|Citrus Springs filmmakers Sean Michael Beyer and Bryan Baca at Robin Hood British Pub|
BRYAN BACA and SEAN MICHAEL BEYER
At Robin Hood British Pub
13640 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks
“I’ve always said, ‘Have foresight,’ because there are so many people in the film business that just think about right now and don’t plan for the future. In 1989, I worked on the first season of ‘Baywatch’ as a stand-in, a beachgoer. There was this young PA busting his butt on set, and I befriended him. We’d eat lunch together, and then two years later he called me to ask if I would act in a short film he was directing. I was nice to him, and he remembered,” recalls filmmaker Sean Michael Beyer. “You always have to think about that: It’s a small town.”
Hollywood is indeed a small town where careers can be over before they even take off if you’re known to have a bad attitude, and sometimes getting your script to the screen is all about whom you know. Luckily for writer/director Bryan Baca, when it came to making Citrus Springs, his feature-length debut, he had a seasoned pro at his side.
“Sean really made it go from a glorified student film into an actual movie. He was the one that was able to figure out the things that I wouldn’t have been able to,” confesses Bryan. “For example, we were going to shoot everything in the psychiatrist’s office in a living room, but when we were looking at this soundstage for our dining set, Sean had the foresight to go in and find a spot that would be perfect for building our psychiatrist’s office. He was able to accomplish a lot with a small sum of money.”
Sean not only produced the film under the company he established in 2000, Eye Scream Films, he also has a cameo in Citrus Springs. He and Bryan invite me join them at the place where many of their post-production meetings for the movie took place, Robin Hood British Pub, for a conversation about their working relationship, cinematic influences and the making of Citrus Springs.
|Robin Hood British Pub|
Both filmmakers are originally from Northern California, but Sean had already been in Los Angeles for a while before meeting Bryan.
“My step-uncle is best friends with an actor from Sean’s first movie, Down the P.C.H.,” tells Bryan. “He told me about that movie, so I looked it up and found him.”
“He stalked me online over AIM [AOL Instant Messenger],” chuckles Sean.
“I had planned to come down for a long time. I eventually went to CSUN [California State University, Northridge] and graduated in 2013,” informs Bryan. “It was nice moving down here for school because it gave me a platform to set myself up on.”
As I settle into the corner table Bryan and Sean are seated at in the corner of Robin Hood, it strikes me how homey the pub is. With its warm lighting, wood-paneled dartboard area, old-fashioned striped wallpaper and exposed brick features, the place is a cross between a grandma’s cozy house and a men’s lodge.
“When we filmed the movie in June I still lived in Northridge, but I moved right down the street in August when we were just starting post for Citrus Springs, and this was the closest place. I walk here a lot, eventually brought Sean and we’ve met here pretty consistently ever since,” says Bryan. “It’s really authentic British cuisine. Their Fish and Chips are the best in L.A.”
In addition, Robin Hood’s menu boasts English specialties like Bangers and Mash, meat pies, Scotch Eggs and even proper pots of tea, which Bryan is enjoying.
“What I like about this place is that they serve a real Black and Tan. So many places don’t carry Bass Ale on tap,” adds Sean. “The only thing that they say is not authentic about it is that the beer is cold. If it was in England, it wouldn’t be cold. It would be room temperature because you get so much more flavor out of it.”
We dive into a plate of fried calamari, and the pair shares what kind of films and TV shows made an impression on them growing up.
“I love comedy, but I love dark comedy. I’ve always gone back to comedy, but my first film was pretty dark,” admits Sean about Down the P.C.H. “I’ve always leaned on the darker side. I like the crime dramas on television, the darkness of science fiction. In ‘Star Trek’ and Star Wars, there’s always a dark side.”
“I’m all about dark, depressing, dour and scary – that’s always been my favorite genre. I love Scream. The small-town vibe is captured so well in that movie,” says Bryan. “One film that I always go back to is The Silence of the Lambs. I love how intense and terrifying that movie is, but it’s also very mature. It’s a drama with horrific elements and movies like that, you just don’t see them as much as you did in the mid ‘90s. It’s rare that you see those adult R-rated violent dramas, and that is what I was going for with Citrus Springs.”
You can definitely see the influence of darker works in Bryan’s shorts: Identity Theft, Rapture and Lamb to the Slaughter.
“I also watched a lot of slasher films growing up, which had some influence on Citrus Springs. This isn’t a straight-up slasher movie, but I really would be sitting in my room growing up in Folsom, imagining someone kicking in the door. I had that fear,” admits Bryan.
“So, he put that fear on screen,” interjects Sean.
“The scene with the character of Dylan in his bedroom was the first that came into my head. Everything else built off of that,” says Bryan of the development of Citrus Springs’ script. “Originally it was going to be a cops and robbers story, but when I really started writing was when the whole psychiatrist angle came out. It all just went from there.”
When Bryan showed Sean his initial finished script for the film, he was reluctant to make any changes that were suggested.
“I gave him notes, he hated them but then agreed with them later. It’s just the nature of writing: You get very protective of your material. I’m the same way,” Sean describes. “They say you write a movie three times: You write the script, then you shoot it (which is essentially a rewrite) and then when you edit it.”
Aside from making some minor changes, the script was ready to roll into production. Then, a major casting catastrophe happened.
“The actress cast in the lead role dropped out four days before we started shooting, so we had to scramble,” remembers Sean. “We had already started spending money on insurance, film permits, locations, and especially on a low-budget film, you can’t just stop. Casting director/co-producer Valerie McCaffrey called me and said, ‘I’ll get it done,’ and we had Christa the following day. Bryan and I had a conference call with Christa the day before we started shooting to ask if she had any questions. She replied, ‘No, I just have to memorize my lines.’”
|Christa Campbell and Nicole Smolen in a scene from Citrus Springs|
It was a windfall that the last-minute switch was made, as acclaimed actress (Day of the Dead, Drive Angry) and Oscar-nominated producer Christa Campbell stepped into the lead role of Jean quite well.
“Of the people who have seen this film, older women seem to really respond to the female protagonist, even though she’s cold and calculated – not warm and fuzzy,” says Sean of the response to Campbell’s performance. “It’s interesting because that’s normally not the audience for this type of film, but I think it works.”
Once the role of Jean was filled and some initial scenes were filmed in the L.A. area, the cast – which includes Jesse Luken (“The Magicians,” “Justified,” 42), Nicole Smolen (8 Days), Adam Carbone and veteran actor Richard Riehle (Office Space, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) – and crew caravanned up to Sacramento for the 18-day shoot.
“It was always my plan to shoot it in Folsom where I grew up. It is this weird mix of suburbia and beautiful wetlands that gives the film such a unique vibe,” describes Bryan. “I was super excited to film there. It felt like one of those short films in high school you would shoot with your friends but with really nice gear and a professional crew. That was one of the coolest parts about going back to my hometown: I had shot high school videos at some of these locations. To come back with a crew of 20 people, it was awesome.”
Now that Citrus Springs is completed and set for a May 17 release on VOD, I ask the duo what they have lined up next. While Bryan has been working as story supervisor on an animation project, Sean is developing some children’s projects and preparing to shoot his next film, Randy’s Canvas.
“I wrote this script 11 years ago about an autistic artist who meets this girl and falls in love but has no idea how to handle emotions. What’s unique about this film is that we’re doing it nonprofit, benefitting autistic charities,” he shares. “We’re going to shoot it in Rhode Island, and everyone there is so excited to be a part of it. We interviewed some of the higher functioning children with Asperger’s, and all of them and their parents said, ‘Hollywood screws up autism. Not everybody is Rain Man or a genius. It’s all different levels.’ When the people there read our script, they were like, ‘Wow, you’re going to do this right.’”
While it was wonderful being back up in NorCal shooting Citrus Springs, Los Angeles is definitely home for both Sean and Bryan.
“I told him, ‘The longer you’re here, the less you go back home.’ I remember when I was first here, I went back and forth to Grass Valley four or five times a year, and now there are times I don’t even go back for two years,” states Sean. “There are definitely perks to being in the industry and getting to know people. I’ve been lucky to be working in this industry, to be able to say I’ve earned a living doing this.”
“Once I finished school, built up a solid social circle and felt like Citrus Springs was moving forward, it was huge, something I could really be proud of. Then there are simple things like finding spots like Robin Hood and the Cinefamily in Hollywood that make you feel like part of a community,” concludes Bryan. “Los Angeles is an easy city to feel lonely in because there are so many people. You just walk past hundreds of people every day, yet it’s rare you make eye contact with anyone. Once you start feeling established, it’s a great place.
“Being a lover of film, getting to see first-run movies the first week that they come out is something I now take for granted,” he continues. “The film community here is the biggest thing for me, that this is the city of the art form that I love.”
Citrus Springs will be available on VOD May 17. For more information, visit citrusspringsmovie.com.
View the official Citrus Springs trailer at vimeo.com/135770149.