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Superhero Comedy Short S.Q.U.A.D. To Have West Coast Premiere at Silicon Beach Film Festival at TCL Theatres in Hollywood

Superhero comedy short S.Q.U.A.D. is taking the global festival circuit by storm, being named an official selection at the Urban Arts Festival in Dallas, Milan Shorts Film Festival in Italy, and Paris International Short Festival in France. The film world premiered at the Jersey Short Film Festival in early July, and will have its West Coast U.S.A. premiere on September 8th at TCL Theatres in Hollywood (Theatre 4, Block J, 2:05 pm PST) , as an official selection of the 2023 Silicon Beach Film Festival.

The film, directed by Ethan Cyr, Dakota Holmes-Dodge, and Carlos Lavezzari, explores the issues of race, gender and class through the narrative and viewpoint of comic book superheroes. The trio met as teenagers in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and have been shooting, producing, and working together for over a decade, on the web series, television projects, and shows like Gossip Girl and The End Game.

We had a chance to catch up with Ethan Cyr who will be in attendance the West Coast premiere of S.Q.U.A.D.

Ethan Cyr




What was the inspiration to develop the series S.Q.U.A.D.?

EC: S.Q.U.A.D. was inspired by a lack of real scrutiny on the part of the super hero and comic book media that we have seen. Carlos and I have both been routinely disappointed whenever a new subversive take has been presented because every time they have failed to apply a genuinely critical eye to the role of race, class and gender within the medium of comics. There have been attempts, and some ideas thrown around, but with out understanding the connection between all three, you fail to actually address any of them meaningfully.

What technology/effects did you use in the production?

EC: In S.Q.U.A.D. we were a pretty hefty mix of practical and digital. Recluse, the burnt up character sitting in the inky void is all practical effects, done by our amazing make up team, designed by Konstantin Khal. Then the fire on the sword and some of the hoakier stuff, like the fog, were done digitally. Everything in the opening was done digitally, and that's really thanks to Dakota. He took the lead and made sure that all looked perfect.

What are your thoughts on technologies such as AI, and how they can impact the industry? (both the positives & the negatives)

EC: AI, as people refer to it now, is a smoke screen. None of these are actually intelligent; they're generative models built on stolen art. Forms of generative learning have been used for years in film, like keying out green screen, or rotoscoping. The so called AI that people think we'll write scripts is no where near that - sure it can pump out some crappy, somewhat incomprehensible schlock, but if you have any genuine interest in art, it's not going to accomplish anything for you. I know these tools have been used in the industry and will continue to be, but I believe people will understand the difference between meaningful, thoughtful art, and whatever the hell AI makes.

S.Q.U.A.D. recently launched on the festival circuit and will have its West Coast Premiere at Silicon Beach Film Festival. Congratulations. How has the feedback been so far?

EC: So far it's been great! The narrative and the point of the piece seems to have really resonated with people, and that's been awesome to see. We knew there was a niche to fill and it feels like we've grabbed it pretty well. Of course, I still see all the problems and issues in the cut of the pilot, but I don't think I'll ever watch it without wanting it to change.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in making S.Q.U.A.D.?

EC: There were so many. The biggest was having one of our leads, Squire, have to be recast three days before shooting started. We had originally been working with this actor, Adrien Summers, who had actually originally read for Watcher back in 2020, and he had brought so much character and personality that we had reshaped who Squire was around him. Sadly, there was an issue with a contract he had, and we had to drop him from the pilot, which lead to me laying on a park bench trying to think of any and every person I might know that could replace him. That's when Dakota brought up a school friend he had known back in high school, who he felt had an energy that could mesh into the character well, and that’s where we got Jeremiah Porter. Jeremiah did an amazing job, he had four days to learn his lines and get into the character. We did one fitting with him, and he really showed up and did it. It was amazing. I remember too, on his last day, Jeremiah had to leave to catch a flight, so I ran to hug him. We stepped into the hall and I pulled out an envelope to pay him, and he looked at me big-eyed. He had done the whole thing thinking he wasn't getting paid. Honestly, he really is a born performer and was so committed, even thinking there was no pay.

Any new lessons learned?

EC: Every production you learn something new. If you're really trying, and striving to be a good artist, every project teaches you something new. It's hard to point to one specific thing, but I think the whole thing really smoothed out edges of my process, and helped me understand my limitations a lot better.

When do you expect to move forward on the S.Q.U.A.D. series production?

EC: That is something people ask a lot. We actually have the next three episodes written. We finished them in early 2023, and they include Carlos, Dakota and I, as well as Kiyana and Bianca, who played Titania and Boudicca at the end of the pilot. So, we are looking at shooting those three, hopefully, in 2024. We are hammering out distribution and funding details, but we fully plan to make more.

What is the underlying theme and message of S.Q.U.A.D.

EC: The main theme of S.Q.U.A.D.  is the imbalance of power in our society and country. The point is to be looking at the fact that you cannot fundamentally operate as a black person the same as you would a white person. It’s an issue that I have almost never seen addressed in the super hero genre, and we feel it's a major blind spot.

What do you want viewers to take away from the short?

EC: We want them to laugh for sure – that’s one of the main goals. Past that though, we want them to understand that being black doesn't go away when you make someone a super hero, and later in the series we would want the same understanding about being a woman, being poor. We want people to see and acknowledge the societal trauma that so many of us have been through.

What advice would you give to an aspiring filmmaker?

EC: The best advice I have is to try and learn. The best way to learn is to try, so find something you're going to try and make it, and when you f**k it up, figure out why. Then go find someone else's thing, or another production and see how they do it. Really pay attention so you can learn what you f**ked up, and see what they f**k up. Then you try your thing again, and you keep trying and f**king up until you make something good enough to get you an interview like this one.






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