came out the hate bye bye they were buying haterade by the by the pallet

Christian Sesma 16:34
And that's before the term haterade even happened

Alex Ferrari 16:37
Oh no that was and that was before trolling like troll trolls warning

Christian Sesma 16:42
People do it for fun

Alex Ferrari 16:44
Yeah but back I mean, so it was brutal, brutal and filmmakers in general and film buffs are even more brutal than general we're weird

Christian Sesma 16:52
Douchebags man

Alex Ferrari 16:54
Look at the port Ghostbusters trailer

Christian Sesma 16:56
Dude you know it's funny like the first one I was like okay the new one I'm like it's better like I don't know you just it What is your stand here like your fucking was sacred ground now so you're never gonna

Alex Ferrari 17:08
You know look I just saw it again and I just saw I just watched a show a screen junkie show that talked like they did a 10 minute talk about this and I had it listening in the background I'm like this is ridiculous like this is like this is ridiculous but with that said I did see both trailers and and now we're gonna go off topic guys for a second I did see the trip that we're just gonna geek out for a second. I did see the trailers and my opinion is look they look what it looks like. It'll be like a fun it's not a Ghostbusters movie. No in my eyes It's just another comedy another Paul fake comment but the way they brought this back it shows like there's no respect for the original and with something so hot This is hallowed ground so because it did not like there's so many ways you could have brought like like how for instance like creed world did it right Jurassic World did it right they kept going back exactly what Jurassic Park was right and they kept referring back to it and that one thing like I just saw the new trailer today and they're like oh When did you know it? is are there ghosts? Is it real? I'm like seriously like you're in New York. We went through this 20 years ago. Yeah, totally right. You know like at least that's the kind of way you kind of reboot something like this and as you have to pay respect to the original original material and that's what Marvel's doing so well. That's what Star Wars did insanely well. I mean whether you like the move you're not at least they paid respect to move on

Christian Sesma 18:36
Seven times in the theater.

Alex Ferrari 18:38
I saw your Facebook did I know.

Christian Sesma 18:41
It's also because like my little what she's like she was total Star Wars geek too. She's like, what are we doing today? Oh my gosh, Star Wars. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 18:47
Okay, let's go. It's a constant loop now at the house. I'm assuming it's pretty it's a lot. But anyway, so let's digress out of we digressed through our Ghostbusters geek doc. But can you can you discuss a little bit of how important a bankable star is when you're looking for distribution? I'm because I'm imagining Danny Trejo helped a lot on Bloody Sunday. Yeah,

Christian Sesma 19:13
I mean, at the time at the time, that's what happened. I mean, there was no they needed one somebody recognizable at the time and that and I said and I think at the time that was 2007 when I did that. It was still a different it was even still a different landscape than it is today. Which is even tougher, you know, like now

Alex Ferrari 19:32
Danny, Danny on $100,000 movie might not do the same because because Danny does a lot of movies now.

Christian Sesma 19:38
He does a lot of movies and you know now again, what's funny is Danny in the new movie you have coming out next month. Like I call them up I'm like dude, do you want to just do some for fun? Like I said, we've done a lot now together which is cool. And you know it you still again nowadays unless you have a ginormous star, you need a whole bunch of Name actors you need

Alex Ferrari 20:01
A sound ensemble and he's like a part of an ensemble he's a good ensemble actor Yes, absolutely not gonna carry a movie all

Christian Sesma 20:07
You know nowadays man without a bankable name, you can't even for at least the genre that I'm doing which is action action comedy stuff like that action stuff. You can't even get a movie made without it. You just can't nobody's gonna finance it, you know?

Alex Ferrari 20:21
Right and it's just because there's just too much competition.

Christian Sesma 20:24
Yeah, it's just it's just the games you know, it sucks because I would love to just go in and pick the best actor for the job, which is just not the case anymore. Now it's like who's the most bankable actor for the job?

Alex Ferrari 20:35
Who's gonna sell who's gonna sell Europe? Who's gonna sell it Japan?

Christian Sesma 20:38
Literally what it is I mean literally, I just did I supposed to do something in June and I written this thing and they approve the treatment I wrote it pay for it and all of a sudden they get to like where this is way too ethnic. I was like, why you can't make this the bad guy Japanese guy I'm like yeah, but the heroes Japanese guy. No, no, no, it's not gonna sell in Japan. No, you gotta you gotta like make the thugs like very just generic you can't give him a specific ethnicity I was like, This is dumb.

Alex Ferrari 21:06
Yeah, but I mean and the kind of I mean, you're making genre movies so you love genre? I'm a big fan of genre I mean a lot of basically my entire career so far up to this date has been very genre based as well. Um, but at a certain point you're an artist. Yes, you want to express yourself as an artist and dealing with all this kind of stuff sometimes I imagine has to be a pain in the ass

Christian Sesma 21:30
It's the most it's one of the most frustrating parts of it you know, but it's like you know me and my you know my guys and because I have worked with a pretty tight knit team and we're just always like well what are we going to do? Are we going to play the game? Or are we going to like not play the game you know and so I've always been one it's just like if I'm going to change the game I gotta I gotta try to do it from the inside out. You know I've never been one to really think that the game changes from the outside in you know, I think you kind of have to infiltrate and then change it from the inside kind of like you know, as a natural process I think you know, and

Alex Ferrari 22:01
Kind of like what what well, like Robert did with Desperado he came in like, do you know that before? Desperado there had not been a female co star Latina in like 40 years in Hollywood movie. Before Salma that's crazy, isn't it?

Christian Sesma 22:21
That's crazy.

Alex Ferrari 22:22
Now you think about a like oh, there's Latinas every I mean look at Fast and Furious I mean come on it's it's it's a whole different world now but that's just the way it was and he did it that way he like completely got in the back door and yeah, and did his thing and same thing with Quentin Quentin Did you know whatever he wanted to do? You make money they let you do a lot of stuff.

Christian Sesma 22:41
No Exactly. You got it you show him You can do it you know and again then all of a sudden you're your genius and you did something new right exactly. We're really you're just like I don't know I just did what I wanted to do.

Alex Ferrari 22:51
Exactly exactly. And that's what some of the things I preach all the time is like just just nobody wants another Robert Rodriguez nobody wants another Quinn Tarantino because they're already there. They want another Christian they want another Alex they want another john doe for sure you know what I mean as opposed to trying to you know rip off somebody else's then you can be inspired because we're all inspired by everything Sure.

Christian Sesma 23:13
I mean all those guys are inspired by it Yeah, I mean

Alex Ferrari 23:15
Jesus that mean quitting Hello?

Christian Sesma 23:18
He's the most verbal of the wall

Alex Ferrari 23:19
Exactly. So after after on Sunday on Bloody Sunday, you did a movie called shoot the hero which is kind of where I met you first kind of real movie yeah right with Jason and Danny How was the production of that and then and how to sell and when you sold it How did that go?

Christian Sesma 23:34
Yeah, that was like the first time like ever had any kind of real cash and that the budget on that was like I mean real cash like for an indie you know, like you had hundreds of 1000s right so we had like 400 G's for that and at the time that was you know, it's a lot for me. And you know, that was just one of those things where it just got put together because a casting director I knew that was dealing with kind of brought up Jason and I was obviously a ginormous j fan sure of course and I like wet would be awesome if we made Jay this kind of weird geeky dark guy not you know not like you know nuge nuge who I'm a huge news fan you know but you know just make them kind of play anti what he's usually done and then pit them against you know, the bad guy was Danny tre it was it again it was a very kind of weird action comedy and I was really inspired by movies like the big hit and things like that where it's really like tongue in cheek and fun type of thing and you know, like you know, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and more and more like gross point blank was really like shoot here was my like, gross point blank and the big hit baby you know, kind of this that kind of fun fun thing. But yeah,

Alex Ferrari 24:47
And then selling it and then selling it do you how involved are you in the selling process of this? Are you just basically a gun for hire?

Christian Sesma 24:53
Oh, no, no, these are like, these are things I put together and I'm a producer on Okay, okay. So like yeah, so With these for for most of the projects I'm always write write direct and produce and none of the producing side i mean you know the physical line producers will do their stuff but you know when it comes to kind of getting talent involved in sales and all that stuff or raising financing I'm pretty heavily involved in that now and especially that but shoot to hear it was definitely one of those things and you know, we sold it to shoreline at the time and then they put it out I mean it was it was cool minute you know, it was like the first kind of nice little VOD release and it was on Showtime for like two years

Alex Ferrari 25:31
Now real quick how did you get it to your district like I'm trying to break it down so people can understand the process

Christian Sesma 25:36
Basically we shopped it around with a you know with a sales rep

Alex Ferrari 25:41
Okay pretty sure ive got it

Christian Sesma 25:44
Yeah, and you know, they landed like they landed the distributors for it and they kind of you know, they take it from there and you know without getting into the crazy dynamics of what that is how those splits go and all that stuff and the percentages and things like that I mean, you just hope that you know you can come out break even and you know if you're breaking even on a movie you want the truth I mean on an indie movie I mean we're not talking like you know 10 poles but then the movie if you break even or make a little bit of money You did well

Alex Ferrari 26:16
You're very like you're 98% ahead of everybody else

Christian Sesma 26:19
Right! Yeah, exactly. So you know shoot the hero was kind of was kind of that and you know I'm talking man it's just they did they did okay with it. I think you know, cable cable was pretty cool with it. And then again it and it happened in 2009 different different landscape again, different landscape. Again, Netflix was barely coming out. like Netflix was still transitioning from like, the actual Netflix like delivery DVD to the house. You know, to now like streaming, you know, streaming hadn't hadn't hit yet. You know, and VOD was being like the only VOD was just like Time Warner Cable and rec TV, things like just those, you know, that was pretty kind of new ish. So, you know, again, where they get this landscape just keeps changing.

Alex Ferrari 27:08
Now what you've worked with a bunch of different personalities and actors and all of your movies, some of them I'm imagining, you know, the big macho dudes and stuff like that. How do you handle you know, dealing with egos, personalities, you know, onset, like any tips that you can give you, you know, filmmakers who are going to deal with, you know, seasoned actors, or specifically egos and stuff like that. I'm not saying that any of you guys are egomaniac? I'm just saying,

Christian Sesma 27:35
I believe me. I've worked with Amy like, you know, just like on this last thing. For instance, we had Michael Jai white, Mike Madsen, and Danny Trejo all in the scene and if you went by just kind of the rumors of like oh my god, you know, this is gonna be like a bunch egomaniacs on set that's not I think it really i mean if my advice to like any filmmakers is like look, the tone of the movie comes from you you're the captain you know you're the general You're the one who they're going to look up to and say and these guys these these seasoned veterans who have been on 100 million dollar sets are gonna step on your indie and go Alright, am I here wasting my time? Or does this person actually have a vision Do they know what they want? You know am I wasting my time I am I respected you know that kind of thing so I've never had a problem with that ever, ever ever. I think just because you know I respect I was already I was always a mega fan of these guys already, you know, but I don't fanboy out I just was like dude, this is awesome. They know they know I'm a fan and it's like hey, we're gonna do something for me you know we're gonna do my thing here you know? So I think setting the tone as the as the captain of the ship is crucial

Alex Ferrari 28:49
Right and then it basically if if you don't do something like that or show disrespect or don't act like you don't know what you're doing then that other side of these actors might absolutely run right over they'll destroy you

Christian Sesma 29:02
Right they will destroy you public like right there for everyone. So again, I've not had that I've not had that sure. Oh, but you know I've heard stories you know and I guess it's just not my style you know, it's like we always really have a really really good time

Alex Ferrari 29:17
Right! Yeah cuz I've had I mean I've worked with a lot of you know actors as well and and it's true like I've never had an issue either

Christian Sesma 29:25
Because you're just a regular regular cat like we're just regular dudes that like movies you know, you know you have these other guys that are doing it maybe for not the same reason. Right? That you know, guys that actually love movies do and I think that these seasoned veterans ultimately come when it comes down to it they are actual actors you know, they do it for the love they still maybe they might have forgotten sometimes like may have been have maybe it's been a while since they've been on a set where people who actually love making movies, you know, just the business of it, but when they do, it's really refreshing for them. I found you know,

Alex Ferrari 30:01
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Christian Sesma 30:11
Now the security of it, you know,

Alex Ferrari 30:14
Now this last, the latest move you're doing is vigilante diaries, right? Yeah, vigilante diaries. Yep. Now that's the biggest movie you've ever done.

Christian Sesma 30:21
I don't know between that and night crew.

Alex Ferrari 30:23
Okay. Budget wise.

Christian Sesma 30:25
Yeah, I'd say those are two they're pretty big. I mean, I wouldn't say pretty big. I just

Alex Ferrari 30:29
For you. I mean, if you're still indie, you're still

Christian Sesma 30:32
Totally indie. Yeah, totally. 100%.

Alex Ferrari 30:35
Now vigilante diaries started off as a show, right?

Christian Sesma 30:38
Dude, man, what a crazy journey and it's funny. I just got an email today of the release and all that stuff. So that comes out June 24. In in limited theaters, and VOD and then like blu ray,

Alex Ferrari 30:51
But yeah, but then I see on Facebook like the whole Russian Premier that thing like yeah, so like year ago, right?

Christian Sesma 30:58
Here's what happened long so I'm gonna try to sum it up for the indie film hustle. Yes. between jobs just like I am right like between gigs we were like fuck, man, we gotta work like we got to do something right? Like we gotta we gotta do something. So me and a buddy of mine who is the CO writer and creator Paul Sloane, who is the actual vigilante we go man, let's, let's um, let's do like a web series. Again, a different landscape from time to time on web servers. We're really doing a lot you know, like um, so let's do a web series and we'll well basically that the inspiration was to do a Punisher type web series because we're such punishable you know

Alex Ferrari 31:41
And you'd like to I'm assuming on the side note you do like a new graphic now with it that's that's the he's the best Punisher ever go ahead of all time. Let's move on

Christian Sesma 31:49
Saying the Punisher so we make this crazy like web series and it was ended the time it was financed by my buddies over at they had it was called chill, calm. Chill, calm was like this. They were doing like it was like a startup. And they were doing kind of like the crowdfunding style, right? But they stay actually it wasn't they, they put up the cash for it. So they gave us cash to make two episodes. And we did a whole big old thing like Comic Con, and it was Jason muse. And he was my buddy Paul. And we did this we did 212 minute episodes of this stuff, right? And machinima, put it out as kind of like this little premiere and kind of got it out there saying, hey, and that the style was like, if people liked it, they they buy into it like a crowdfunding style. And we've used that money to make more, right. But you know, they gave us the initial startup cash. But that company, that kind of idea, fizzled out, and whatever happened, and we deal with that debt footage was just floating out in the ether forever. And then a year later, we had just finished in Premiere night crew, which is, do I die for that thing to come out? and producer buddy of mine, and his financier guy was like, Hey, dude, don't you still have 20 minutes of the original vigilante diaries web series floating around? We're like, yeah, like, do you want to turn that into a feature? If you already have 20 minutes, then we only had to find an hour, right?

Alex Ferrari 33:26
You're kidding me.

Christian Sesma 33:28
And we were like, Alright, we're born again. In between projects. And between the two projects, we made the web series. Then we went off to make I made a movie called Night crew, and then a movie called a wall. And then again, in between movies. These guys were like, you want to go make this really quick? We're like, Yeah, I know. We've always been on the thing. Like Don't say no to anything unless it's like jump john. us. Yeah. Like if it's us, like when there was like no money and they're like, we'll give you a couple 100 grand, we're like, Alright, let's go do it. And we did and we made the feature which was the original vigilante diaries. And people loved it and it was funny like people dug it a lot and they were like, we're going to finance a sequel right off the bat because at one time a distributor wanted both. Okay, and so we wrote a sequel we did this and we went off to shoot this in Armenia. Okay, so we went off and shot Armenia, we shot London, we shot Scotland and make this thing really big, like a Mission Impossible style flick. Right? All right, get back to the States, and the rest of the funding drops out. And we're like, oh, shit, what are we gonna do with all this like, amazing footage, right? And it was just dead. It was dead and we're like, holy crap. And then I was like, why don't we just make this into one giant indie film? You know, like, I have not, I have not seen anything like that before, right? So another financier came in and gave us another you know chunk of cash to finish this off and shoot a new beginning shoot a new ending incorporate all this footage that we had shot overseas and stuff and so man we did that and it now has become the definitive vigilante diaries which is this crazy Kill Bill meets Mission Impossible mashup genre flick that's it's crazy it's the crate like I've for me It's nuts dude

Alex Ferrari 35:33
So true so two questions one How was it shooting in Armenia amazing Tell me like tell me how it goes what the process is because I've never shot there

Christian Sesma 35:44
Right so the the Riyadh nobody had we were like the first like big quote unquote big like a real American production never stepped foot there and shoot anything and it was because of the main bad guy in the movie Armando Shani on like he's a really really famous Armenian actor that he American Armenian actor. And his parents are very famous actors there and you know, our financier was Armenian. And they were like, it was just like, yo, let's go back to freakin Palm Springs and shoot they were like, let's go back to the old country. We can take over the capital city and like have the run to the city. And Dude, that's what it was. I mean, we took over the city for two weeks and like, car chases tunnels gunfights I mean, explain we just it was big man really, really big. And we and on a dime, you know, really on a on a real dime. And you know, we did it and you know, we came back with this really cool international feeling indie film, which you know, you as we all know, that don't get that doesn't happen doesn't happen. It does not happen, you know, and so, you know, and so now, Anchor Bay is putting it out and HBO is putting that out in the fall and things like that. So you know, I'm really excited for people see, it's really it's pretty nutty. It's a nutty, nutty film.

Alex Ferrari 37:05
And how was the Russian premiere? That thing looked right?

Christian Sesma 37:09
Yeah, it was it was in Armenia. So again, because we come from that indie School of like, no money. What we did is we wrote this opera scene where the main bad it's very, it was very like Roan. inish, ever the ice skating scene and running. So we basically did that kind of idea where the main bad guy arrives because he's kind of like the main bad guys is huge mobster in Armenia. And he's loved by the, by the public, kind of like a robin hood style. And he arrives and so what we did is we actually premiered the original movie and used it as a backdrop for this for the movie. So that actual stuff that the the arrival and all that stuff, we shot it for the movie of the arrival of the bad guy coming in, right? So we use it, we doubled it. We had massive crowds, and it was and we use the and we kind of just shot different locations. crazy,

Alex Ferrari 38:05
Man. Yeah, it's very indie hustle.

Christian Sesma 38:08
Totally, totally. We're like, we need a whole bunch of crowd and we got to make it look like he's entering this huge Opera House. Cool. We'll double it for the the premiere. What else you're going to get everybody in suits and tuxes? You know,

Alex Ferrari 38:21
Right. Exactly. Exactly. So cool cars. So can you give any Can you give us any tips on how you negotiate with talent agents to secure your actors?

Christian Sesma 38:33
Who has a tough one?

Alex Ferrari 38:35
Without getting yourself in trouble?

Christian Sesma 38:36
No. Luckily, like I think it's really negotiating with talent is I've always found the best way is to be just brutally honest, you know, because they've heard it all. You're not going to bullshit agents. They've heard it all. They you know, they feed off of everybody's fear. You know, Yes, they do. Like it's their sharks, man. They are sharks, they smell blood in the water, they're gonna go for it. So you better be as transparent as possible. Like right off the bat. You know, I found that to be so I've just been like, hey, so and so. You know, I need a favor. You know, believe me when when I call Danny's agent. She goes,

Alex Ferrari 39:10
Ah, it's frickin Christian again,

Christian Sesma 39:14
All the time. But you know, we always work it out. But every single time she goes because Danny's agent is Jason's agent to Oh, is it? I didn't know that. Okay, same person, same. She and she's great. She's adult.

Alex Ferrari 39:25
Yeah. And I've heard she's wonderful. I've heard many people have worked with Danny and so yes,

Christian Sesma 39:29
And the reality is she's she believed in me since I'm Bloody Sunday to be honest with you. She gave me a shot there and let me use Danny, you know, and we've developed this relationship over the years, you know, and, you know, and then I have something in the fall that we'll we'll share with Danny again, you know, hopefully it's not one that's going to go fine. How

Alex Ferrari 39:46
Old is the Danny Danny has to be 155 Is he really think he's like something like that. But I mean, he's, he's timeless. He looks amazing.

Christian Sesma 39:56
Throw it on. Like he's Clint Eastwood style

Alex Ferrari 39:58
I like but I'm like when he was Desperado he looked old so I was like, but like old in a good way you know what I mean? Yeah, absolutely it's so so what if you could say one thing that you've learned during your career that they don't teach in film school? What would that be?

Christian Sesma 40:17
There I think the biggest thing that is really man that they teach in film school that is not true is that there's not any rules of this game you know, I think they they teach you that there's this there's this way in this way to skin the cat you know, and you get out to the real world and there is no friggin one way to skin this cat and you know once you kind of pierce the veil of Hollywood nobody kind of knows anything really you know you're everybody is it's it's really the Wild West I found first everybody is trying to do the same thing at every level they're trying to raise financing they're trying to get actors to say yes, they try to make a good movie. And it kind of is as simple as that and you know I think the power struggle comes from everybody believing that it's one way to do it and it's really not it's kind of like you get it done the way you get it done. You know, I found that to be true on my end, you know,

Alex Ferrari 41:09
I would agree I would agree with you and I'm

Christian Sesma 41:11
Saying it's like they'll they'll make you believe that you got to get it done this way. Just so you can play their game but when you play your own game and be like hey dude, I'm gonna get it done the way I get it done. You always end up at the same spot anyways,

Alex Ferrari 41:24
Well that's the thing like we that whole story you just told me about vigilante diaries like if you would have done it the way they've done it they would do have you do it yeah would have cost you $20 million. Totally if not more.

Christian Sesma 41:35
There's no if I would have shopped around that script there it's important nobody would have ever made it right just would seem they're like this is too gigantic. We can't make it for under X amount of dollars. And we just were like I don't know we're just gonna say yes to everything and just go you know, again, just being fearless and like you say like, isn't that the indie hustle vibe it's like you're gonna figure it out? You know?

Alex Ferrari 41:57
Just kind of get out there and also just keep creating Yes, keep creating don't sit around for five years after you make one movie and hope somebody has to sit

Christian Sesma 42:08
Around for a day cuz that's all I've been doing.

Alex Ferrari 42:11
Like you've earned a day sir. Watch your movies do maybe a day but no, like sit around after you make a movie for five years waiting for the phone to ring. Exactly. That's

Christian Sesma 42:19
You can't do that now in this town. Not anywhere in town and like not in this landscape anymore.

Alex Ferrari 42:25
You know? To me there's too much

Christian Sesma 42:28
Competition. It's just dude. Yeah, no, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 42:32
So what advice would you give a filmmaker just starting out today in today's landscape?

Christian Sesma 42:37
Man Oh, just literally the cheesy friggin Nike advice you know pick up a camera and just start making a movie

Alex Ferrari 42:45
Now you can really

Christian Sesma 42:47
Yeah it's it's if it was easy when I did it it's even easier now you know and it's like it's man editing saw everything is easier.

Alex Ferrari 42:57
I mean you could you could pick up your iPhone like tangerine and shoot right and shoot a feature now in Sundance now again Mind you, you have a good story stories always helpful.

Christian Sesma 43:08
I mean, you know it all starts there but I mean if you're talking about equipment which is always a pain in the ass you know gear and stuff like that

Alex Ferrari 43:15
Here's cheaper than ever

Christian Sesma 43:16
Man. Totally

Alex Ferrari 43:18
High quality 4k like slrs man

Christian Sesma 43:21
Guess you can totally do it's never it's never been easier to shoot a real good looking movie professional quality you know then now

Alex Ferrari 43:31
No, absolutely and it's only going to get easier and easier and easier as I get

Christian Sesma 43:35
And then and that's just to make a movie now mind you, like we're talking about selling and making money and all that stuff that's kind of that's it that's in a whole different bracket but you start off with the basic which is just getting your feet wet and and making a movie

Alex Ferrari 43:48
Just keep making content making films do whatever you can eventually someone's gonna take notice. Yes, absolutely. Because in all honesty, though, there's there might be a lot of people making movies but there's not a lot of people making two and three and four and five movies like there's a lot of one timers and a lot of I almost got out of the gate and oh, I just got one movie distributed to you but the dude that does two or three or four or five and let alone makes a little money within or breaks even with them. That's a rare it is it's very very rare. So I got last three questions. I asked all my all my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn in the business or out?

Christian Sesma 44:34
Oh, good. I think the lesson is I think I think me personally, what I always struggle with is the fear that nothing's going to happen again. Right? Yeah, it's like you do one and then you're you forget, you get fear. That's not going to happen again. You know, it's like I've been here a lot of times now and i think i think there's a you know, with are getting a little hokey or whatever there is something to be said about having some faith in the process and faith in yourself and you know maybe faith and you know

Alex Ferrari 45:08
The power the powers that be

Christian Sesma 45:11
Before the movie Gods you know like and i think i mean dude I struggle with that constantly it's like after every movie you're like man what's next you know, but I think the work will always kind of carry through so I think the lesson that it's been it's been the hardest is to is to have some has a faith that the next one will come if I work for it, you know?

Alex Ferrari 45:32
Very good very good lesson. Now what are your three favorite films of all time? no particular order

Christian Sesma 45:38
Aliens. Good James Cameron aliens so hard won the new

Alex Ferrari 45:46
Ghostbusters obviously the new the new Catwoman Catwoman the new Ghostbusters, Batman vs. Superman.

Christian Sesma 45:58
I actually love that movie.

Alex Ferrari 45:59
Did you like it? I haven't seen it yet. I've seen it a lot.

Christian Sesma 46:02
I am see I'm like watching a lot too. And I love watching. See, watch? For me. I thought it's the same thing. Anyways, uh, Empire Strikes Back. Okay. Um, and Geez, depending on the day, I mean, something new, like, you know, Gladiator or some of the classics, you know, I mean, I love so many movies at the top three. I mean, aliens Empire.

Alex Ferrari 46:30
I felt like I fluctuate between, you know, Blade Runner, fight clubs, Shawshank. You could just keep going, the list keeps going and go

Christian Sesma 46:39
And I'm like, what would be a third? I'm glad that I'm thinking like gladiators

Alex Ferrari 46:42
Up there to love. It's like Braveheart. You know, by far, you know, we're

Christian Sesma 46:47
Just kind of like, game changes, you know, like, God day.

Alex Ferrari 46:50
Yeah. I remember when I saw blade runner for the first time. I was like,

Christian Sesma 46:55
Yeah, dude. It's just like, damn. Yeah, I mean, you talk about it never been done before. Like, everybody's Copy that.

Alex Ferrari 47:02
Oh, God. I mean, I use Siri. I mean, everybody in their mothers copy that movie. And continue to copy it. Only though. I was working with a director years ago, like probably like four or five years ago. He music huge music video director, like a huge, like a big, big big music video director like MTV award winner. I mean, the big thing, right? And I'm sitting there coloring something for him. And I'm like, yeah, I'm gonna make this look a little like Blade Runner esque. And he goes, What's that? Whoa. And I'm like, What? I literally stopped. And I'm like, Are you kidding me? You're a music video director and you haven't seen Blade Runner? Like serious? Everybody who's listening to this? Please stop stop the podcasts. Go and watch Blade Runner right now. Right now just stop what you're doing watch Blade Runner. You just trust me

Christian Sesma 47:52
I just saw it again just maybe like a month ago

Alex Ferrari 47:55
It's just so amazing. It's like so every every every angle is a painting. It is every good angle and how he and how he was able to to get it done in the system is fascinating. Yeah, it's anyway I digress. But anyway, so where can people find you man?

Christian Sesma 48:16
Every on social media I mean Facebook, Instagram Twitter I'm at at sesqui on Instagram at sesker is my Twitter and my Instagram for sure.

Alex Ferrari 48:26
Okay, and you have a website too Don't you? Yeah, but that's true

Christian Sesma 48:29
Man I've been I mean as douchebag as it sounds it's so not updated like I haven't had a chance to update with new reels and all that crap so it's like super old it's like three years old

Alex Ferrari 48:40
Yeah, I was going I went there today I was gonna mention something man but

Christian Sesma 48:45
Like when am I gonna do it and then you have some downtime you're like should I start doing it and I update this now i don't know that i have to cut a reel you know when it cuts into my like blade runners Netflix time you know, I know it's a toss up, you know life

Alex Ferrari 49:02
Priorities change.

Christian Sesma 49:05
Now I just send trailers over here. Check out the trailer.

Alex Ferrari 49:08
Oh, yeah, you don't need to cut a real man. I don't I don't cut reels anymore. I just like here. Just go to my website. Here's my there's plenty. Yeah, plenty of stuff that you could say so man, thank you so much for taking out the time man. I appreciate it.

Christian Sesma 49:20
We'll be rocking the indie film hustle with you brother.

Alex Ferrari 49:22
Thanks, man. Man I love having Cristian on the show man. He's He's a trip and it's really inspiring to see how he's been able to do what he's done. So definitely gives us all all US indie film hustlers out there. Great inspiration to move forward and it can be done boys and girls it can be done. So if you want to check out any of any of the things we talked about on the show and want to check out where a Christian is, all his links will be in the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/079 Oh, and also don't forget to head over to freefilmbook.com that's freefilmbook.com. Download your free indie film book. There's over 16,000 books you can download from Audible, and you can get your copy for free. So free film book calm. And of course, as always, if you're interested in taking your film education, up a notch, head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash film school, and you can check out all the courses for every topic you can imagine from screenwriting production, social media marketing, film distribution, and we have Oscar nominated instructors, as well as like the screenwriter from Fight Club telling you how to do his thing Paul Castro doing his course on the million dollar screenplay. We've got so many amazing courses there for you guys so definitely check it out indiefilmhustle.com/filmschool as always guys, thank you so so much for listening. Thank you for all the amazing a well wishes on this is Meg you guys have been sending me messages and emails like crazy and I really appreciate all the great vibes good good energy you're sending our way and I hope that my journey can help you guys on your journey as being filmmakers because I'm going through it just like you are I'm trying I'm hustling just like you guys are. So hopefully my journey will help you guys get to where you want to be. So thanks again for all the love guys I really appreciate and I know we've got an indie film hustle tribe here the tribe is here to support each other to make their dreams and their films come true. So as always, keep the hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




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