• Interviews

Seth Savoy on His First Film, “Echo Boomers”

When Cajun American screenwriter and director Seth Savoy, 28, took his script to the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, and won an independent pitch competition, it put him on a trajectory that would kick-start his career. Five years later, that pitch became the first building block in his debut feature film, Echo Boomers, the story of a group of broke and disillusioned college graduates who break into Chicago’s wealthiest homes.  Echo Boomers boasts a cast that includes Golden Globe and Academy nominee Michael Shannon and Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee Lesley Ann Warren, and also stars Alex Pettyfer and Patrick Schwarzenegger.  With positive reviews for his impressive first time effort, Savoy is well on his way to establishing a Hollywood career.  Born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, Savoy studied filmmaking at Colombia College, Chicago, where he honed his skills and made multiple award-winning short films that were screened in 65 film festivals around the world. He’s also worked in music videos and has directed creative campaigns for such prestigious companies as the New York City Ballet.

How does it feel that your debut film is out in the world?

It’s a little nerve-racking.

How did you come up with the idea? 

I went to Columbia College, Chicago. I went through film school, and I graduated, and I had all this debt and I felt a really big frustration about it.  I was an artist trying to figure out what my first film was going to be and how I was going to get it made. And then I saw these articles in Chicago around that time about these kids busting into houses. They all had degrees, and weirdly enough, I felt like I could understand their frustration. I had left college, too, and I couldn’t get a job. So I took those stories, ran with them and made Echo Boomers.

Was there a temptation to make these characters more sympathetic?  It was difficult to be on their side at times.

How unsympathetic they are was on purpose. I really did want to make characters that lived in the gray, and I talked a lot about this on set with the with the actors. I didn’t want to make characters that either always did the right things or always do the wrong things. In real life, they’re pretty blurred, and they’re pretty gray. But I agree with you, it is very hard to root for these characters sometimes, but I don’t I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think that that’s a little bit more realistic.

How did you get such a great cast?  This is your first film and you have Michael Shannon, who is amazing.  I also thought Patrick Schwarzenegger did a great job.

I got lucky. I was introduced to Shannon’s manager. They read the script and said that they thought I was making a statement that was really interesting and kind of unique on this generation. It took two years to find the right casting. And with Patrick, he’d never been given this opportunity before. 

You’re only 28 – you must have a lot of confidence to direct a movie, especially directing such established actors as Michael Shannon and Lesley Anne Warren.

I think one thing that I learned really, really young, is if you knock on the door long enough and loud enough, you’re gonna wake someone up. And that’s kind of been my approach to this industry this entire time. As you know, there have been so many people who told me that “This movie can’t happen,” and, “You can’t get this level of talent,” and, “This won’t happen because of your age,” and things like that. But I guess I’m just very privileged. I’m so thankful and blessed for that and I realized I started with a leg up just from having that mentality.  Actually, I think that mentality is pretty much what got me here today.

Did you have a plan B in case this didn’t work out for you?

 There is no plan B. And that mentally can move mountains for you, at least for me it did. I know I’m going do this forever. I know I’m going to make movies until the day I die.

When did you know that you wanted to write and direct as a profession?

My parents are theater people, and if you know theater people, they are a pretty close-knit community. They were always taking me to plays as a kid.  I directed my high school play, and even then I knew that this was going to be it for me.

What was it like working with Michael Shannon?

Well, this was a big learning curve for me. I think the next one will be smoother. The day that Michael Shannon came in – I mean, he’s done this 150 times, and I’m sitting here directing him on my first one, but the amount of respect and the amount of direction that he took from me without question really tells me what kind of actor he is.

How did you come to casting Alex Pettyfer? 

He was actually a suggestion through Michael Shannon and Michael Shannon’s team. So I talked with Alex, and Alex is one of those people that is just unbelievably smart, which I hadn’t just assumed for some reason, probably because he’s so ridiculously good looking.

What did you learn through the process of making the movie?

I think I’ve learned that I want to do stories that really have something to say. And they might not be easy to watch, but I think that’s okay. I think that that might be good storytelling, because Echo Boomers is hard for people to talk about it and it is hard to watch.

Is there a message you’d like the audiences to take away after watching the movie?

I think that there are a ton of messages in there that I don’t want to say. I want people to come up with their own answers for them, but I think they’re pretty obvious.