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Meet the 2011 LA Film Festival Filmmakers | “How to Cheat” Director Amber Sealey

Meet the 2011 LA Film Festival Filmmakers | "How to Cheat" Director Amber Sealey

In this funny and honest depiction of the messiness of modern marriage, writer-director Amber Sealey also stars as Beth, a woman of child-bearing age and inclination who, with her husband Mark, has been struggling to conceive. Sealey’s guileless performance as a woman betrayed by her own body is matched by Kent Osborne’s as the awkward Mark, who, confused and frustrated, turns to online dating, where he shops for the perfect affair to shake up his life. Given his counterproductive tendency to reveal his motives up front, his encounters tend to be short and ugly, until he meets the avid Louise, whose complex attitude sets them all down an unexpected path. [Synopsis courtesy of Los Angeles Film Festival.]

[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Narrative Feature and Documentary Competition at the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, iW asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]

“How to Cheat
Directed By: Amber Sealey
Producer: Ben Thoma
Screenwriter: Amber Sealey
Cinematographer: Gabriel Diamond
Editor: Michelle M. Witten
Cast: Amber Sealey, Kent Osborne, Amanda Street

Responses courtesy of “How to Cheat” director Amber Sealey

Your movie: In 140 characters or less, what’s it about?

“How to Cheat” is about a guy who makes an active decision to cheat on his wife because he thinks it’ll make him happier.

OK: Now tell us what it’s really about.

It’s also about marriage, struggling to conceive and a general striving for satisfaction in life.

“It feels alive to me…”

Like a lot of actor-turned-directors, I partly wanted to make movies because it was an opportunity to act, which is what I trained in and what I love most. Improvising scenes is extremely fulfilling for me, but after making my first film, “A Plus D,” I realized how much I love the whole process of making a film, all the various stages of production, and how collaborative it is. I work to make my films as “alive” and as much like theater as I can, since that is my background. The best part of making movies is the process of watching them change as you make them, each person you ask to be involved adds their part and it changes because of that person directly, and in that way it feels alive to me.

“It came out of nowhere…”

I started this film because I had another that I wanted to make but was overwhelmed with trying to raise funds for it, so I thought, “Oh, I’ll just make this little one for fun while I think of how to get cash for the other one.” I still have no idea how to get cash, but I’m glad I made “How to Cheat” in the meantime, because I learned a lot and told a story I wanted to tell. I started with the idea of a man who is generally a “good” person and has done all the “right” things in life, but feels it got him nowhere, so he makes an active decision to do something bad.

Cheating was interesting to me because most people who cheat say that they had no idea how it happened – it came out of nowhere. I wondered what it would be like if someone set out to do this bad thing. In terms of inspiration, I’m always in awe of other filmmakers and how they manage to do what they do. In particular I like to look at what other women filmmakers are doing.

I love Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold, Catherine Breillat, Sally Potter, and Jane Campion. I don’t think my films are anything like theirs stylistically, but I love to watch what they do. More than anything I’m inspired by the new movement in low-budget filmmaking and how much more accessible it all is now, both in terms of the technology and the stories.

“I was the first…”

The most difficult part was trying to get all the post-production work done with a newborn baby. Just the other day I asked the guy doing color correction if he’d ever had anyone breastfeed in a color session before and he said he thought I was the first. It’s an age-old lament, but it is challenging being a new mother and also getting any sort of work done. I think I was really naive about it while I was pregnant and thought I could finish it easily with her in a backpack or something, but I didn’t know the intensity of words like “naptime” back then.

“Slivers of our own lives…”

I hope the LAFF audiences respond to the story. I tried to look at a very common theme (both in life and in movies) in a slightly different way from how I assume I would react in real life, but I hope audiences can relate to the story or the characters in some way. I think we often like movies where we see parts of ourselves or slivers of our own lives up there.

“Fears and insecurities…”

Any true low- or no-budget movie is an inspiration to me. I’ve always been interested in Dogma-95 films, Mike Leigh, Michael Winterbottom and Lukas Moodyson. I also always like to see what Lynn Shelton, Joe Swanberg and those folks are doing. People I know from college make films and art now and I love to see their stuff – Gabriel Fleming, Lindsay Beamish and Miranda July. It’s great to see people who you knew as teenagers now being creative and telling stories. I’m encouraged by anyone who gets out there and has the courage to make something, despite all the fears and insecurities most of us have. So, it’s more filmmaking and art in general that inspired me, rather than any specific films.

“How to win the lottery…”

I’ve got that other feature I was talking about earlier, “New Mexican Rain.” I actually wrote a script for it, which I don’t usually do, but it’s not quite done… I normally only write scenes, snippets, lines or more like journal entries. But “New Mexican Rain” is set in the 80s, with kids in it, and has a lot more locations, so it would be hard to do it as low-budget as I’ve done my other films. I’m currently researching how to win the lottery.

Check out these prior participants in the Los Angles Film Festival, courtesy of SnagFilms [Disclaimer: SnagFilms is indiewire’s parent company]
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