Interview With Daniel Maggio the Director & Writer of the Film Kesi

Kesi won Best Short Film - More than $10,000 Award in the 8th Season of MP Film Award Daniel Maggio Director & Writer of the Film Kesi agree to interview with us.

Daniel Maggio

Daniel Maggio was born in Hemet, California and many of his films have been produced there. At the age of 13, he wrote his first screenplay (The Unknown Superhero) which was directed by his teacher/mentor Jimbo Marshall and produced through his middle school. The film premiered at the Temecula International Film Festival and that screening was the moment that solidified Daniel's lifelong pursuit of filmmaking.

At 17, he started filming his first feature film (Brosis.) It's the story of a brother and sister who unknowingly start dating each other over the internet. Everything changed when Daniel started hanging out with the independent band, Hippie Cream. With Hippie Cream's prolific output and collaborative spirit, Daniel was hooked and wanted to start making films "the hippie cream way." As a collaborative artist, you give your performers/team members just enough structure to stay true to the "song" but allow their personalities/talents to shine through. Maggio has directed multiple short films based on Hippie Cream's music as well as a feature length sci-fi musical (Marty's Magnificent Day-Glo Dream-A-Thon) and a documentary telling the band's story (Radical Parade).

In 2014, Maggio directed "The Glory Hole" for Dan Savage's HUMP! Fest. The 4 minute short tells the true story of how Jeff and Cosgrove fell in love at a San Francisco glory hole 22 years ago. The couple is still together today and Cosgrove has appeared in many of Daniel's films. "The Glory Hole" won the Grand Jury Prize at HUMP!, screened at FRAMELINE, and is distributed through Wolfe Video.

Daniel currently lives in Pasadena, CA with his stuffed seals Blurp, Murp, Derp, Burb, and Princess.


Poster Kesi

About the Film: Synopsis: Kesi Film Synopsis:

On the eve of her 21st birthday, Kesi and her band of stuffed animals travel back home for her alcoholic Mother's funeral.

Twenty-Year-Old Kesi (Avalon Penrose) is traveling back home for her alcoholic Mother's funeral. She is accompanied by her closest companions, a group of stuffed animals that she often expresses herself through. The stuffed animals all have different voices, personalities, and opinions on the situation. While many of her family members feel the weight of this unfortunate passing, Kesi is looking for the most appropriate way to honor her late Mother. She is clear of one thing: her Mom would want her to have fun. The Mother character (Shesanie) is the director's real-life mother. She passed away from alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver in early 2018 and this film uses her likeness, personal details, possessions and actual ashes.


What was your drive behind making this film?


Behind the Scene

Daniel Maggio: As one gets older, life happens to you. My mother passed away in early 2018 due to alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. She was only 51 years old and it left the family stunned; no one knew how severe the problem was. At that point, I didn’t realize I was already deep into my own alcohol addiction that was becoming unmanageable. I took a look at my life and realized I had drifted so far away from what I thought was my life purpose: filmmaking. I got sober in December of 2018 and began to reflect on my mother’s death as well as my own relationship with alcohol. The short was born out of 2 driving factors: make an honest homage to my Mother’s life and get back in the saddle with filmmaking. I am happy to say that both of these goals came to fruition with KESI. The final product is both a loving memorial and a film that stands on its own.



How did you feel when you were awarded with the MP FILM AWARD Award?


Behind the Scene

Daniel Maggio: It was a tremendous honor for the MP Film Awards to recognize KESI. So much work goes into these things and you never know if it’s going to resonate with an audience or jury members. We took a risk with our budget and our run time, so we received the award as encouragement and a “job well done.”



Can you tell us about the greatest moment during shooting this film?


Behind the Scene

Daniel Maggio: Our most challenging scene was the memorial, when the main character gives a eulogy using only stuffed animals. It’s a lot to put on a performer to successfully pull that off. I invited my mom’s family to attend the memorial scene to add a level of authenticity. Once Avalon (our lead actress) delivered the eulogy to the actual family of the deceased, the emotional weight of what we were doing took on a new life. Everything became real at that moment, we had transcended making JUST a movie. It was very personally and creatively satisfying.



How rigorously did you stick to the script while shooting?


Behind the Scene

Daniel Maggio: There was a lot of attention put into the script, so we stuck to it pretty much the whole time. Some moments called for improvisation, but that was written in. I came to set each day as the director, not as someone who also wrote the script. I would read the scene, understand what the writer (past me) was going for, and then figure out how to shoot it. I took the same approach with the editing. I thought as an editor and not the director of the film. When you are filling multiple roles it can bleed together, but keeping some separation gives fresh perspective on each aspect of the filmmaking process.



Where there any onset problems During the filming of the film & how did you deal with it?


Behind the Scene

Daniel Maggio: We got very lucky with this production and hired really talented people to be involved with it. Finding the perfect Kesi was a challenge, but fate stepped in and gave us Avalon Penrose. We shot it in my hometown of Hemet, CA and we had so many friends/resources there that it made the whole process easy. My biggest concern was the acting, doing everything I could to make sure the actors had what they needed to succeed. You can do all this work, but if the acting is off or unbelievable, you don’t have a movie.



Do you have any advice for young filmmaker out there? Or like yourself?


Behind the Scene

Daniel Maggio: The most valuable thing is experience. The hard part is movies take so long to make, so getting experience can take a long time. There are lots of ways to do small productions to keep you sharp in between bigger productions. I would also say, make sure your movie sounds good and if you don’t have access to professional actors, then build your film around someone you know who might make a good lead character. The best movies get deep into humanity, find it wherever you can and make that your north star.



Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?


Daniel Maggio: Not at all. The biggest benefit of going to Film School is meeting like minded people who want to do the same thing as you. If you want to do film, you have to be a little crazy and you get to meet those other crazies who will stay up for 3 days straight making a movie with you. I would recommend it, that’s where I met all the collaborators I still work with today.



Which film has inspired you the most?


Behind the Scene

Daniel Maggio: Wes Anderson’s RUSHMORE really changed my life. I resonated with the main character, Max Fischer. All I wanted to do in school were extracurricular activities and I understood his desire to befriend adults. Even as a teenager, I always had adults as friends and preferred their company to kids my own age. That was the first Wes Anderson movie I had seen and the style was totally unique WHILE serving the story. It was so fresh, a total lightbulb moment: You can make movies like THIS? It inspired me to take risks.



Which particular film maker has influenced you the most?


Behind the Scene

Daniel Maggio: The biggest inspirations lately are Mike Leigh and Pedro Almodovar. They focus on humanity and character in a way that feels unparalleled in modern cinema. They are both very prolific and maintain a level of quality. They are so good at capturing paradoxes, the complexity of what it means to be human and finding stories that showcase that. For Mike Leigh I recommend SECRETS & LIES and for Almodovar ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER



Which book would you love to make a film out of one day?


Behind the Scene

Daniel Maggio: What a great question! When I was in New Orleans I found a book in a used bookstore called UNFINISHED SYMPHONIES. It’s a true story about a woman named Rosemary Brown who channeled dead composers and helped them complete their unfinished works. She was visited most by Franz List. She had no formal music training at all and many classical music scholars studied her transcripts and unequivocally said it was impossible for a layperson to capture the idiosyncrasies of each composer. She was also visited by Beethovem, Debussy, Chopin, Schubert and Bach, creating 400 new compositions in their style. It’s a fascinating story, a total mystery, and a great opportunity to hear all this “new” music from famous composers.


If you got the opportunity to go back in time & change something in any particular movie of yours, then which movie & what changes will you opt for?


Daniel Maggio: I think it would be this movie, KESI, because it’s so fresh. For some sequences I would have loved to storyboard and map out a little more. I relied too much on coverage for a couple scenes and wish I had made more distinct choices. It’s good to go in with as detailed a plan as possible. You can always follow inspiration and throw out the plan, but having one is good. If I could go back, I would have explored more options in pre-production.


If you were to shoot the film again, what would you do differently?


Daniel Maggio: I think it would be this movie, KESI, because it’s so fresh. For some sequences I would have loved to storyboard and map out a little more. I relied too much on coverage for a couple scenes and wish I had made more distinct choices. It’s good to go in with as detailed a plan as possible. You can always follow inspiration and throw out the plan, but having one is good. If I could go back, I would have explored more options in pre-production.



What is your greatest achievement till date?


Daniel Maggio: I am now 2.5 years without a drink. I NEVER thought that was possible for me. So it feels great to be living a life beyond what I thought for myself. The other great achievement is that I got to join my favorite band, Hippie Cream. I started out, 10 years ago, filming music videos for them and now I’m playing in the band and producing their albums. They taught me what it means to truly collaborate with others.



How do you pick yourself up after a failed film?


Daniel Maggio: I think as long as you are making films, you aren’t failing. Failure would be not to try.



Where our viewers can catch you (share your social media)?


Daniel Maggio: I have all my film and music work hosted on my website DanielMaggio.com



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