Inspired by the creativeness conveyed in motion pictures, Cal State Fullerton alumni are hoping to make their mark in the movie industry.
“When you go and see a normal movie, at least for me … often times they look awesome, they’re very stylized, but then the performances fall a little short, and I feel like that’s where I’m trying to make my impact. Trying to bring those good performances to the screen.”
So says Ricardo Perez-Selsky.
The 24 year-old filmmaker graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 2009 and had spent most of his time since writing and directing short films, hoping to get his work noticed in Hollywood.
“The films I like to make are very character driven,” Perez-Selsky said. “The style is important too, but primarily it’s focused on characters because I think that, as an audience, if you don’t have those characters that you connect to, (then) the movie is going to fall flat.”
Perez-Selsky started fueling his passion in middle school by shooting skateboarding and biking movies with friends on his dad’s video camera. In high school he moved up to making short films. The natural progression went on to college, where he double majored in radio-TV-film and theatre with an emphasis in directing.
The plot of the film follows a war veteran-turned Catholic priest who is trying to make up for past sins. The priest is unwillingly dragged backed into conflict when he tries to defend someone from an assault.
“I knew a couple people who had done it before and found success,” said Perez-Selsky, in regards to using Kickstarter to fund the project, “I definitely wanted to do it to get more support around the film. Once you do start sending it to festivals, it gives you more backing when you walk into a room with another producer — you can say ‘look at the Facebook page and the Kickstarter, 500 people gave money to see this film be made.’”
If Contrition garners any interest, then there’s also a plan for what to do next.
“The idea is that you make a short film but to back it up you have a feature length script,” Perez-Selsky said, “So even though we’re only doing 20 pages for Contrition, I have a 100 page script for the film.”
The hope for the film is that it acquires enough interest for producers and movie studios to want a full-length version, which Perez-Selsky can provide.
“Then I can say, ‘Well if you liked them in 20 minutes, how about giving them a shot in an hour and a half,” Perez-Selsky said.
Perez-Selsky has worked closely with Preston Geer since his last year at CSUF. Together, they have partnered on several film projects and are currently in the process of setting up production company together, Silver Tongue Cinemas.
Geer, 26, said he and Perez-Selsky have worked together on pretty much all of their film projects since they started collaborating in 2008.
For Contrition, Geer is the executive producer and cinematographer but in their past projects the two have switched roles.
“Primarily what I enjoy doing most is writing,” Geer said. “The film we did about a year and a half ago, called Outside Paradise … I wrote, co-directed with Ric and acted in that movie with my brother.”
Outside Paradise, a post-apocalyptic western, was the first film the duo made under the Silver Tongue Cinemas banner, with Contrition slated to be the second. Recently, Outside Paradise was accepted into the Cannes Film Festival in the Short Film Corner.
“The goal for Contrition is to have it done and ready to go to Sundance,” Perez-Selsky said, “ … That would be the first festival it goes to.”
Adam Navarro, 32, another CSUF alumnus, is cast in Contrition as the lead role — the young Father Michael Rodriguez. Navarro said this performance is out of his norm.
“I’ve been told I’m good in a leading man part,” Navarro said, ”but I don’t generally enjoy those roles. The roles that are more interesting to me are usually the side characters, the ones who add more comedy to it, or the villains.”
Navarro graduated with a masters of fine arts in theatre acting in 2009. Navarro first established his connection with Perez-Selsky when they took a class together.
“It was funny because, for some reason, I’ve been playing a lot of priests,” Navarro said. “I thought the script was interesting because of the character — he was conflicted. I’m not a very religious person myself so I thought it would be an interesting stretch to play a priest.”
This is the first time the group has used Kickstarter to fund one of its movies.
Since independent filmmaking doesn’t often pay the bills, Geer said all of their previous films have been paid for out of pocket or through donations from friends or family. While waiting for their big break, Perez-Selsky works as a video editor for PopSugar.com and Geer as a server at a restaurant.
As advice to new filmmakers, both Perez-Selsky and Geer said knowing the limitations of your ability is key.
“I think some people are overly ambitious,” Geer said. “You know what kind of budget you have, you know what kind of locations you have, you know what kind of resources you have. You can write a script around that and make a really compelling, original movie. You have to know you can’t make an ‘Avatar 2.’”
Both have their ambitions set on Hollywood filmmaking. In the past both interned with directors Ridley and Tony Scott, and have spent time working as production assistants at various movie jobs.
“Me and Ric are just too motivated and too ambitious to not get into that business,” Geer said. “We have the know-how to actually make a movie.”
The filming is scheduled to take place in May, Perez-Selsky said. Those interested in more info can check out the Kickstarter page: Kickstarter.com/projects/2037085206/contrition.