Interview with Jessie Seitz, Director of Devotion

Jessie Seitz is a filmmaker that has done a little bit of everything: acting, production, costume and sound design, editing, cinematographer, writer, camera operator, and finally directing.  She recently shot her debut horror feature Devotion, which will be available for pre-order on March 1st on IndieGogo. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jessie and talk about her career in films, her transition to directing, and what is was like to work with Jim VanBebber, Linnea Quigley and Haley Jay Madison. Check out the trailer to her upcoming film below and then read on for the interview.

PopHorror: You have done a variety jobs related to film, from acting to production to costume design. What made you decide to try your hand at directing?

Jessie Seitz: Directing was always the end goal for me. I sought out a production company that I really admired and asked to intern so I could learn everything from the inside out. I wanted to have at least a working knowledge of what went into a project before I started directing and I feel the experience definitely paid off. I still love being on other people’s sets because there is always so much to learn from others! I think when you start to feel as if you’re above holding a slate then you’ve really lost your passion for the process … there is always room to grow and do better.

PopHorror: I love that! It shows a true passion for the craft when someone is willing to do whatever job they can just to be involved. What directors and films inspired you?

Jessie Seitz: I feel like there’s a big difference between inspiration and admiration when it comes to who truly influences your work. I admire a lot of directors but I feel the most inspired/influenced by those who gave up everything for the sake of their art.

PopHorror: So what was it like finally making the jump to directing?

Jessie Seitz: I eased into directing by first taking on short, behind the scenes documentaries for the production house that I worked for and making experimental shorts with a few friends. My first large project was Welcome To Eidolon Crossing which was a feature length documentary, so when it came time to direct Five, my first big fictional narrative, I thought I was ready. In actuality, it was completely terrifying. I wanted to vomit at the thought of asking people to be involved because who the fuck was I? (laughs) Thank goodness I had some really great people around me who believed in what I was doing and helped me through it.

PopHorror: As someone who wants to be a filmmaker, I can only imagine how daunting that task is. When you talk about directors who gave up everything for art, I instantly think of Jim VanBebber, who you had an opportunity to  work with on Five. What was it like to work with Jim? Did he give you any filmmaking advice?

Jim VanBebber

Jessie Seitz: VanBebber was amazing to work with. From the moment I pitched the story to now, Jim has remained a friend and supporter of my art. While any verbatim advice is escaping me right now, he has always encouraged me to stand up for and be true to myself. Love that dude.

PopHorror: That is great advice! You directed a segment for Faces of Snuff. What was you segment about? How did shooting it differ from the previous projects you have worked on?

Jessie Seitz: The segment I directed for Faces of Snuff centers around a young male prostitute getting picked up and exploited. It’s framed through the eyes of an abuser you never see. The project was designed that way to highlight how the exploitation and rape of males is hardly ever talked about. Tobi Rice, my partner in Capricorn Rising (and best friend), was really interested in pushing himself as an actor and understood where I was going with it. Given the sensitive nature of the piece there was virtually no crew so it got pretty intense at moments! But Tobi gave it his all and now we have a beautifully fucked up thing floating around the world.

PopHorror: Wow! That definitely sounds intense. I need to pick up a copy. You recently made your first full length feature, Devotion. What’s it about and where did the idea come from?

Jessie Seitz: Devotion, in a lot of ways, comes from a childhood spent between the juxtaposition of mid American folklore and oppressive social structure. A young woman, disillusioned by her failing marriage, becomes obsessed with the meaning behind her best friend’s death. The obsession leads to a nearly deserted city with a dark secret. The film is designed to be a sort of Rorschach to the viewer.

PopHorror: That sounds very cool. What was it like shooting Devotion and how was it working with Linnea Quigley and Haley Jay Madison?

Jessie Seitz: Independent films always have special challenges that are normally rooted in not having enough money which makes the producers and director get creative. Devotion was no different.  The movie was a collaborative effort  from everyone on set who really wanted to see it to completion. For example, Jadie Marie ended up taking on an additional role when another actress fell through. She pulled it off flawlessly and her dedication to the project really shows on screen. Producer/actor Victor Bonacore gave so much to the project it could fill up its own documentary but for the sake of space I’d like to point out his beautiful Super8 film work that adds so much to the movie.

Working with Linnea Quigley was a dream of mine as she has always been my favorite scream queen. It meant everything to have her in this movie and she brought an amazing performance. She really is a talented actress and just about the sweetest person you’ll ever meet in your entire life. I met Haley Jay Madison a few years back and was always impressed! She brought a quality to the lead in Devotion that is uniquely her own and I truly loved working with her. Haley brings a lot of talent to whatever set she’s in and I feel that she would also be just as much of force behind the camera as she is in front of it. There’s a reason people keep seeing her name come up in things!

Haley Jay Madison and Linnea Quigley

PopHorror: Sounds like you had an amazing cast and crew. I’m really looking forward to seeing the film. When is Devotion expected to release?

Jessie Seitz: Our DVD pre-order on IndieGogo begins March 1st and the movie will be released shortly after the campaign.

PopHorror: Nice! That’s not too far off. What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?

Jessie Seitz: You are going to make mistakes and encounter shitty people and hate yourself. You’ll get 10 years in and feel like it was all in vain and start to consider a career as an accountant. You will fuck up and break your own heart over and over again. But then you’ll get over yourself and it will be magic. You will wake up some morning in a strange land with a kink in your neck and a beautiful sunrise and you’ll think to yourself, “Fuck, I am so glad that I’m not punching a clock today.” You’ll fall in love with everyone around you and burn brighter than you ever thought was possible. If you think you’re ready to give up, do yourself a favor and try harder.

PopHorror: Excellent advice! Any upcoming projects you want to talk about?

Jessie Seitz: I know I’m about to sound all artsy fartsy vague but I’m in the early stages of a dream project that I can’t really spill the beans on just yet. My production company, Capricorn Rising, has a lot of really cool stuff in the works and that feels really good. I’m really excited but also trying to enjoy where I’m at so I don’t get to 90 regretting everything (laughs).

PopHorror: Well, I wish you the best of luck with your upcoming projects. I think that about wraps it up. On behalf of myself and PopHorror, thanks for taking the time to talk to us and we are definitely looking forward to Devotion‘s release.

About Charlie Cargile

Indianapolis based Horror journalist. Lover of most things Horror (especially Indie), Pop Punk and the strange and unusual.

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