Ex-student directs films

From dramatic thrillers and animated super heroes to comedies, Travis Seppala’s many interests have all been incorporated into one career.

Seppala is from Monroe and is working in the growing Michigan film industry by writing and directing his own films as well as working with other people’s scripts.
For the short comedy he recently filmed, Seppala wrote, directed, and will edit it.

“I’m excited about this one,” he said.

After graduating from Monroe High School in 2002, Seppala left Michigan to study meteorology in Wisconsin.  He soon felt that meteorology could not satisfy his several interests.

At that point he applied to Berkley School of Music in Boston and got accepted; however, the lack of scholarships he received caused him to choose something more affordable.

“It was way too much money.  I didn’t want that much debt,” Seppala said.

At that point Seppala returned to Michigan and attended MCCC for one year, while trying to figure out what direction he could take.

Again due to a lack of money, Seppala ended up leaving the community college.  He needed to find another way to prepare for his future.

“Dropping out of college was the biggest mistake of my life,” he said.

Seppala had a lack of structure in his life.

“The goals I’ve had aren’t realistic in the amount of time I have,” he said.  “I should’ve gone at a normal pace, but then I might have graduated as a weatherman.”

Seppala said he is happy with the path his life is on now, because he is working in an industry that incorporates all of his interests.

By jumping into the film industry, Seppala has been able to network with several different professionals of the field.

 “I wouldn’t have met the people I know now if things worked out differently,” he said.

He has worked as a production assistant on several films and TV shows including the film All is Fair in Love and the TV show The Biggest Loser.

He said he is learning a substantial amount by working right along with professionals on films.

To learn more about film, Seppala reads a variety of books about filmmaking, watches several movies, and works on movie sets.

“I’ve read all the film books in the Monroe County library system,” Seppala said.

He also feels like he must take what he does very seriously in this type of industry.  It is not the same as gaining experience through film school.

“If things get screwed up, its not my grade, it’s my job,” he said.

Another way to learn about the film industry is to compete in it.  Seppala has written, directed, and produced several films, shorts, and music videos that he has also entered into film festivals.

For the short comedy he is filming now, Seppala wants to enter it into several film festivals including Black Entertainment Television’s Lens on Talent Contest.

The short comedic film does not yet have a title.  Seppala said he has had a hard time coming up with one that is not too “cheesy or over the top.”

“Everyone involved with making it gets the task of coming up with the title,” he said.

There are nine people working on the film including the actors and crew.

Seppala planned to use his own money for the expenses of the film.  The budget started as $300 to $350, but he said it is costing more than anticipated.

It was filmed over four days, using two cameras.  Two of the filming days were held at varying locations on MCCC’s campus.

The short film will be about 25 to 30 minutes long.

Seppala also plans to direct a feature film this spring in Monroe.  The film will be called Sullivan High.

“The story is like a mix between the movies Sex Drive and Elephant,” Seppala said.  “I love it!”

Actors are needed for the film.  Auditions will be held in January for Michigan talent.

“There is one lead roll and several secondary roles that need to be filled,” Seppala said.

Although Seppala did not write this feature film, his main goal is to become a screenwriter.

“Directing is fun and all but I prefer writing – it’s more creative,” he said.

Seppala said that he has recently focused on directing so that he can film scripts that he has already written.

“I want to direct a couple of my own films and make them as good as possible,” he said. “Sometimes the only way to get your films out there is to make them yourself.”

As for the upcoming feature film he will be directing, Seppala said he enjoys how much of a challenge it will be to direct a full-length film.

Seppala will have 12 eight-hour days to film the full-length feature film with one camera.

“I’m nervous and excited because of how big the scope of it is,” he said.