A MAN POSSESSED – a film by SaintSinner Entertainment
Amel Figueroa of SaintSinner Entertainment is a true renaissance man, balancing his time between writing, directing/producing and coaching MMA fighters using catch wrestling as a base. Oh, he’s a dad too, to a cute little guy named Sebastiaan and a teenage son named Alessandro.
I first connected with Amel a few years back when he gave me a call to discuss my script SERAPHIM, which I had submitted to his company, the then fledgling SaintSinner Entertainment. While many producers had shied away from SERAPHIM because of its intensity, Amel enthusiastically embraced its content. Since that time, Amel and partner Brandon Brooks have been the driving force behind a handful of thrillers including THE QUIET ONES, THE BRIEFCASE, THE SICKNESS and the currently lensing A MAN POSSESSED.
Amel and Brandon make movies like the true indie film pioneers they are, putting every penny and every ounce of their considerable love for the art form right on the screen where it belongs.
Having come on board A MAN POSSESSED as a producer, I cornered Amel to learn more about the project, and how film fans can get involved in its completion.
Q: What is A MAN POSSESSED about?
A: A MAN POSSESSED answers a question we have all seen in film whether it be Death Sentence, Death Wish, or Drive, and the question truly is what would a person go through mentally and physically to regain a love lost let alone what would they do to have revenge? Who would get hurt in a path of someone seemingly obsessed with wanting to hurt the monster that took everything away from them? What would their mental state be like?
A: I wanted to make a project that would appeal to a small group of movie watchers, this project barely has any dialogue and that’s why I felt it can go beyond just the USA. People can understand love and loss in any language.
Q: There’s an interesting story behind the writing of the screenplay; can you share that?
A: Honestly, the screenplay is about those dark emotions one feels with loss. I lost my best friend a little over a year ago. That best friend was my mother. In an interview you did with me years ago I mentioned her and her influence over me with horror films and just film in general. I was devastated with her loss. I felt lost and I was angry with everyone and I was angry with myself. Many people will get to see how I felt by watching the film and maybe it will be similar for some or maybe not. Everyone is different obviously. I had a lot of bad thoughts and emotions going through me and I needed to exorcise those thoughts. I started writing and this was what came of it.
Q: You have an interesting method of crowd funding for this project. Tell us a little.
A: I wish it was more successful, I did the best I could and got a few people to donate. I figured making some posters and doing a teaser video would help. And it did to some extent. I’m grateful for what I managed to raise and grateful for the people who did contribute. It means they believe and though I didn’t reach my goal I am still determined to show people what we could do for next to nothing.
Q: Many film fans would love to be a part of the filmmaking process. Tell them how AMP can make that happen for them.
A: Passion, a dream, and an education. And I don’t mean necessarily going to film school. I think everyone feels they can do it. They don’t bother reading up on technical aspects of cameras, or sound, or lighting, and many don’t bother reading on cinematography or listening to director’s commentary while watching a film and understanding what makes a scene a scene. Some though are very talented and can naturally understand things but still need to find a way to educate themselves. And above everything else, apply it. Shoot a video on your phone, or camera, or whatever means you have and just go out and do it. I’m an open book, ask me a question and I will answer to the best of my ability. AMP is what I’ve learned on a small level. And anyone who wants to be involved should just go ahead and contact me. I can still use contributions to finish the film and I’ll gladly trade some perks for that. You can be a part of it.
Q: You have a knack for great casting, including Reggie Banister and Courtney Gains in 2010’s THE QUIET ONES. The cast you’ve assembled for A MAN POSSESSED looks impressive as well, including hardcore wrestling legend Tommy Dreamer. How do you go about your casting process?
A: Casting calls all the way. I am not afraid to go out to a big name and work my way down to the people who are on their way up. I like taking chances too. Always been a risk taker when casting and I hope it pays off. So far, the cast has been very impressive and the chemistry has been great. Always good to see a lot of people and then choose two per character, one your definite and the other the alternate in case the definite has scheduling issues.
Q: Speaking of wrestling, you train in catch wrestling, as I do, which diehard MMA fans will recognize as the base style behind some of the most successful fighters in the history of the sport. How did you find your way into this relatively unknown sport?
A: Hm. I would have to say it was back in 1998 when I was introduced to Sensei Erik Paulson from Combat Submission Wrestling. The man was a Shooto champion and just had amazing submissions unlike anything I had experienced at the time. I trained from then on as much as I could and traveling in the process. I travelled to California to train with Frank Shamrock who had trained with Minoru Suzuki and spent sometime in Gresham, Oregon training with Team Quest. Had so many people I met on that journey. Then I was told about Scientific Wrestling from an actor friend of mine, who just so happens to play the villain in AMP. This was back in 2007. From there I decided to go visit the OC and train with Jake Shannon and Billy Robinson and did their audit. It was an amazing experience. Billy Robinson is a legend with so much knowledge and so much strength and technique. Everything I’ve learned I managed to apply to the fighter I was training and I feel it has helped. I’m a shooter and a hooker for life.
Q: Coaching fighters and filmmaking are too very disparate, yet equally intense pursuits. How would you draw comparisons between the two?
A: I approach the two with the same mentality. You have to know when to take charge, you have to know what you are talking about, you have to be humble in all of it, but most important of all is to have fun. Once you stop having fun then it becomes work and when it becomes work then it is no longer fun.
Q: I bring a lot of the philosophy behind catch and other martial arts training to my writing and acting, as I’m sure you do. In what ways do you see that manifesting?
A: I think anything you approach should have your life lessons in it. I’ve lived and have experienced a lot. I have very few regrets. Life is not terrible like most think it is. It is about living and living the best way you know how and staying strong through adversity and positive through the sea of negativity. Knowing when to walk away when something becomes personal and approaching it from a new perspective when met again. Life is a great coach and I try to include that in my writing. Probably my best attribute when writing is taking everything about me and splitting it up between the characters. They are all a part of me and they all say something I have said or have felt something I have felt. It helps convey my message across. I did it with The Quiet Ones and the Isabel character. She was the voice of things I have said when it comes to faith and religion. Someone will either dislike it or agree with it. If it starts a debate then I have done my job.
Q: Do you ever sneak up and slap Brandon in submission holds when he’s not ready? I totally would.
A: (laughs) I don’t think I have ever done that. Don’t think I have ever done that to any of my friends. I gladly would teach a woman to do that and hell if she wanted to end up with me they have to be able to make me tap.
Q: You’ve taken a guerilla approach to filmmaking, finding a way where some would say there is none. What’s behind this passionate drive?
A: I think the drive came from my mother. She always believed in me. Never wanted me to quit though God knows I’ve wanted to several times. She pushed me and influenced me. Back in high school she got me my first camera. An SVHS RCA camera. I shot my first movie with that. It was a martial arts comedy called The Battle and it was a dysfunctional version of Mortal Kombat. I can’t say quit. I have to push forward. Would I like to be successful in this career? Yes! Would I be happy making indies the rest of my life with next to no budget? Yes. Though not as enthused. (laughing) Ultimate goal though would be to work for Disney. Whether directing a Pixar movie, A Star Wars film, or even a Marvel Studios film, that would be me living the dream.
Q: You’re involved in nearly every aspect of film process, from writing all the way through to editing and marketing. Is this by necessity, or is it just that you like maintaining that creative control?
A: I like maintaining creative control. I don’t feel I had as much creative control on The Quiet Ones and even producing a few projects I would see things at times and there was nothing I can do. With A Man Possessed, this is me. People will either love it or hate it. But it is me.
I don’t feel it is a necessity, I enjoy editing and I enjoy writing but I am looking forward to directing projects not written by me. And I know we are capable of marketing in a unique way. Which I hope can bring more towards the future projects. This is the business card for the future. And I look forward to the challenges and the merits that it will bring.
I want to thank you Patrick for being awesome and glad to have you on board as a producer, I want to thank my business partner Brandon, though stressed at times as a producer he knows how to get the job done. I want to thank the lovely Fallon Maressa for also being an awesome producer and helping this project work for us. I want to thank associate producer Anthony Barricade Pizarro and Annie Nguyen from Barricade Studios. My cameraman Isa Walker, and I want to thank the cast who I will name Ricardo Segarra, you sir are my ambassador of kwan. Gina Martino, a magnificent actress who belongs in the big leagues. Tommy Dreamer for being the awesome detective he can be. Cyrus Samson, one of the best character actors the world will know. Alex Russo, for being understanding and amazing, beautiful and stunning. Gary Gustin for his ingenuity and character charisma. Elizabeth Saint for taking the highway to the Danger Zone with us. And I want to thank the rest of the cast Michael Kelberg, Lee Grimanis, Caitlyn Fletcher, Nicole Beer, Troy Latham, Lamar Bumbrey, Charlie Salmon, Anthony Pizarro, Harlow Maressa, and everyone else. Thank you so much!
I also want to thank you again Patrick, Art Maurizio, Nicole Agostino, Ruchama Bilenky, Nicholas Gaboda, Brian Cavalaro, Chad Schultz, and everyone else who contributed that wanted to remain anonymous. If not for you I would not have been able to get started on this project. So I sincerely thank you.
Thanks to Amel for taking time from shooting to do this interview. Look for future collaborations between Saint/Sinner and yours truly in the future! Meanwhile, impress your friends by contributing to the film; there’s still a need for finishing funds! You can contribute through paypal using Amel’s e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.