"Vigilante Diaries" is the newest film from director Christian Sesma (AWOL-72) which stars Jason Mewes (Clerks), Paul Sloan (The Scorpion King), Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson (The A-Team), Michael Jai White (The Dark Knight) and Michael Madsen (The Hateful Eight). The film is a no-holds-bar action/thriller/comedy that takes us back to our favorite 80's/90's genre films.
There were parts of the film that I thoroughly enjoyed and it's always a pleasure when Michael Madsen appears on-screen. Though this film isn't anything that I would categorize as superb filmmaking, I was entertained during the duration of the movie. Up until this film, I hadn't seen Paul Sloan in anything and I thought he was one of the best aspects of the film. He embodied the character of the Vigilante and it was obvious where he was able to get some of his inspiration from. Though some of the acting was less than desirable (it would be nice to see Jason Mewes in a role in which he doesn't seem high or stupid) it was apparent that those who were a part of this film were enjoying every minute of what they were doing.
Since "Vigilante Diaries" was hitting theaters this coming weekend, I thought it would be interesting to speak with both the director Christian Sesma and actor/writer Paul Sloan on how "Vigilante Diaries" came to be as well as learn more about their love for the action films that they pay homage to.
Shannon McGrew: Thank you so much Christian and Paul for speaking to me about your upcoming film "Vigilante Diaries"! For those who may not be familiar with the movie, can you give us a little backstory of what the film is about?
Christian Sesma: Yes! So "Vigilante Diaries" is basically my indie genre mashup. I call it my "Kill Bill" meets "Mission Impossible" indie flick. It's this crazy mashup of 90's action/comedy cliche movies. It's about a vigilante that's being followed by a YouTube documentary maker, played by Jason Mewes, and he gets in over his head documenting these real life exploits of this street superhero. They end up going up against an Armenian mob and get entrenched in a much bigger international story that takes you all over the world. Again, kind of a cliche "good guy vs. bad guy" scenario but overall just this really nutty flick.
SM: How did you come up with the premise for "Vigilante Diaries"?
CS: In 2013, Paul Sloan (who plays the Vigilante) and myself wanted to debut something at San Diego Comic Con. We were thinking of some fun things to do in-between feature films and we came up with this crazy graphic novel style concept of this punctured type character that is followed by this YouTube documentary guy. We wanted to do a love letter to the 90's action flicks that we all grew up loving - it's very Michael Bay circa "Bad Boys" style. The "Vigilante Diaries" web-series came out in 2013 and a year later we met producer Mike Hatton and Asko Akopyan and they came forward and said, "Hey, we hear you have 20 minutes of some kickass stuff so why don't we shoot another hour and make a movie of that same storyline" and we did that and that was kind of the first step of what was to become the "Vigilante Diaries."
SM: Paul, what interested you in the role of the Vigilante?
Paul Sloan: Honestly, that was a case where I was designing something for myself that I could shoot for a webseries. Christian touched upon the backstory of the creation of the film but I had worked with him before as well as with Jason Mewes. So my manager was like "You need some type of project with a superhero like the webseries so just get going on that" and then they never talked to me again (laughs). I started working on the script for the webisode and I sat down with Jason and Christian and before we knew it we were at Comic Con and we had a webseries. It was a lot of freak accidents from the the creation of the webseries to the actual feature. I mean we all have our stories of struggles but this one wasn't a struggle at all, just a lot of good accidents.
SM: What is it about the action/thriller genre that you enjoy so much? What do you think this make this film different than other action/thriller films that are already out there?
CS: I'm a genre filmmaker for sure, first and foremost, and the action/comedies are definitely what I consider my cup of time. I think it's just what I grew up loving, you know, being a child of the 80's we had George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and movies such as "Die Hard", "Predator", "Aliens" and that's what forged me as a filmmaker. Of course there were films like "Clockwork Orange", "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" that were amazing but what kind of made up my cinematic day-by-day were those other films. "Vigilante Diaries" was a way for us to have a lot of fun with that kind of movie genre.
PS: I think "Vigilante Diaries" is made with a great wink towards knowing exactly what it is. It's almost like what would happen when someone gave us money to make an expensive backyard movie - that's essentially what we did. We just went with it and we had great resources, great tools and a great cast and crew. We did the best we could do on our crazy schedule and super cheap budget. When people go and see a movie they really don't care how hard it was to make or how easy it was or the cost so I understand that the guy watching the film may not understand all that went into it but I'm just hoping they get a kick out of it and enjoy it and laugh with it.
SM: How did you go about casting? Did you know when you were writing the script that you wanted those specific actors?
CS: Yeah I mean obviously it started off with Jason Mewes since he was in the original webseries - so it started with Jason and Paul (Sloan). After that, when we turned it into an actual feature film, we decided to make a movie that we would want to make with friends. I was good buddies with Quinton Jackson and Sal Guerrero and Paul Sloan was good friends with Michael Madsen. So we just kind of called up our buddies and said "Hey, we have this crazy action/comedy film, would you guys want to take up the script to see if you want to have some fun with us?" Luckily, they understood what kind of movie it was. They knew no one was going to win an Oscar off of this and it's not going to be at Sundance - it's just not that kind of movie, it's just something like when people are drunk on the weekend and they watch it on cable and they are like "Oh that was fun, that was great!" It's just that kind of movie (laughs).
SM: Paul, you've worked with Christian on a few projects in the past so how was it working with him on the full feature for "Vigilante Diaries"?
PS: This one was funny because we actually stopped in the middle of Vigilante because funds were sporadic so we went off and made a whole other movie and then came back to this one. We did a movie called "Nightcrew" that has a little bit of a horror element to it, but that's how Vigilante was shot. This is why I have 15 different haircuts in the film because everyone kept going off and taking jobs and it was hard getting people together so we had to work around that. One of the actresses really did get pregnant and give birth during the filming of the movie and they just wrote that into the story. That fake looking baby belly is actually a real baby belly. Making movies is crazy but I'm just glad we got our message on screen.
SM: How did you prepare for your role as the Vigilante and were there any challenges you faced while filming?
PS: A lot of times you don't have the prep time that you want and Christian really likes these elaborate flashy fight scenes. He's a fighter himself so he had some great stunt people around but the preparation would be last minute choreography for a fight. That's kind of the toughest thing but everyone around you is so good that they make you look like you kind of know what you are doing. That was really the only challenge other than staying away from pizza for awhile.
SM: What would you like audiences to take away from this film?
CS: I hope they take away just pure entertainment, you know? I hope they take away that this film is a fun ride, it's an energetic action romp in the genre. You get some popcorn or eat some pizza and have a lot of fun! I watch movies constantly and that's kind of rare right now - it's not all the time you are entertained in some way. We want people to go away from this film as insides of the joke, not that the movie is a joke, but that they are part of the jokes within the film - it's very much like Edgar Wright kind of stuff.
PS: I really hope they have a good time and they know it's a movie made by a bunch of movie fans. We've had two big screenings, one at the Arclight in Hollywood and one in Palm Springs and it was a packed house with non-judgmental people and it played really well so I was very happy.
SM: Last but not least, what can we look forward to in the future from you both?
CS: I have some projects that will be started in the fall with some of the same team that was a part of "Vigilante Diaries" - myself, Paul Sloan and the producers. We are doing this really cool female lead film in the same vein as "Training Day" that's an action/thriller called "Ten-00".
PS: I have a movie out right now on iTunes called "I Am Wrath" with John Travolta that I wrote as well as play the bad guy in. As Christian also stated we hopefully will be doing a movie at the end of the summer/fall called "Ten-00" which is a very serious cop thriller.
SM: Thank you both so much for answering my questions and letting us get to know more about yourselves and "Vigilante Diaries". "Vigilante Diaries" is now out in select theaters and iTunes and will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand July 5th.
For more information on the film you can find "Vigilante Diaries" on Facebook at www.facebook.com/VigilanteDiaries and Twitter at @VigilanteLives.