Film school was a game changer for writer-director Sean Mullin. Not only did his 11-minute thesis film, Sadiq, score a number of accolades including Columbia University Film Festival honors and a nomination at the MTV Movie Awards, but then it turned into a highly effective calling card when he tried to get his first feature as a director off the ground. Amira & Sam stars Martin Starr as Sam, an army vet trying to readjust to civilian life. When he goes to visit a former Iraqi translator in New York City, he introduces Sam to his niece, Amira (Dina Shihabi). At first, she wants nothing to do with him, or any soldier for that matter, but when the authorities threaten to deport her, she’s got no choice but to take refuge at Sam’s apartment. While Amira tries to lay low, Sam agrees to help his cousin (Paul Wesley) score wealthy investors for his hedge fund by swaying them with his military background.
With Amira & Sam due for a theatrical and VOD release on January 30th, I got the opportunity to sit down with Mullin, Shihabi and Wesley to discuss their experience making the movie. We touched on making the move from film school to a first feature, what happened when Shihabi had to be rushed to the ER on their very first day of shooting, their serious poker skills, what it was like for Wesley going back and forth between Amira & Sam and The Vampire Diaries, and more. You can catch all of that as well as Wesley’s thoughts on the future of The Vampire Diaries in the video interview below.
- 00:00 – Coming up with the idea; the script’s unique approach to telling a story about someone coming home from war.
- 00:40 – Going from saying, “I’m making a movie,” to actually making a movie.
- 01:37 – Wesley and Shihabi on signing on to work with a first-time feature director.
- 04:05 – Mullin on his decision to go to film school; how it helped him make Amira & Sam happen.
- 05:47 – Shihabi on making the move from acting in student shorts to a feature film.
- 06:50 – Mullin on adhering to the Cassavetes model of filmmaking; making his cast and crew a family.
- 08:18 – How they recovered when Shihabi had to go to the emergency room on the first day of shooting.
- 11:08 – Wesley on going back and forth between Amira & Sam and The Vampire Diaries.
- 12:29 – The super short shooting schedule.
- 13:08 – Playing poker on set; Mullin taking all of Shihabi’s money.
- 14:12 – Shooting in New York City in many, many different locations.
- 15:11 – Wesley on the future of The Vampire Diaries.