Wichita is a short film starring Jeremy Sisto (Clueless, FBI) and Maxim Roy (Mirage, October Faction) as a married couple whose relationship is in a special place.
Of course, that lead sentence is vague for the sake of spoilers. Wichita’s limited run-time is carefully crafted for maximum effect by director Sergine Dumais and writer Bo Price.
PopAxiom discussed Wichita and more with Sergine and Bo.
Sergine and Bo have nearly 100 IMDB credits between them. When did the filmmaking bug bite? Bo answers first, “I’ve wanted to do it since I was about ten years old. I used to make movies with my friends back in Wichita, Kansas.”
“I started my career as a dancer, then I wanted to be part of the people telling the story and studied to be an actress,” Sergine shares. “I started a musical theatre career, but soon after, I wanted to be the one telling the story. I became a director in theater. I moved to Los Angeles about nine years ago, which is not a theater town. I had to reinvent myself and started a career directing voice over and did a lot of dubbing American movies into French.”
As theatre deprived as LA may be compared to places like New York, Sergine worked on stages throughout the city, including working with Jeremy Sisto. “While working with Jeremy on that play, I debated with myself if I wanted to transition to film. I thought, ‘If I do make that change, I want to work with this guy. And he’s now in my first movie.”
What was the transition from theatre director to film director like? “It could not have been easier,” Sergine says. “This was a dream team. The cast and Bo were fantastic. Serge Desrosiers is a top DP [Director of Photography] from Canada that was kind enough to help. I had such great support. I leaned on my experience in directing actors; that’s my strength. For the rest, I leaned on my incredible team.”
Bo Price’s script for Wichita started from a familiar place. ”I grew up in Wichita in the 80s. At that time, the famous things that happened were that Barry Sanders won the Heisman trophy; Pizza Hut was created a few years before and made many millionaires in town; Kirstie Alley got on Cheers.”
These landmarks in Kansas history inspired Bo. “I thought if you could be from Wichita and win a Heisman or create a huge company or even get on TV, it was terrific.”
“About seven years ago,” Bo explains, “I thought it would be funny to write about these famous things. Famous only to people who are from Wichita. So it would be these people talking about these things as if they’re describing the Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty, but instead of these world-wide landmarks, they were talking about very specific things.”
Bo wrote a “little sketch” that “evolved slightly, but I didn’t think much about it until years later while working with Sergine. We’d done several projects together, and she asked if she could do one of my scripts as her first short. She picked Wichita.”
“For sentimental reasons,” Bo shares, “I’m glad she picked that one. It was exciting for me to have something called Wichita. The best part was she took what I’d written and transitioned it into something that could not exist without her.”
Bo credits Sergine with rounding up the incredible cast. “She approached it as a real story with real relationships and not as something funny that was name-checking these things. She brought her theatre skills to it that elevated the whole thing.”
“It’s a strange mix,” Bo ponders about the project as a whole. “Sergine brought the French-Canadian culture to this film about the culture in Wichita, Kansas that’s shot in Los Angeles.”
Wichita is a short film that’s made the rounds at festivals and collected dozens of accolades. The shoot, according to Sergine, took “Two days. Jeremy came in and knocked out his scene in one hour. He’s so good.”
“It was a dream shoot,” Sergine says, “All the stars were aligned. We were nervous because we were expecting rain. And it was raining until ten minutes before we started shooting and started again right after we wrapped.”
The short shoot time and impressive turn-around from both lead actors were a result of preparation and familiarity. Sergine explains, “I’ve worked with Jeremy and Maxim, and we know how each other works. You know, if you meet the actor the same day and you only have a half-hour to rehearse, it takes almost all that time just to meet them. We didn’t have that problem. We made use of the half-hour from the get-go.”
“I’m a big Bob Fosse fan,” Sergine, the former dancer turned musical theatre actor turned director, says about inspiration. “When we were preparing to shoot Wichita, Marriage Story was on Netflix, and that was very inspiring.”
For Bo, his lifelong desire to become a filmmaker means his cinematic creative fuel goes way back. “My three favorites were Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, and Woody Allen. I love everything they did and couldn’t get enough of it. I admire any filmmaker who sort of becomes a genre with just their name.”
If Hollywood came knocking with a blank check to remake anything, what would Sergine and Bo Choose? Oh, that’s a tough one,” Sergine exclaims, but then the answer is clear. “For me, it would have to be a movie musical for sure. Sweet Charity, yeah, that’s my pick!”
“There are movies that I love like Wizard of Oz or Chaplin’s City Lights, which is one of the best movies ever,” Bo begins his answer. “I don’t know if I have the capacity to remake those. It’s fun to think about. I wish I had a better answer.”
What’s next for the longtime collaborators? “Right now, we’re working on a feature version of Wichita.”
Is Wichita on your watch list?
Thanks to Sergine Dumais & Bo Price and Rhapsody PR
for making this interview possible.
Read more interviews from Ruben R. Diaz!