Whether you’re the son or daughter of a Hollywood socialite or just a normal person trying to show off his/her vision, making an independent movie is difficult. If you do it right, all the hard work and effort made into putting together that one film stands out. When you trollop along a film festival such as the one in Santa Barbara, independent movies feel harder to come by. The place is littered with foreign films and movies that were shown at previous festivals, so it’s a bit of a big deal when an independent movie such as “Blumenthal” busts its way in.
Writer, director and actor Seth Fisher comes from a theater background but shares an equal love for the big screen. His directorial debut “Blumenthal” touches upon a family who reflects back on their individual life decisions after a beloved and famous relative suddenly passes on. Watch the trailer below and read the short and sweet interview with filmmaker Seth Fisher.
Now one of the things about your movie is that you very much follow the same kind of vein of independent filmmakers who write, direct and star in their own pictures. Did you always have yourself in mind to play one of the main characters or did you want somebody else to do it? How did that go?
Seth Fisher: You know, I never did have myself in mind. I always knew that at a worse case scenario I could do it. I was not the ideal case for a variety of reasons. I wrote it to direct it. Acting in it was much easier as far as convincing an actor to run through China Town and almost getting arrested, things like that made it easier because it was just one less box to check.
Now you have to tell me the story of how you almost got arrested.
Seth Fisher: [laughs] Well we did have one close call where some cops pulled up right as we were doing the first Steadicam that goes from my feet to my face. So the cops looked at us, pulled up and walked right into a Dunkin Donuts. It’s China Town there’s a lot of weird stuff going on there.
So this is your big screen directorial debut, and one of the cool things about it is the different people you direct including Brian Cox. How long did you have him for?
Seth Fisher: I only had Brian for one day actually. I had worked with him as an actor on Broadway a couple of years ago, so he and I started off acting together. When I say starting off, I mean I was starting off, he had been doing it for awhile. So he and I, I don’t want to say we had any sort of shorthand per say, but just working with all of these actors, they all brought so much to the table. I wrote the thing when I was 28 and only a 28 year old boy can presume so much about a woman in her late 50s. One of the things that Mark Blum who plays Saul said to me when we first met, I asked him why he was interested in doing this small movie, because he’s got a pretty steady theater career and he’s a pretty busy guy. He said “I’m interested in the universal feeling of reaching a certain point in your life where you look around and say this is it.” I thought that’s it! That’s exactly the sort of thing I needed an actor to grab onto with this character, in addition to the jealousy and everything else, somebody that sort of goes I’m entitled to more. I could’ve been the successful playwright. I could have done this instead of teaching. I could have been great too and it’s an active link between all of them. What am I entitled to? What should things should be as opposed to how they are? I love my cast, they were really great to work with.
You were talking a little bit about the script, what was the inspiration for it all? Was it just on your own life, your family or how did that come about?
Seth Fisher: It really started from the idea of this sort of symbolic patriarch, a herald and a famous relative and what does that mean. You think about somebody like Arthur Miller or David Mamet or any sort of … even a filmmaker like Steven Spielberg. You think about their kids, their brothers, what’s their world like? They can’t have a life if they’re all of a sudden defined by their famous sibling, like a famous relative unless they change their name and become a movie star. So that was interesting to me and I had already done a short that sort of followed this character’s and the woman dealing with some of the same issues. And I had another short where I actually played a character that didn’t have a name, but he had a similar sort of consistent anger and frustration that Ethan had. I think I just sort of figured out they were all part of the same family. They were this family that was set off by being related to somebody special. And that’s not my family. They’re not a theater family, nobody in my family’s famous or anything. But look, all of the good things that the characters do were fairly universe. I certainly felt everything that every character feels there.
Including the constipation?
Seth Fisher: I was about to say everything from caring about do I have the best partner in life that I could possibly have? Is my wife as good of a wife as she could be, or could I get better? Also when am I going to take a s–t again? This is awful. So yeah! [laughs]
Sorry, I had to ask!
Seth Fisher: That actually was very much ripped off. There’s a character in Philip Roth’s book where the father is always in the bathroom, always constipated and always frustrated about it. I love Philip Roth. To my embarrassment the second my wife read the book she said “Did you steal that from Phiilp Roth!?” and I said “Yup!”
You’ve been found out! Now what exactly is it that you want to achieve as a filmmaker, as a storyteller?
Seth Fisher: That’s a big f–king question that makes me sweat. You know I guess I can answer it this way: I’m terrified that somebody is going to come up to me and say you need to only make movies in the same vein as your first film. But the truth is I’d like to write a little bit about everything. I think as close as personal of a project it can appear this movie is because I’m in it. It’s not my own world necessarily so I’m really interested in telling any story that I think I’d want to see myself and just continue writing. I have another project that has similar themes that are relatable as in we all deal with them, but the situations as the world in which they take place. So I just want to tell as many different stories as anyone will let me.