One night, I was watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee with my girlfriend. During the show, the announcers highlighted some of the previous winners and what they’re up to today. Well, being a champion of the underdog, I got to thinking about the losers of the Nationals. What happens to them, I mused, after losing everything to a single word? And so Cerise was born.
We’re introduced to Josh Kermes, who works as a tutor at a university tutoring center. Josh’s life is pretty copasetic during the first minute of the film, until Josh’s boss informs him that he’s hiring someone to help pick up some slack. That someone is none other than the person who won the same spelling bee Josh had lost 20 years earlier.
At first glance, Cerise appears to be a typical man versus man story, but within the 22-minute duration of the film we discover that it’s not Josh wrestling against his arch nemesis Shivam, the man who stole his seventh and final trophy, but rather it’s Josh in the ring with the word cerise, the word that took him down (man versus himself). This internal struggle manifests as a series of outward confrontations between Josh and Shivam until midway through the film when we understand the truth of Josh’s struggle.
Man versus himself is a theme prevalent in most of my other films, and as with all of my films, Cerise the script and Cerise the short are also worlds apart. About the only thing that’s the same is the initial storyline! The script went through a massive rewrite mere days before we were about to shoot thanks to Troy Romeo, a good friend of mine and fellow short filmmaker. I originally wanted Cerise to be as much a symbolic cautionary tale of sorts as it was a dramedy, putting to use a mélange of esoteric references to Jungian psychology and samurai mythos mixed into the fray. Troy helped me to see that no one but me would get any of those references, and that by force-feeding it to my audience, no matter how beautifully painted the imagery is, the entertainment value of the finished film would suffer.
As Horace once said about poetry (and every short film I make is like a small poem for me), it must be both sweet and useful (dulce et utile). I learned that those two elements must be balanced. And with Cerise, they are. So now, what we’ve got is a short entertaining film that I hope will leave people with a smile and a thought in their heads, and maybe even make them think about all the deep-rooted traumas they’ve pushed to the back of their minds that could possibly be inhibiting them from growing.
There’s a Josh Kermes buried deep within each of us, after all.
John T. Trigonis, Writer & Director
On February 3rd, we launched a fundraising campaign using the crowdfunding website IndieGoGo.com to raise $5,000 to cover production costs, specifically payment of the sound recordist (’cause great audio is as important as great images!), transportation and catering costs (the best way to a crew member’s heart is through the stomach!) In less than two months, and with the help of over 100 backers and plenty of other supporters, we made $1300 over our $5,000 goal! Cerise is currently touring the festival circuit. Cerise might be coming to your area so check back often for screening dates!