CERISE is a short film about the grammatical world of former six-time National Spelling Bee champ Josh Kermes that's thrown into disarray when the director of the tutoring center he works for hires a new writing tutor, Shivam Shah, who also happens to be the person who won the spelling bee Josh had lost 20 years ago. Chaos and competition ensue up, down, and diagonally in this short quirky dramedy, culminating in the ultimate showdown. Its man against word: Will Josh finally overcome the word that took him down?
So far, Ive saved about $10,000 of my own money from teaching humanities and creative writing courses at universities across NJ as an adjunct instructor.
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One night, I was watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee with my
girlfriend. During the show, the announcers highlighted some of the
previous winners and what theyre up to today. Well, being a champion
of the underdog, I got to thinking about the losers of the Nationals.
What happens to them, I mused, after losing everything to a single
word? And so Cerise was born.
Were introduced to Josh Kermes, who works as a tutor at a university tutoring center. Joshs life is pretty copasetic during the first minute of the film, until Joshs boss informs him that hes hiring someone to help pick up some slack. That someone is none other than the person who won the same spelling bee Josh had lost 20 years earlier.
At first glance, Cerise appears to be a typical man versus man story, but within the 22-minute duration of the film we discover that its not Josh wrestling against his arch nemesis Shivam, the man who stole his seventh and final trophy, but rather its Josh in the ring with the word cerise, the word that took him down (man versus himself). This internal struggle manifests as a series of outward confrontations between Josh and Shivam until midway through the film when we understand the truth of Joshs struggle.
Man versus himself is a theme prevalent in most of my other films, and as with all of my films, Cerise the script and Cerise the short are also worlds apart. About the only thing thats the same is the initial storyline! The script went through a massive rewrite mere days before we were about to shoot thanks to Troy Romeo, a good friend of mine and fellow short filmmaker. I originally wanted Cerise to be as much a symbolic cautionary tale of sorts as it was a dramedy, putting to use a mlange of esoteric references to Jungian psychology and samurai mythos mixed into the fray. Troy helped me to see that no one but me would get any of those references, and that by force-feeding it to my audience, no matter how beautifully painted the imagery is, the entertainment value of the finished film would suffer.
As Horace once said about poetry (and every short film I make is like a small poem for me), it must be both sweet and useful (dulce et utile). I learned that those two elements must be balanced. And with Cerise, they are. So now, what weve got is a short entertaining film that I hope will leave people with a smile and a thought in their heads, and maybe even make them think about all the deep-rooted traumas theyve pushed to the back of their minds that could possibly be inhibiting them from growing.
Theres a Josh Kermes buried deep within each of us, after all.
John T. Trigonis, Writer & Director