Christian Sesma Interview

Christian Sesma is the director of the Luke Goss films The Nightcrew and AWOL 72.

He also directed the Vigilante Diaries web series which is currently being made into a full feature with a cast that includes Jason Mewes and Rampage Jackson.

Christian stops by to chat about the movies with us.


First off I’d like to talk about The Nightcrew; how did the concept come together?

Yeah, my writing partner/buddy Paul Sloan had a concept about 4 years ago and kind of developed it into what it is now. We’re such big fans of 80’s genre action movies and I really do feel there’s a resurgence of that genre now on some level. Without ruining the plot twist which is kind of crucial to the genre on The Nightcrew it really is an action movie kind of like 30 Days of Night or Blade or an action movie with a cool horror twist. So it just came out of my buddy Paul Sloan and I’s idea to make a mainstream action picture.

Obviously Luke is the male lead but it’s an ensemble cast but is very much centred around Chasty Ballesteros’ character May.

Did you have a particular cast in mind when working on the script?

At the indie level of action we have to keep flexible with who we can cast; the cool thing is I always wanted Luke to play Wade so that was really fun. I’d been a fan of Bokeem Woodbine for a lot of years and it was cool that he got to play the kind of second in command. The same guy I wrote it with Paul Sloan is also in the movie and he’s part of this bounty hunter group. Then I got to call my buddy Danny Trejo to play the bad guy and then we also cast relative newcomers for the female leads.

Luke Goss has been a great supporter of this site, how did you guys originally meet?

I met him through my Cinematographer who is like my right hand buddy, AJ Epstein. We were working on this little sci-fi movie for these producers that we were hired guns for. Luke worked on it for a few days in a supporting role; that’s how we met and we hit it off and I really believe we hit it off so we could make The Nightcrew together. For me I’m ridiculously proud of it; it’s a great movie and just won Best Action Movie at the Albuquerque Comic Con. It’s barely started to come out yet so we haven’t really screened it at too many places. I’m pretty confident how the response will be…

Any word on a release date?

The distributor pushed back the date so for now we’re waiting for a new date from eOne; we’re hoping to get a good amount of press because on paper The Nightcrew looks like just another straight-to-DVD action movie. What we know as the filmmakers and the response from the crowd is that it’s more than that. It really has a good story, some great heart and real drama to it; not just these guys running around shooting guns and chasing a bag of money.

I do think though that Straight-to-DVD gets a bad rap sometimes as it tends to be the best way of seeing the old school action movies whereas the bigger pictures today are the superhero movies…

Oh yeah, absolutely! 

When putting a script together, do you prefer doing dialogue/character moments or action?

I think we just write straight through especially if I’m sharing writing with someone like Paul where we worked on The Nightcrew and then my next feature Vigilante Diaries. We’re about to start a new project soon that we’ll probably co-write on. We usually flesh out the story on 1 or 2 pages first and then we just start writing.

We’re both really huge action junkies

I think we both kind of get surprised by writing cool action sequences for each other; so it’s one of those things where every 20 pages we hand it over and see how we can surprise one another. We’re both really huge action junkies so we just geek out on each other’s writing. It’s pretty cool because we’re always trying to top each other every 20 pages like “oh shit, you did that?” or “you killed him that way!” That’s the kind of benefit I find from writing with him rather than writing alone; you don’t get stale on the writing process.

Sometimes when you’re writing alone you’re stuck on the second act with 30 or 40 pages in wondering “How am I going to get past this?” so when you’re sharing the load with someone else and keeping it spicy all the time, it makes it easier.

AWOL 72 looks like old-school 70’s action at its best…

I think it’s like that; it’s one of those chasing one guy down movies where he’s mowing bad guys aside. It sort of feels like that and we’ve kind of coloured it that way. Whereas The Nightcrew was original content from myself and Paul Sloan, AWOL was a script that was brought to me and we rewrote it for certain things. So you hope that those things come through and it’s a really fun ride; it does feel like old-school action for sure.

Luke and Bokeem are both great in it; of course The Rza is really cool because he’s playing a character unlike what we’ve seen before from him. He’s kind of like Columbo; an old-school detective guy and not playing the cool street RZA guy that we love. I’m a huge RZA fan but in this he’s playing kind of a straightforward cop who is always one step behind for the entire movie but never really catches up. I think it’s fun to see him play this regular detective guy and it’s really cool.

The fight between Bokeem Woodbine and Luke Goss looks hardcore; talk us through putting that together?

Yeah we had a lot of fun; our buddy and stunt coordinator Arnold Chon had done a ton of stuff and is an actor in his own right. He helped choreograph that; whereas The Nightcrew was quite serious and in the vein of World War Z, in AWOL we have a lot of fun with old-school hand to hand fights and is inspired by Spy vs. Spy. It’s got a bit of espionage too; not as slick as Bourne but definitely more gritty and Grindhousey.

The fight scene between Luke and Bokeem was fun because they got to do a little bit more martial arts type stuff. They have a cool kitchen fight which isn’t quite chop -socky (which I love) but it’s still pretty brutal. The fight actually ends with a funny beat so it’s a little off the wall.

Luke has a great fight with Mary Christina Brown who I’m working with again; she kicks Luke’s ass for a little bit too. That’s a great sequence and she’s really good so you can expect more from her. It’s rare that you can sell a woman doing kick ass stuff. When you see Gina Carano then you know she can hurt you. But when you see some other superhero actors then you’re like “yeah you could take her!” {laughs}

So the cool thing with AWOL is we get some cool hand to hand fights and Luke has to fight this girl and there’s real intensity there.

Is hand to hand your favourite type of action scene?

Yeah! It’s one of those things where I’ve yet to do a really big fight scene but we got a taste for it. I come from a martial arts background and any person who practices martial arts over the years always wants to do a very cool martial arts hand to hand sequence.

That’s the thing when you’re working on independent film is on a limited budget you don’t have the time to prep and do proper choreography. For these ones we didn’t have a month to do fight choreography but it would be a week instead. I look forward to having more prep time on the next project so we can do a lot more elaborate sequences.

So Vigilante Diaries is coming soon; one of the things I really loved about the web series was the camera work during the action sequences. It managed to be kinetic but you could still see everything that was going on. What can we expect in terms of action with the full feature?

Oh we’re talking way slicker; the same energy and the same DP so he knows how to shoot action which you’ll get to see in Nightcrew and AWOL.

Vigilante Diaries was always this fun project we did in between bigger movies so when one of the executive producers saw The Nightcrew he was like “Holy shit, dude I’d like to give you guys a budget to take Vigilante Diaries and make it into a movie; I really think it could be something”.

There were some big Expendables style action scenes in The Nightcrew with lots of guns and explosions and he asked if we could do that level of action with Vigilante Diaries. We said “absolutely!”

Vigilante Diaries is kind of a really fun action comedy very much like Kick Ass or something that’s tongue and cheek funny mixed with really cool action like underground parking lot shoot outs; very Luc Besson type stuff.

Vigilante Diaries is like the web series x 100!

All the things we planned to do with the web series but weren’t able to do at the time kind of just gets expanded on with characters and stuff like that. The vigilante is Paul Sloan, my writing partner so people get to see him as possibly the next Frank Grillo or somebody like that; a weathered, rugged, bad ass, old-school tough guy that we all love. 

What of the weapons of Vigilante Diaries, how did you go about choosing them?

The cool thing with my cinematographer is he’s such a weapons tactical guy; he does a lot of instructional weapons training videos for tactical teams and special ops in Texas. So he brings a kind of a specialty to things so that’s why we have such a wide range of weapons like AR-15s, AKs and grenade launchers and we’re taught how to do the weapons handling to do the movements correctly. That’s why with this movie we tried to find cooler looking weapons and not just regular AK’s.

One of my favourite movies of all time is Aliens so it’s like that where the heroes just have to have the baddest guns with the baddest sound effects! That’s kind of where we are with Vigilante Diaries; the vigilante has his own weapon; the other guys like Rampage Jackson have a lot of cool stuff like modified AR’s so we did go into choosing the right weaponry for those guys.

This is now an ensemble action piece, are there any ensemble action flicks you’d consider as a major influence?

Oh God, man! Predator 100% Aliens for sure. Those two movies we must have seen a million times. Die Hard and the old school ones that we’ve seen a lot. I’m always referencing these kinds of movies; even Beverly Hills Cop for the fun stuff. I’m a huge Marvel/DC guy as well and I collected the comics so we’re always looking at genre stuff. I’m also a huge JJ Abrams fan! I think those are the ones that come to mind first.

On a random note let’s say someone asked you to make a 4th Expendables movie; what would be your angle?

Ah Jeez that’s a hard one, man! [laughs] As I said I’d love to get a crack at a big one and they’ve covered so many angles with that. Maybe the angle to do The Expendables 4 is to go back to a more intimate storyline; it’s not really about the huge ensemble any more. It would really be more about Stallone and Statham; I love their relationship and I think those two guys work well together. Every time I see them on screen I think those guys like each other. So I would maybe do it where it’s not so much about the team on a huge level; have a couple of the other guys but really focus on Stallone or Statham.

I’d kill a bunch off too and actually make them Expendable…

Yeah! I thought the same thing; take it from Expendables to Expendable. You really don’t get enough time to fall in love with the guys so much because they’re trying to focus on everyone else. Take it back to the roots where it’s these two guys storyline and how they interconnect; the others can be doing something but keep the focus on Sly and Statham.

You’re also putting together a new action comedy; are you able to talk about it at this early stage?

It’s something I’m ridiculously excited about and I’ll find out more next week. I pitched the movie on Thursday but it’s something that’s a new genre for me on some levels. They’re kind of giving me 100% creative control which I’m excited about because I get to do stuff where I’ve been hindered before by certain company aspects. They’ve seen The Nightcrew and Vigilante and they kind of see where we’re going with stuff now doing action with high production values. We’ll see but I really hope I can share it soon…

Thanks so much for chatting with The Action Elite and good luck with all of these projects.