Q&A du C-U: Jessie Seitz

“Alt Film is Alive”
A short interview with the Art Co-op’s Jessie Seitz about her film, FIVE

by Jason Pankoke

Every now and then, a past participant in MICRO-FILM era movie culture connects with our fair twin cities, often sharing their work or knowledge accumulated in the world at large with our friends and neighbors. We at C-U Blogfidential get a kick out of witnessing these individuals cross paths. As a timely example, who could foresee that a former member of a Midwest production company with long-term MF ties would be screening her own film publicly, for the very first time, in Champaign? Here comes that déjà vu all over again…

Apart from festivals and other special events, we typically do not cover specific picture shows in the schedule of the Art Theater Co-op, 126 W. Church St., Champaign, but today we make an exception for the unorthodox choice of THE MANSON FAMILY. A key underground feature to emerge during the proliferation of specialty DVD labels in the mid-2000s, your humble editor has been waiting for a long time to see this fever dream concocted by outlaw filmmaker Jim VanBebber (DEADBEAT AT DAWN) and scraped together over 15 years beginning in the late Eighties.

Tonight at 10 p.m., the Art will present a restored, high-definition MANSON brought out by Los Angeles-based Severin Films in 2013 via limited theatrical release and a widely available Blu-ray. This marks the film’s public debut in Champaign-Urbana; the same can also be said for the short subject accompanying it titled FIVE, a creation of Art staff member Jessie Seitz who is currently attending the University of Illinois. Coincidentally, this is not the first time her name will have reflected off the silver screen at the Art!

A transplant from St. Louis, Seitz amassed post-production experience on the direct-to-video output of that city’s Wicked Pixel Cinema and its founder Eric Stanze, who provided one of our very first interviews for MICRO-FILM back in 1999. Her recent WPC credits include an executive producer stint on their self-released Nazi thriller RATLINE and as an associate producer and documentarian on the science-fiction tinged DEADWOOD PARK, distributed by Cinema Epoch in 2007 and featured at the Art’s inaugural New Art Film Festival in 2010.

Please hit the jump to enjoy our brief chat with Seitz about FIVE, described on IMDb.com as “[unveiling] life in a small Midwest factory town, as seen through the eyes of a five-year-old girl. It is the story of her last summer before kindergarten begins, a tale of the last days of pure youth.” If you miss out on tonight, be sure to watch FIVE – starring VanBebber and Amanda Pemberton and executive produced by Stanze – on Amazon Instant Video, or submit to THE MANSON FAMILY sans FIVE next Thursday, January 22, 10 p.m., at the Art.

Read on, MacDuff…


C-U Blogfidential: We appreciate you taking a few moments to provide background on yourself and the impetus behind this weekend’s shows, Jessie! To begin, it’s easily understood by Champaign-Urbana movie fans the Art Theater Co-op prides itself in providing viewing opportunities of non-mainstream cinema, but it generally supersedes a large body of experimental and underground cinema. What did it take for the Art to unleash Ohio native Jim VanBebber and THE MANSON FAMILY on the C-U?

Jessie Seitz: The Art really does try to bring a mix of both underrepresented and classic films to our audience. That being said, there are certain fringe films for which the audience in C-U still needs to be built. Late Nights at the Art has always been a great platform to present those types of films to the people who would appreciate them the most. The Late Night committee decided to show staff picks as a sort of “end of the season” thing. I chose THE MANSON FAMILY because of my connection to the director and I felt our Late Night regulars would really dig it.

CUBlog: In certain film circles, MANSON is legendary for the lengthy amount of time it took VanBebber and company to finish it and find its original distributor, his singular take on the Charles Manson cult, and his implicit criticism of the mainstream media. How do you think the film holds up today and compares in the past decade-plus of “torture porn” and the deluge of horror cinema and television?

JS: MANSON absolutely holds up because it is a truly original piece of work. I feel it’s unfortunate that it gets lumped into the whole “torture porn” genre because that’s not what the movie is about. With few exceptions, movies that focus on torture are only doing it for shock value and have very little to say. MANSON makes some pretty heavy social critiques and is presented in an artful, well-constructed manner.

TMF Trailer 2013 RedBand from Severin Films on Vimeo.

CUBlog: Your film short featuring VanBebber, FIVE, will play after MANSON at the Art, apparently for its first-ever public showings. When did this project come about?

JS: FIVE was written in late 2006 and shot in July of 2007. The project came [about] after I had been working with Wicked Pixel Cinema and was wanting to branch out as a filmmaker.

CUBlog: Who were the other key personnel on the shoot besides yourself?

JS: The crew for FIVE was incredibly small and I owe the success of the film to the cast who not only brought their best to the parts they were playing, but helped out with so much on set. Jess Dodson, who has a background in independent films herself, is the mother of Evie, the star of FIVE. Since Jess knew her way around a film set, she contributed so much support to everyone involved. She’s really an amazing person.

I wrote the part of “Kenny” with Jim in mind before I even knew him, knowing deep down that the movie wouldn’t be as good if I couldn’t cast him! We got in touch and just clicked as artists. I think he was into the fact that I wasn’t casting him as a bad guy.

CUBlog: What overall background do you have in film production?

JS: I got my start producing and shooting behind-the-scenes content for DVDs, which quickly evolved into shooting a full-length documentary for the [Wicked Pixel] film DEADWOOD PARK. I was also the co-story writer, production designer, and a producer on that feature, so it’s really the project I grew up on.

CUBlog: How do you see applying the art of film to your future endeavors?

JS: I’ve been working in independent film since I was 18 years old and have no intention of ever stopping! I’m currently in production for a new documentary called ALT PORN IS DEAD, which should be wrapped by the end of this year.

CUBlog: Finally, as an employee of the Art, what have been the most interesting films or experiences you have had since joining them in 2013?

JS: The best part of working at the Art is always getting to catch great films. IDA, BIRDMAN, and THE BABADOOK are among my favorites from last year. I’ve also really enjoyed helping to carry out events like the blood drive paired with NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE [in August] and Shocktober [in October].


Interview conducted January 14, 2015, via e-mail.

CUBlog EXTRA! Interview No.12 © 2015 Jason Pankoke


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