MSPIFF 2015 Film Spotlight: The Center – Interview with filmmaker Charlie Griak & lead actor Matt Cici



One of the most exciting parts of MSPIFF 2015 are the regional premieres of various films, and this one has a personal connection to the city.

Produced by Jonathan Demme (director of Silence of the Lamb, Philadelphia, Beloved) and shot locally in St Paul, Charlie Griak’s atmospheric debut focuses on a vulnerable young man who falls into the trap of a cult-like group. Ryan is a recent college grad searching not only for a job but also for a meaning in life. When he comes across a self-help organization, simply known as The Center, with a charismatic leader, Ryan seems to have found what he has been looking for.

The Center is a tense and surreal portrait of the dangerous nature of groupthink.

I had the pleasure of interviewing The Center‘s lead actor Matt Cici last year when he premiered his feature film debut Lambent Fuse right here at MSPIFF. It’s awesome that he’s back in yet another regional premiere, albeit in a different role, as a lead actor this time instead of in the directing chair.

The Center‘s film director Charlie Griak is an accomplished visual artist who has been working professionally as a freelance illustrator, storyboard artist, and animator since 1998. He is the creator of the short animated film Fever, an eight-minute narrative made up of over 4000 of his hand drawn illustrations. It earned a screenings in The Palm Spring International Festival of Short Films, The Seattle International Film Festival and The Raindance Film Festival in London. THE CENTER is Griak’s live action directorial debut.

Today we have an interview with both Matt and Cici about the film, thanks to both for the wonderful opportunity!

Charlie Griak directing on set

Questions for Charlie:

1. How did you come up w/ the concept about a cult? Is there a personal connection or is it something else that inspire you to write about this cautionary tale?

I’ve always been fascinated by group dynamics— whether in a workplace, at a school, or even in a family — so I thought that a movie about a cult would be an interesting place to explore these ideas. Without realizing I was doing it, I’ve been researching the topic for years and years.

This research has led to a lot of great personal revelations. Maybe the biggest thing I take away from it — and I hope it comes through in the movie — is that almost any group can have cult-like aspects. Often our beliefs and value systems are given to us from the outside rather than decided upon from within. I think this a valuable concept to explore as an artist.

2. Based on the press release, this project took over six year to make, so what’s the biggest challenge to bring this film to life?

Whenever you are tackling a large creative project, you need to be flexible and open-minded enough to find creative solutions to the obstacles that inevitably arises. Coupled with that, filmmaking requires a strong discipline from the filmmaker to keep going when times are tough. So there is a great balancing act that an independent filmmaker needs to perform — between great flexibility and great tenacity. So for me, that was always the biggest challenge — finding the right balance between those two seemingly contradictory requirements.

3. Your background as a storyboard artist/animator, how does your experience in the business assist you in the filming process?

Working as a storyboard artist and animator really instilled in me the importance of planning. In animation, planning is especially important because the process itself is so laborious. Ideally, you don’t draw any extra “footage” in animation. You have the edit in mind, down to the exact frame, before you finalize a single image. Having spent years working that way, it felt very natural to extensively pre-visualize The Center in storyboards before shooting anything.


4. There is a shot of Ryan from below where he’s at a skyway looking out into the street – you use that shot several times in the film. Is there a significance to that scene in particular or you just like the aesthetic of the shot itself?

I’ve spent a lot of time working for various companies in downtown Minneapolis and found myself watching the activity of the city from the skyways whenever I needed to get away and think. It always felt like it was a unique place — somewhat separated from the action of the city, but also right in the middle of it.

So I put Ryan in the skyways at several times in the film because I felt the visual elements of the location expressed his inner state of mind. He is trapped behind glass, very close to the people he wants to connect with but also unable to reach them. The skyways felt like metaphor for his life. I like trying to find a realistic location (one that logically makes sense to the film’s story) that also visually expresses the inner world of the characters involved. Hopefully that came through in those shots.


5. Would you share what’s a day in the life is like during filming? Especially during the intense meetings with the group leader Vincent?

I was so excited to be on set that I would jump out of bed and rush to our location before I would even eat breakfast. I couldn’t wait to start filming each day. In fact, for the first day of shooting, I was so excited that I think I showed up over 5 hours early! It really was a dream come true to actually get to make a movie, so I tried to soak up every second of it.

Once the day would officially begin, things moved very quickly. We had a finite time to shoot at each location so we had our schedule figured out in 15 minutes increments and we decided early on that we would never go over a 12 hour day if at all possible. That might sound a little rigid or contrary to the creative process, but I believe that having such a solid structure actually gave our team a lot of confidence during the production. Being organized created a safe and dependable environment for everyone to be at their best — creative, spontaneous and also willing to be vulnerable.

We had two local producers, Annie and Judd Einan, who did an amazing job of organizing and managing the production. A lot of the cast and crew told me that it was the best set they had ever worked on, and I think Annie and Judd deserve a huge amount of credit for that. I had seen their short film ”Blindspot” and was thoroughly impressed by what they had created. I was very lucky that they were interested in producing The Center.


6. Lastly, how did Jonathan Demme come to be involved as executive producer?

I feel so incredibly lucky to have Jonathan Demme on board as the film’s executive producer. He is one of my personal heroes as both a filmmaker and as a person.

In 2010, I was fortunate enough to be selected by Jonathan and Curious Pictures in NY to create imagery for an animated feature film that they were developing. As the project was being developed, Jonathan would send me parts of the script and I would him send him illustrations and animations. We went back and forth in this way for several years and along the way he and I developed a great collaborative partnership and a great friendship.

In 2012, I asked Jonathan if I could share my rough-cut of “The Center” with him. He was very excited to watch the film and really liked what he saw. Soon after, he set up an artist residency for me in Pleasantville, NY at The Jacob Burns Film Center where he and I worked with JBFC Editor Thom O’Connor to create the final edit of film.

Question for either Matt or Charlie: What would you like the audience to come away from watching this film?

I hope the film generates a lot of discussion in the audience about cults, human behavior, belief systems and group dynamics. I think there is no bigger compliment than hearing that my film made someone “think”.

But beyond simply the topic, I hope that the audience walks away feeling that were able to connect with the film and its characters. Because ultimately I think that is why audiences see films and why filmmakers make films — to connect with one another.


Questions for Matt:

1. How did you get involved with the project? Did you know Charlie or any of the producers before this film?

The Center was my first experience with Charlie and the rest of the team. I knew of Annie Einan, one of our producers/actors, from when she had expressed interest in my film, Lambent Fuse, but we hadn’t worked together yet.

This is the first feature film I’ve worked on as an actor. Primarily, I work as a crew member on films: directing/writing/editing and crewing on other films in various roles from 1st Assistant Director (AD) to Location Manager.

I found out about The Center in a most perfect time in my life:
I had just driven eight hours straight from South Dakota after a somewhat exhausting feature film production, where I served as 1st AD. Right when I got home I opened my Mac, brought up Facebook, and saw a post from Annie Einan mentioning they were casting for a feature film. I thought to myself, I wasn’t really in the mood to crew something at that moment, so I read on.

The part of Ryan jumped out to me immediately. But, I kept reading since I wasn’t sure if it jumped out to me only because it was the lead role. There was something about the way he was described that intrigued me. He was inspiring and depressing at the same time. It just sounded like someone I could connect with at that time. So, I sent a headshot and my résumé with a note mentioning I’d like to crew if they felt that would be a better fit.

Before showing up I shaved my head because I had sported a mohawk for the film I did in South Dakota. We all did it as a fun, bonding thing. I was a bit nervous that my shaved head, not looking anything like my headshot, would not play in my favor at the audition, especially when they asked me to take off a beanie I had worn to cover it up. But, I think it’s safe to say it didn’t.

Less than a week later, I received a call back audition, and we worked hard from that point forward to create Ryan together. They challenged me in so many wonderful ways, and the team was one happy unit. It was awesome!

And to think, had I not driven home at that exact moment, had I not opened my computer at that exact moment, had I not gone to Facebook at that exact moment, I would have never found this film. I wasn’t actively looking for a role to play; it found me, and as cheesy as that sounds, I’m so happy it did.

2. How did you approach this role of Ryan with his vulnerability as well as that ‘seeker’ aspect of this character?

It was something I connected with immediately when reading the audition character description. I approached it as attributes that also lived inside me. I felt really close to Ryan at the time of shooting. He was disconnected from the world. I think we all have had that feeling or understand “not fitting in.” There was a point in each of our lives when we just want to know what to do next. “Who should we be?” Once you’ve worked that out, you’ll need to figure out how do become that person. Ryan is looking for those answers too.

With acting, you’re being analyzed on every breath and every twitch. Each one of them matters. In film, there cannot be a wasted frame. Those moments matter to the people watching, but they matter even more to the character you’re playing. You, as an actor, become vulnerable to everyone around you: the film crew, the other talent, and the audience who will eventually watch the film. As people, we attempt to put on our best faces, and with each character they are doing the same.

On top of being vulnerable, it’s hard for him to find support at work and at home. He had nobody to turn to. At the time, I was in between places, and had just come off an exhausting film shoot. I was premiering a near-rough cut of my feature film at a festival. So, there was a mixture of amazing and tough. Though, I did have people that supported me. To connect more with Ryan, I would start separating myself from society. I’d go for long runs and bike rides where I’d be stuck with only my thoughts. Whatever I was doing during the day, I would imagine myself as Ryan: isolated, lost, and lacking confidence. Personally, it made me appreciate those around me so much more, but it was also a feeling that I’ll never forget, and I worked hard to show that in the film.

3. How much does your experience as a filmmaker help you as an actor?

Oh, I feel it definitely shaped the way I approached this film, and it’s always helpful to cross-train in the field of cinema. I understood the production aspects, from script to screen, as I was in the final stages of editing my first feature film when we started working on The Center. It makes you look at a script with so much more care knowing how many long nights Charlie, Wendy, and his circle of support went through to craft it (a minimum of 2 years). To know they had been working on such detailed pre-production plans before I found out about the project made me appreciate and work diligently to perfect each moment they gave me. Charlie and his team put on one of the most wonderful productions one could wish to be a part of.

It helped during each take, knowing what to give for the director and audience, but also some range for the editor. They’re the ones who eventually craft the story into what it’s going to be. A story changes dramatically from thought to paper and paper to film before the editor sees the story unfold. Then, he/she once again retells the story.

I feel that I’ve become a better filmmaker by taking on several different roles.


4. What’s your favorite scene to shoot from this film? Do you prefer the more intense or quieter moment of a scene?

I am not sure if my answer would change for another film, but I think I enjoyed the quieter moments more. There was always somewhere to go inside Ryan’s head. He was thinking constantly, and it was a lot of fun diving into his life. He did a lot of writing too, and I remember worrying a bit about what exactly I would write about. For some reason though, I couldn’t stop my pencil. Ryan was a very interesting person to play.

Question for either Matt or Charlie: What would you like the audience to come away from watching this film?

There are so many personal stories and experiences that came from this film for us and for our viewers. I’ve had people stop me afterward and share their experiences of having a family member or friend involved in a self-help group, cult, or cult-like group and what that was like for them and how that affected their lives. We are people. We care. If The Center can bring hope to someone or educate another, then it’s more than we could have ever asked for. Film is effective because it’s universal. It’s an art of storytelling, something we’ve been doing forever as beings on this planet; we’ve just found different ways to do it. I hope we can all see a film and talk about it. I will be impressed by everything that comes from this and thankful for the many that look to share these nights with us.

For more info: check out The Center’s official website


A day in the life of filming ‘The Center’
Matt (far left) and Charlie (far right) at Cinequest


Get your tickets to the screenings of The Center!

Wed, Apr 22 7:20 PM
Fri, Apr 24 10:00 PM

Hope you enjoy the interview! What are your thoughts about The Center?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Three Musketeers (2011) & Lambent Fuse Premiere

Happy Monday all! Did you watch an Irish-related movie or were you at the cinema watching 21 Jump Street? I have zero interest in seeing it but surprisingly that movie’s a hit w/ the critics AND audiences to make #1 at the box office!

My hubby and I got Apple TV over the weekend and we absolutely love it! So instead of renting through Amazon on Demand, we now rent stuff via iTunes and the streaming quality is actually a lot better. Anyway, as is customary with most of my weekend viewings, I like to mix up different genres. I was thisclose on renting My Week with Marilyn but we wanted something with a bit more action so we went with The Three Musketeers, well suffice to say we regretted our decision within 10 minutes!

Last night my friend Astrid and I went to the Lambent Fuse premiere, the one I featured last Wednesday. We met briefly with the director Matt Cici who introduced the movie. We’re also treated with a mini concert from a local folk singer (who can rap as well as he sings!) before the movie, definitely making the $10 bucks ticket even more worthwhile!

Here are my mini reviews of the two:


As I’ve alluded to in my intro, the latest Alexandre Dumas adaptation is a dud! I actually put this on my most-anticipated of 2011 as I love the cast, but was dissuaded by the dismal reviews. But I figure it’s at least worth a rental right? Ahah, well barely.

Ok, I have to admit the three musketeers look good in tight leather 😉

I’m not even going to write about the plot as most of you certainly already know about the tale of the famous French guards: Arthos, Porthos and Aramis and the young D’Artagnan. Paul W.S. Anderson, whose films Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, Resident Evil, etc. are definitely NOT my cup of tea, promises a re-imagining story of the legendary swashbuckling adventure. Well, this tells me to NEVER trust a film by this UK director again, no matter how good the cast!

Speaking of which, I really think it’s criminal to waste such a plethora of talents, including Christoph Waltz, Mads Mikkelsen and the three actors playing the musketeers: Matthew Macfadyen, Luke Evans and Ray Stevenson. We know all of these actors are capable of so much more given their resume, but they’re given so little to do and the inept script is practically cringe-worthy! Now, Milla Jovovich as the seductive and skilled assassin and the wildly-ornamented Orlando Bloom are right on their element here as neither of them have any business as an actor.

Oh Christoph, just what are you doing in this movie??!

The worst part of all is of course the D’Artagnan casting. 20-year-old Californian Logan Lerman is so out of his league in that role of a supposedly daring rascal, as he lacks any kind of charisma believability even for a fantasy flick like this one. To say he’s a far cry from Gabriel Byrne’s portrayal in The Man in The Iron Mask is putting it mildly. I really think that if someone with just a smidgen more talent (perhaps someone like Nicholas Hoult?) this movie might have a teeny bit of saving grace. Lerman didn’t even bother attempting a British accent, yes I know the Musketeers are supposedly French guards but at least it’d be more consistent if the actors all speak with the same accent.

The action sequences are nothing new, pretty much a rip-off of Matrix and other similarly-styled action flicks after that. Even the music sounds like a rip-off of The Dark Knight, Gladiator & those Pirates of the Carribean movies! The preposterous plot is topped with the air-ships where a lot of the fighting takes place. Logic doesn’t seem to be a factor in this movie, as these articulate & complex ships seem to have been built in a matter of days! And we’re not talking of just ONE flying ship, but an entire armada! Perhaps the director has secretly wished he had directed a Pirates movie?? [shrugs] The only decent thing about this movie is the set pieces which I thought looked beautiful, but really, set pieces alone don’t make a movie!!

Final Thoughts: Unless you are die-hard fans of any of the cast, I’d say skip this one. Seriously, it made even the 1993 version with Charlie Sheen as Aramis (ha!) seemed like an Oscar contender, at least Tim Curry looked like he had more fun as the Cardinal than Christoph did. Mr. Dumas must be spinning in his grave!

1.5 out of 5 reels


As I’ve described in detail in the interview post with director Matt Cici, this film is a character study of six characters whose decisions and life scenarios somehow get entangled with one another. Each of the characters have a certain condition that practically takes over their lives to a degree, ranging from kleptomania, deep depression resulting from a personal loss, to irrational obsession.

The film doesn’t preach about certain morality so much as presenting in a non-chronological manner, what the characters’ choices affect others and their own. As Matt mentioned in the interview, “… and audience watches this film and becomes more of a participant rather than just a viewer. They may impart judgement on what’s right and what’s not right…” and I find myself doing just that as I’m watching it.

The one character I’m taken with the most is Freddie Goone (Rhett Romsaas) who lost his sister in a hit-and-run accident one night and is overtaken by grief and vengeance pretty much wrecks his relationship with his girlfriend Allison (Heidi Fellner). I feel like his journey up until the explosive ending is the most engaging than the rest, and his encounter with the unlikely ‘enemy’ if you will is done quite well.

The nice things about watching a locally-made film is that we’re not focusing on the unknown actors and our predisposed feelings about them, but more on the narration. By the same token though, I feel that some of the actors are not as experienced and thus compromise the quality of the film. The emotional scenes between Freddie and Allison for example, could’ve been much more heart-wrenching but I didn’t really feel the connection between the two actors. The robbery scenes are whimsical and get the most laughs but again, most of these characters are so unsympathetic it’s hard to really connect with them. Speaking of whimsical, the fast-paced finale taking place at the Mpls/St. Paul airport ends up being unintentionally comical to me than I’m sure it’s intended to be. I also think the link between all these characters isn’t as strong as I would have liked it, but the concept is certainly intriguing.

Overall I think Lambent Fuse is a worthy debut from Matt Cici. Despite some of the really slow parts, there are much to be enjoyed here, and I do think the cinematography is beautiful. The use of music also adds to the mood without overpowering the story, and it’s great that he collaborates with local musicians for this film. I think the fact that he chose such a challenging non-chronological style is to be commended, the story is quite dense and hard to follow at times because there are so much going on, but I was able to digest quite a bit of it in my first viewing.
Final Thoughts: This is not a ‘feel-good’ movie, in fact it’s more of a somber, melancholy affair. I enjoyed it for the most part, and in some degree the story still lingers with me even hours after I watched it. A promising debut from Matt Cici, I hope he continues to make films in the future!
3 out of 5 reels

So what did you see this weekend, folks? Thoughts on either one of these films, please do share in the comments!

FlixChatter Interview: ‘Lambent Fuse’ director Matt Cici

Hello everyone! Today we’ve got a very special post courtesy of an indie filmmaker Matt Cici, whose film Lambent Fuse will have its Minnesota premiere this coming Sunday. I regretfully didn’t get a chance to see it when it premiered at TCFF last year, so I’m excited to see it this weekend!

Before I get to the interview, here’s some information about the film:

Lambent Fuse is a character-driven drama that illustrates human connection and choice. This complex narrative unfolds in a non-chronological timeframe as the lives of six main characters intertwine.

99 minutes (1hr 39min)

Premiere Info: March 18, 6:00pm
Location: St Anthony Main Theatre
115 Southeast Main Street
Minneapolis, MN 55414


Check out the trailer below:

1. Firstly, please share just a bit of background of how you got into filmmaking. How long has film been a passion for you?

I was first introduced to the aspects of filmmaking through my brother. He made videos for his Spanish class with a group of his friends. Through these, however, I had one small acting role. It was a pretty embarrassing role, but then again I had never acted before (on camera or on stage).
One day not so much later, I was reading for the character of Peter in the Diary of Anne Frank in one of my English courses at Osseo Junior High (8th Grade) during a “popcorn” session (someone reads for as long as they feel of something and shouts “popcorn” and the name of the person they want to read after them). I said one phrase, something I can’t remember anymore, but the thing I do remember is that people laughed. And it clicked within. I felt this incredibly giddy feeling in my stomach, and felt like pursuing acting very strongly.

It was only a year later that my energies shifted. In my 9th grade social studies course, I made a baseball film for a project. I worked with my brother on this project: writing, shooting, acting, editing it all together. We shocked the class. That was 2003.

I’ve been making films for fun ever since. I say fun, because it is, even when you’re serious about it.
2. Now, I’m curious about the title of your film Lambent Fuse. What’s the significance of that title to the story and how did you come up with that?

Haha, everyone asks that question. Well, it’s the entire plot of the film neatly knit into two words.

The first, Lambent, has several definitions:
1. running or moving lightly over a surface: lambent tongues offlame.
2. dealing lightly and gracefully with a subject; brilliantly-playful: lambent wit.
3. softly bright or radiant: a lambent light.

We chose to borrow and use the descriptions: “dealing lightly… with a subject” and “playful.”

And “Fuse” is: a tube, cord, or the like, filled or saturated with combustible matter, for igniting an explosive.

There are multiple characters in this story and all of their lives intertwine. They make choices, as everyone does, that cause events that may or may not affect the other characters and their choices. An audience watches this film and becomes more of a participant rather than just a viewer. They may impart judgement on what’s right and what’s not right, following another character down a different path. They may even come to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong choice. This is that “playful” definition. And the characters in the film all deal lightly with each other leading, along the line of a story’s plot to the climax, to an explosion.

We were sitting in a Caribou, like most of our writing days, except this one was just after our first audition for the pre-trailers back in August 2008. We renamed the film using a thesaurus, as I feel most people have never heard the word “Lambent” before Lambent Fuse (as was the case with myself).
Actor Rhett Romsaas (Freddie Goone) practices his lines with Producer/Sound Designer Blake Hosler in Ginger Hop in northeast Minneapolis.

3. How long was the process of bringing this project to life and were you involved in the screenplay process as well?

Before we filmed, we spent 2 1/2 years working on the project. And yes, I served as co-writer. David Marketon, Co-writer/Producer, wrote me a Facebook message some months before we met back in March 2008, nearly four years ago asking if I would like to write a film with him. I accepted. He had been friends with my brother for some time (and they were the ones working on that film I acted in so long ago). At the time we had just imagined writing and selling the screenplay. But, as I began directing several award-winning shorts, I became too attached to the piece and wanted to direct it myself.
The reason why it took 2 1/2 years was because we first started shooting a trailer with the intention that it would help raise funds for the film. We delayed the project a year for two reasons: 1) It needed to be shot in summer, and 2) we applied for a grant and won it. The grant was for studying the techniques and methods of screenwriting as the elements of Lambent Fuse (specifically multiple characters, non-chronilogical plot, and intertwining storylines) challenged many screenwriting theories. During that time we also shot several Character Trailers and had a massive pre-production marketing strategy to generate awareness for the project.
Actors Heidi Fellner (Allison Swanson) and Rhett Romsaas (Freddie Goone) sneak a laugh in the rehearsal of a scene from Lambent Fuse in Ginger Hop in northeast Minneapolis.
4. Your last two projects, Eidolon and The Writer focus on people suffering from some form of psychological affliction, schizophrenia and writer’s block, respectively. Lambent Fuse also carries similar themes of depression, kleptomania, and obsession. Why does that subject matter interest you?

Lambent Fuse
, did not begin as a project that focused on mental illness. It molded into a story like that when I made my decision to direct it.

I am interested in the pursuit of developing a storytelling voice that is true and explores the depths of everyday life. The messages in today’s society are too sensationalized and, all too often, they’re not useful. An example of this is the movie, A Beautiful Mind, where the real-life schizophrenic, John Nash, is shown as a violent man. Sure, it provokes interesting discussion to show schizophrenia in this light, but it is an inaccurate portrayal of the condition, of reality, of truth. The movie received a lot of attention—winning 31 awards—but did a grave injustice to schizophrenics and their families. It is important to research the truths of life and explain them; an audience watches a film for entertainment, but film has also become one of the most powerful ways to send a message.

This film explores the depths of kleptomania, depression, and obsession — aspects of the human condition that are real but often underrepresented or misunderstood.

The overall goal of Lambent Fuse is to shift the paradigm of the stereotypical mental conditions shown in mainstream cinema by portraying the reality of mental illness and human choices in an eye-opening and innovative manner. Eidolon is a 30-minute short film about a man wrestling for control as a schizophrenic was said to be one of the best representations of schizophrenia by a practicing psychiatrist. The careful illustration of each characterʼs true emotions and actions will showcase the psychological landscape in an educational and insightful way. This will give the audience a unique opportunity to experience these conditions along with the characters, forcing viewers to challenge their preconceived notions about mental illness and to approach the conditions with more understanding and empathy.
Director/Co-writer Matt Cici scans the screenplay while the main cast Rhett Romsaas (Freddie Goone) and Heidi Fellner (Allison Swanson) rehearse.
5. The complex narrative unfolds in a non-chronological timeframe as the lives of the six main characters intertwine. What are some of the challenges in filming in such a format?
There are so many. This is what our grant time focused on. Most stories have one or two characters for viewers to follow and become attached to. They are most used to doing this in a simple-to-follow chronological way. We all think stories should be told in order of the events that happened.

But film has the ability to change that, in fact all art does. A story is best told the way it is best told—when it’s most impactful. Events in a film draw emotion and drama from each other, and when aligned in a way that pushes the story forward, they make the audience feel something. Our story also had multiple characters, because it’s not supposed to be about any single one of them. It’s the sum of their lives blended together that make the story what it is.

We risked losing a lot of our audience by complicating our film with these factors, so we did our best to make it feel as if it were chronological. Film is all about suspending disbelief. So, even if it doesn’t feel like that’s an actor in front of you on a giant screen, she is. If done right, it’s invisible.

From left to right, Production Sound Mixer Aaron Huber, Director of Photography Zachary Nelson, and Director/Co-writer Matt Cici examine the framing and lighting in a scene from Lambent Fuse in northeast Minneapolis.
6. What has been your most memorable experience from making this film?
So many experiences are memorable, and it’s too hard to name one over another. I can say the fact that I’ve made a feature is something I hold as a memorable experience. All of the people who helped me along the way have made completing this film incredibly rewarding.

So, I’d have to say that people’s belief in me and this project is the most memorable. I will always remember everyone who sacrificed their time and efforts in order to push this project forward. It was a Minnesota film made for Minnesota by Minnesota. I think that all came full-circle when we sold out TCFF and everyone finally got to see the film. It was a moment that they could all be proud of themselves for working on the film.

7. Has Lambent Fuse been screened at other film festivals or events after Twin Cities Film Fest? How has the reception been for your film?
It screened at Highway 61 Film Festival in Pine City, MN. We won Best Drama Feature at that festival, following Best Minnesota Feature from TCFF. I’m going to be honest about reception, because I encourage honesty with feedback. Film is an art, and therefore it’s subjective.

The response from those that have seen it astounds me every day. It really challenges people and they enjoy that challenge. It’s not something that’s complicated to watch; it’s just hard topics presented in a digestible way. So, to answer your question, we couldn’t be happier by hearing how much people enjoy the movie and are surprised that it was made in Minnesota with a micro-budget. And the reviews that are coming in from around the country are very rewarding. As far as festivals are concerned for Lambent Fuse, it’s all about length, major actors, and the film’s mood. Many feel that a 99 minute movie (1hr 39min) is too long. That’s confusing when the industry defines a feature film as 90-120 minutes. Programming film festivals is a very tough job. You’re never going to make money by running one, so your main concern is to fill seats. And major actors bring a crowd. Because we set out to make a Minnesota film, we chose not to hire out. That hurt us in the festival circuit, but it only empowered the film we feel.

And our film is different than most. It’s a non-chronilogical tale of multiple characters whose lives intertwine. It focuses on mental illness and isn’t a “feel-good” movie. It stands out. When planning a festival, programmers like to make all films play nicely with each other, and ours complicates that.

Nonetheless, we keep trying. Any festival or event we’ve gone to we’ve brought everyone with, promoted it like crazy, and packed the house every time. We’ll continue to do so.

8. Who are your inspirations in the film industry? Tell us your favorite filmmaker(s) and actor(s).

I am inspired by people who look for a challenge. I am a large supporter of Daniel Craig and Tom Cruise (although I remain very picky). I especially like watching Gary Oldman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Rooney Mara, Elijah Wood, Tilda Swinton and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

I enjoy many directors: Wong Kar-wai, Coen Brothers, Steven Spielberg, and recently Jochaim Trier, David Fincher, Steve McQueen, Tomas Alfredson, and Sofia Coppola.
9. Now lastly, please share your top five favorite film dramas and why.
I think my list will always change as I grow older, and that excites the heck out of me. Film is about learning and adapting. Changing and improving. You learn from everything. I can say that I’ve learned the most of the craft of filmmaking during recent years from these films:
  1. Reprise
    This fights with Layer Cake every day as my favorite film ever. It’s simply beautiful. One of the most attractive and photographic films I’ve seen in a long time. Because it focuses on mental illness, I was very much inspired by this film before starting to write Lambent Fuse. It has inspired me ever since, and I can say this will be first on my to-do list before starting any film. This film is my mood film.
  2. Layer Cake
    This film introduced me to Daniel Craig, and at that time I really enjoyed crime dramas (not saying I don’t now, just have widened my tastes). Everything about this film: story, cinematography, acting, music, etc. were so precise it was ridiculous. It’s engaging and educational. This out of the entire list is probably the most entertaining film.
  3. Shame
    I can honestly say that this film changed my perception of 2011 as becoming the best year for film (for me). With The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tree of Life, Drive, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and others released that same year, Shame put the year up where many years probably won’t ever touch.

    is literally perfect. The most well-crafted film I’ve been graced with for as long as I can remember, with its use of transitions, acting, and color. The music became a character of its own. Just as in Lambent Fuse, the music allowed the audience the ability to understand the characters, not just feel for them. I cannot wait for this movie to come out.
  4. A Clockwork Orange
    Wow! If I ever press play, I can’t stop watching. It pulls me in. Stanley Kubrick’s best film in my opinion, and many disagree. I’m not quite sure what draws me to this film the most, but I think the wonderfully unique Nadsat language and acting by Malcolm McDowell do it most. It’s stuck with me ever since.
  5. 2046
    Although I feel like In the Mood for Love was Wong Kar-wai’s strongest film, this is the film that introduced me to him and Asian cinema in general, which is one of the greatest blessings I’ve ever had in film. If I was stuck, at any time, when trying to decide what to watch on Netflix, I’d watch anything from Asia.

    After seeing what I put on this list, I noticed that the subject matter is pretty indigestible for most people, but I guess that’s what attracts me to them. After all Netflix describes my genre as: Dark, visually-compelling, foreign dramas.

Thank you Matt Cici for granting me this interview!

More info: Official Blog | Twitter | Facebook

What do you think of the Lambent Fuse’ trailer? Please share your thoughts on the interview and Matt’s top five list.