‘Section 8’ director Christian Sesma on his every man action hero

(L-R) Dolph Lundgren as Tom Mason and Ryan Kwanten as Jake Atherton in the action film, SECTION 8, an AMC+ and RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of AMC+ and RLJE Films.

Filmmaker Christian Sesma (Paydirt, Vigilante Diaries) gives us a new action thriller, Section 8, streaming on AMC+ this Friday.

In Section 8, after avenging the murder of his wife and child, a former soldier is sent to prison with a life sentence. He’s given a shot at freedom when a shadow government agency recruits him for an off-the-books assignment, and he soon realizes Section 8 isn’t what it seems.

Written by Chad Law (Black Water) and Josh Ridgway (Howlers) Section 8 stars Ryan Kwanten (“True Blood”), Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV), Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding), Scott Adkins (The Expendables 2) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler).

Check out our interview with Christian!

Photo courtesy of AMC+ and RLJE Films.
How did you come to direct this project? 

Christian: Chad Law, the writer, is a good friend of mine and he brought a producer that he knew and has become a friend, Brandon Burrows, to produce this. They came to me last year with this project and, you know, I thought it was an interesting take on something that obviously we’ve seen before with this kind genre and I thought that this was kind of a cool Indie, Mission Impossible style flick but with this grounded everyday man kind of character as the lead, very Die Hard-ish. So, I thought that was interesting and, me being a family guy, I thought it was interesting to take this kind of regular family guy and throw him in this crazy world of espionage and politics and action and go on this journey with him.

What was it like working with Ryan to create Jake?

Christian: He is, for lack of a better term, kind of just a regular dude. It was a dream. Ryan is a true artist, a true professional, a true collaborator. It was really, really great working with him and crafting what we knew had to work in this story for us to buy into the rest of the genre piece of it. So we knew that we really had to make his relationship with his wife and son and that home dynamic real and tangible and special and relatable for us to kind of go on this journey. It is interesting, because the revenge part happens early. And then what happens after that is also what’s interesting about this story. There’s a lot of different layers and surprises in terms of something that’s almost what you would see on the surface in a typical action hero.

You’re working with an incredible cast overall. What was it like bringing all of these big names together?

Christian: It was a dream. I mean, as far as Indie action films go, I think this is an extremely stacked movie with so many different legends from so many different genres. I mean, you know, you have Mickey Rourke, who’s a legend himself, Dolph Lundgren, Dermott and Scott Adkins. And I think what was so cool about bringing all these kinds of icons together on this screen is that, and this also another credit to the script, is that they all had their time. They have their place to shine in their own individual way and nobody kind of stepped on each other. Like, you know, Scott Atkins exists independently from Dolph Lundgren and Dolph Lundgren exists independently from Mickey, so it feels like you didn’t just throw a bunch of names and it just became muddled. I think every person has a distinct character and reason for being and I think that really helps support that you have a real ensemble and everybody had their time to shine.

Mickey Rourke as Earl Atherton in the action film, SECTION 8, an AMC+ and RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of AMC+ and RLJE Films.
What was also interesting was the fight scenes seemed very unique as well. Did you have any specific vision for those or did that just kind of come out of the script?

Christian: No. We’ve tried to expand upon the script and kind of make different sequences different than it was in the script. And that’s the cool thing about serendipitous things and movie making. You’re trying to look for those little magic things that just happen, you know, like I mean, gosh, the Senator Graham kind of assassination thing and then the casino shootout, those were kind of set pieces that came about after. Those weren’t necessarily part of the script. I just knew that it would be visually more interesting than what we had and obviously, you know, shooting this, a lot of this, in my backyard in the Coachella Valley, I was able to kind of bring some really great resources and locations to the table to make this little Indie feel bigger than I think would have been.

And this isn’t the first film that you’ve shot in the Coachella Valley, is it?

Christian: No, no. I’ve done a lot. I mean, I’m from there. I’m born and raised in Palm Springs and from the Coachella Valley, so I started my career there and did other movies and then when COVID hit, everything got shut down. And you know, I had the opportunity to make a couple movies and I told them that I could do that in my backyard safely. And I was able to do that. And I think that kind of spawned this new phase of action movies that I’ve been making.

Was there anything that you used for inspiration when shooting this film?

Christian: For me, I think of De Niro’s Ronin. Ronin was a great kind of espionage action movie that I liked that, you know, the Bourne movies and Mission Impossible movies are very similar to. But I think Ronin had a very grounded, real person thing to it, you know? And I thought Die Hard was also a very good example of taking somebody like Bruce Willis, who was unknown at the time from just TV, and throwing him into this. I mean, he really kind of started this quote unquote, everyday man action hero that I think Ryan Kwanten does that for this movie. He kind of is a regular military vet that’s blue collar, just working at a garage, feeding his family, paying his bills, you know, late on his bill, just very relatable day to day things then gets thrown into this world, that I think the audience keeps grounded with too. I think if it got too fantastical, I think we would have just kind of zoned out on a white noise. But Ryan’s performance and the way his character’s written keeps us grounded and I think, I believe keeps us engaged.

According to your IMDb page, it looks like you’ve got quite a few films coming up. Are you allowed to talk about those yet?

Christian: Yeah! Lights Out, we’re in post production now. That’s Frank Grillo, Mekhi Phifer and Jamie King and stuff like that. I’m literally in Birmingham, Alabama right now on pre production with Scott Adkins and Jamie King for this movie called War Paint. And then I stay in the South for a while for another couple pictures that I can’t talk about yet but will be announced officially. But yeah, there’s a lot of great stuff happening and I’m really excited for this new kind of phase of where it’s all going.

And if people want to kind of keep up with you and your projects are you on social media, how can they connect with you?

Christian: Yeah, @seskri on Instagram.

I’m really excited. I hope people enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it and I think, you know, from the responses I get, I think people are digging it.

(L-R) Noah Alexander Sosnowski as Weston Atherton, Kimi Alexander as Ashton Atherton, and Ryan Kwanten as Jake Atherton in the action film, SECTION 8, an AMC+ and RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of AMC+ and RLJE Films.
Section 8 will be available in theaters and will stream on AMC+ Sept. 23.