Jessie Seitz: Interviewing A Fledgling Filmmaker With True ‘Devotion’

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Linnea Quigley as “Trash” in Dan O’Bannon’s ‘Return of the Living Dead’ – courtesy of Orion Pictures

1428 Elm: That’s a very inspirational story for those people who may have scripts for a specific person and want to work with them. Do you find that, as a filmmaker, you like to surround yourself with a core group of individuals?

Jessie Seitz: Because of my work with Jim, I met Victor Bonacore who was the director of Jim’s documentary, ‘Diary of a Deadbeat.’  He asked me if he could interview me for it. After that, we ended up building a strong rapport and he is one of the producers on ‘Devotion.’

Through him, I met Linnea Quigley. So now it’s like a lovely chain of people who are interconnected that can act, shoot and edit, etc. And we all work together to accomplish things. It’s cool.

1428 Elm: You are pretty much cemented in the indie world. Do you ever see yourself working in the studio system? Do you want to?

Jessie Seitz: On one hand, I don’t want to say, “I will never work in a studio!” Then miraculously 10 years down the road I actually start working for a studio. It’s not what I aspire to. I like having control over what I work on.

I know about the industry and the more money that is involved the less artistic control you have over your vision. To me, that is more important. Making films is part of who I am. It is an expression of me.

1428 Elm: I looked at your background and I noticed you were a production assistant on several features early on in your career. In an interview, you said that you just picked a company you respected and started working for them. How did all of that happen?

Jessie Seitz: I was in St. Charles, Missouri at the time, which is a suburb of St. Louis. I was in a bar and I read a zine that had an interview with Eric Stanze in it. He is the owner of Wicked Pixel Cinema. At the time, he was doing a movie called ‘Scrapbook.’

So, I sent him an email and asked if I could intern for him. They asked me to work on ‘Inbred Redneck Alien Abduction’ which was directed by Pat Voss. Then they started working on ‘Savage Harvest 2: October Blood,’ and they asked me to join them on that production. That is how I got involved with them.

1428 Elm: You started off working behind the camera, when did you decide that you wanted to try acting?

Jessie Seitz: I kind of fell into it. They were doing a pick up shot for ‘Savage Harvest 2’ and they needed someone at the very end. There were no lines. I was curious and I had done some acting in high school so I did it and I enjoyed it.

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It’s funny because I actually based my role choices on what Linnea Quigley would have done at my age. I was a tremendous fan of hers. I thought it would be a good time to do the scream queen thing for a while. It was a lot of fun.

I still act from time to time but usually small parts and stuff that can be done quickly. If it falls in my lap, awesome. If not, I’m okay.

1428 Elm: It sounds like from acting to directing was a logical progression for you. Do you think that experience helped?

Jessie Seitz: Oh, yes. Definitely. You have more empathy for the actors in your movie. Acting is tough because you are putting a piece of yourself on film. You have to be hyper aware of your voice, how you look, and are you portraying this character the right way.

1428 Elm: So, you went behind the camera again as a producer on the film, ‘Deadwood Park.’ I have to tell you, I loved the creepy, abandoned amusement park setting. What was that shoot like?

Jessie Seitz: This was my first huge project. I co-wrote the story with Eric Stanze. We actually started hashing it out when we were doing ‘Savage Harvest 2.’ It’s a ghost story and Eric and I were super influenced by the George C. Scott film, ‘The Changeling.’ We wanted to make a slow moving, traditional ghost story.

Eric wrote the script.  I came on board as an associate producer/production designer/costume designer. At the same time, I was working on this film, I was shooting the documentary, ‘Welcome to Eidolon Crossing: The Making of Deadwood Park,’ it took us 2 years to shoot. We made it for $30,000. It was a total labor of love.

One of our producers had a family farm house that was abandoned. You could safely walk around in it but it was one step away from being torn down. There was no electricity. We had to come up with lighting solutions without ruining the sound so we lit it with gas lanterns. It made the film super eerie and dark.

I actually had to construct a fake bathroom. We were dragging an old porcelain tub in the middle of the woods, and my job was to make it look like the house had plumbing. The house was occupied by brown bats so they would fly around us at night. It was a great shoot.

We had World War II flashbacks where we got re-enactors to come do the scenes. They were happy to be a part of it. They understood we couldn’t pay them. That is why I like working in Middle America. People just want to be a part of something. They are into the experience.