IN CONVERSATION WITH SEVIER CRESPO
Interview by Hayden Peyrard & Jana Letonja
Puerto Rican award-winning film, television and commercial producer Sevier Crespo learned the ropes from heavyweights Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Mann and Ridley Scott. In addition to developing and producing films and television shows, Sevier also produces global advertising campaigns and has worked with iconic brands, such as Adidas, Reebok, UFC, Coca- Cola, Nike, NBA, NFL, NBC, Universal and Netflix. Up next, he has horror thriller ‘Year 2’ and drama ‘Billy Knight’ coming out.
You worked under the tutelage of Robert Townsend and Sam Bayer while studying production at UCLA. How did that prepare you for this field of work?
With Robert Townsend it was a crash course on development, story and character, how to start wrapping your head around the world, what you’re looking to create and how will you execute it. It was almost like walking through the future of the project and its world in order to imagine it in different scenarios, if you shot it in a certain city or for a certain budget or with certain talent. He embedded all of that in me, so that when I went to UCLA and really learned the nuts and bolts of line producing, it all started to make sense. I started to understand how to put two and two together and see how it would look in the physical universe versus just on the page. I had the experience of reading scripts and developing characters, and now I could start having conversations on how it could be directed or how it could be shot, how many days it would take and so forth to bring the project to life.
Sam Bayer was extremely kind and generous. He was one of the very first people that believed in me. He didn’t really need me as an assistant because he already had two, but he still took me on. I was doing good work and he just took a chance on me. He created a ‘you belong here and you can do it’ type of mentality, which gave me the confidence to be in this world and in those meetings. It was an introduction to the whole world of top agents, managers, producers and directors. If I think about it now, he was the first person that opened those doors for me and allowed me to learn and function in that world to a point where I felt like I could do it.
You learned from heavyweights like Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Mann and Ridley Scott. What are the most valuable lessons you gained from them?
When I worked with Jerry, it wasn’t for very long. I came into their production office on the post-production side. They were still shooting and working on ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 2’ and the post-production of ‘Bad Boys 2’. They were super kind to me. I remember the first time I was feeling overwhelmed, seeing posters of ‘Top Gun’ and all these movies that I grew up on. I had been there for about 30 minutes. They left for a meeting and I had to transfer a very important call from the Caribbean, which they had explained to me how to do. People still used desk phones. All I could think was “Please don’t call”. And sure enough, they called. I tried to patch the call through and wound up hanging up on everybody. I totally freaked out. I thought I was fired. They called back and said “Sevier, we know it’s your first day, but this is really important and we really need you to make this happen”. I was in a panic, but somehow was able to make the call happen. That was my introduction to them. They were so cool about it and they allowed me to have the room to succeed. From there, they entrusted me with things, even if they were little. It was a stepping stone for me because I wasn’t born into this world, so I didn’t have a point of reference. I was just trying to make it in Los Angeles.
With Ridley and Tony it was the same. Their attention to detail, how specific they were with their visions and how they communicated was amazing. I remember really soaking it in and processing that information. The experience I had with Michael Mann is that I learned to see how someone’s brain worked and how things should go, so they could be executed. That was pretty groundbreaking because it helped me realize what it takes and all the work you have to put in. A combination of all of them and some other producers I worked with really started to cement some stability for my way into the industry.
How was your interest in production born? Was there ever any other profession you though of doing?
My interest in production was born with Robert Townsend. Being introduced to him and working with a select group of people on different projects. I thought I could be good at imagining different worlds and their characters. I don’t know if it came from playing Dungeons & Dragons in my youth, where it was all about imagination, characters and acting them out, but I liked that aspect of it and was intrigued. I met someone who was a line producer one time and remember wondering what they did and what it takes to do that job. It woke up this curiousity in me and I realized that I could actually be good at it. And it obviously beat waiting tables. As far as any other professions I wanted to do, I also wanted to be a baseball player.
2021 crime drama thriller ‘Karen‘ starring Taryn Manning was named Top Independent Film of 2021. What does such an achievement mean to you?
For some reason I don’t think about that kind of stuff, but I’m learning more and more to acknowledge it. I’m also learning to take a moment and remember what we did, who we did it with and to realize that these are the important moments. It’s your baby and you’re immersed in it for so long that sometimes you may not view it that way. It’s also like you’re in a world where it feels like you’re as good as your last project. You consume yourself in it and it’s very rewarding. And when it stops, it creates a bit of a panic. Like “Did I do a good job? Are people going to talk to me? Am I ever going get another job again? ” I do need to learn to enjoy the accolades more though.
Your film ‘Billy Knight‘, starring Al Pacino, Charlie Heaton and Diana Silvers, will be coming out soon. Whatcan you tell us about the film and what to expect?
I’m very happy about the film. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had all around. It was a big moment for me and the whole team in general. It’s a beautiful looking film and I think it’s going to have a good story that is slightly different from what people are used to seeing when it comes to Hollywood stories. I’m excited about it.
Expect a good ride, a good film that will touch a bit on life and how we can sometimes get caught up in certain things and forget what we really need in life, that what’s important was right in front of us the entire time.
Also coming out soon will be the horror thriller ‘Year 2’. What can we expect from this horror thriller?
‘Year 2’ was challenging for numerous reasons. I’m extremely proud that we got that one in the can. I’m proud of my partner on that film, Amanda, who really was a champ on so many levels. The acting was great and the film looks fantastic. The story is really great too. I think there are a lot of expectations and my gut feeling says it’s going to perform really well.
From the past films you’ve done, which one has taught you the most, about both the industry and yourself?
‘Year 2’ taught me the most about myself and Billy Knight taught me the most so far about the industry.
In all these years you’ve gotten to work with many great actors. Working with whom has inspired you the most?
Al Pacino has inspired me the most. The longevity of his career, his talent and passion, the cultural changes he has witnessed and the evolution of films he’s been a part of is truly incredible.
Besides producing for the entertainment industry, you also produce advertising campaigns for some of the biggest brands, like Adidas, UFC, Coca-Cola, Nike, NBA, NFL and Netflix to name a few. How is it working with such iconic and big brands?
I get to learn so much when I work on campaigns like these. It’s very interesitng to be part of those conversations and realize that advertising affects what people buy and what they participate in. You get to have conversations with people from all over the world and help their vision come to life.
What are the biggest differences for you when working on a film and an advertising campaign? What is the biggest challenge of both?
I think the difference is with advertising you’re selling a product and you want it to be cool and creative while delivering a message, whereas a film is more in-depth and personal. An ad campaign gets put through the ringer to achieve one goal and there is an army of people that do that. When you’re doing film, it’s a select few that are coming together to create a project that moves them. The biggest challenge on both is one usually can have limited money and resources and the other could have more, one already has a global fan base and one doesn’t.
Sevier, you are very passionate about cultural and generational upbringing and how it can affect you later in life. Can you share with us your thoughts on this matter? Why is this so important?
We all want the same things in life. We all want to have the best life possible. Generally you want the same for others. I think it’s important to just look within yourself. Look at what you’ve been taught, what resources you have, what you know and what you can contribute. It’s easy to forget that you have a lot to offer. We forget that we are unique. That’s why we have different friends from all around the world, different nationalities and different cultures. When we come together, that’s where the most magical things happen with different perespectives and different scenerios. Phenomenal art comes out of this combination.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Sevier Crespo