Interview: Filmmaker Cedric Gegel on “Cadia: The World Within”

Actor/filmmaker Cedric Gegel recently talked with me about his feature film debut, Cadia: The World Within, and the unique filmmaking process he experienced with his cast and crew. There will be a special screening of this film at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan at 5:30 p.m. with an after party at 8 p.m. at 24th Street Sports Tavern on 13 S Washington St (48371).

How was the recent Cadia: The World Within screening event in your hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio?

Great. I got to see so many of my teachers, family, and friends – I’ve missed them. I’ve been in Columbus for the past six years and in six days I will move to Philadelphia to continue my acting career there. I will still have several projects in development as executive producer, director, etc. and will do those projects in Ohio. It was so rewarding to show my film in the theater I grow up going to last night. The support has been amazing.

What inspired you during your writing process of this family fantasy? What support did you receive from family and friends?

I’ve been writing for three years on this one. It was challenging to get the script off the ground. It wasn’t working for a while. I was doing a college ministry that prompted a lot of questions I had about faith.

Then I had a change of pace job at a summer camp at Camp Arcadia in Michigan. It was great. Before I was taking 18 credit hours and working three jobs. Now at this camp, I worked six days a week for 16 hours a day. On my days off I would go to a coffee shop and write. I reconciled where I was with my faith. For coming to terms with something important like that – college is the right place.

I was leading hikes in the forest for people ranging in ages 3 to 90. We would go into the forest. No cars. It’s was a place of peace. It was amazing to see how everyone reacted differently. These experiences played into my description in the script more and more. These people were bearing peace and joy. It was a great, healthy place to go. Those days off were my creative outlet to go write…one day I wrote for almost 10 hours.

When I returned to Columbus for my work ministry, I also finished the draft. I consulted with a pastor and had great conversations with students to flesh out the theology of the piece.

Comment on this film’s themes (e.g. how we interact with the world around us)

I knew I needed the title to be better. After taking a couple of weeks of reflection on it, I was driving and “world within” popped in my head. I thought that reflected the ideas and lore. This place exists…your soul exists there. Who we are on the inside dictates how we interact with others on the outside. I want people to find a space where they can reflect on that, then learn how it dictates the world around them. Beyond just thinking about a discussion we had with someone at a grocery store, but being able to validate everyone in that space.

Share your approach of love and connection in this plot

I asked a lot of questions and made a point not to answer them. I had two aunts pass away. I spent a lot of time on loss and grief. All that worked into the script. Why does this happen? What happens at our death? What we hypothesize about it. What the Bible says about it. I feel it’s a mistake when other films try to answer questions. A lot of life is just about praying. We don’t have answers and different people have valuable things to add to that conversation. This film is just my viewpoint, not an end-all-deal.

When my grandfather passed away at the very end of June this year, He lives through this movie. People come up to me and discuss deep issues like this one. This is making me think about it and I cannot stop thinking about this certain line they say. I think about it then say maybe you’re trying to say this and what you are saying made me wrestle with that.

When you meet someone going through something…like what might someone at the grocery store is going through. We can look at our behavior. I have control over my response to them and it’s an important calling for us as people.

Questions, doubt…in the end, it’s all about hope. If we don’t end on the note of hope then the whole thing is not needed. I guess I’m an idealist realist – no matter what question you ask them, we can take the time to listen as well. It’s something we don’t typically do in society.

Please discuss the antagonist elements in this film including cynicism, hatred, anger, and pride.

It’s an easy trap to make those the characters villains. It’s not accurate in our world. Every character has nuisances. Hate not a good thing. We also hate other things that are not evil and the characters should reflect that.

Renee has love, but also careless naivety. She also gives a sense of hope.

Matthew has strength, but is prone to anger or violence.

David has the strength of doubt and the weakness of cynicism. He also has the strength of wisdom.

Hatred and love are only a few degrees of separation away. It’s so easy to turn strengthens into weaknesses. Villains do have redeemable qualities about them. I want the audience to look at what factors about you are you willing to engage with. It’s not just black and white. There is a lot of gray.

Could you share how your casting process went?

We knew we had to big-name talent to be successful. It’s called show business. We were aiming for two (and got them). One would have been great.

I pictured this role for him thinking that would be cool if we got him for Grandpa George. I knew I had to pull in investors, so Corbin Bernsen has a key choice. I emailed his agent. We negotiated the pay. He loved the script and said let’s make it work. Getting Corbin Bernsen was great.

We opened auditions and ended up with over 7000 submissions from eight countries. We saw a couple 100 audition in person in Columbus. There were also some online from the co-executive producers and my acting friends that read personalities very well.

Roz Makofsky was great in audition. It was originally a role for a boy. Roz’s sister was there to audition. Roz was convinced to get some experience and we were 15 minutes ahead, so we said OK. She was amazing. I knew I needed to rewrite the part for her. After that didn’t consider anyone else.

There were some incredible people. John Wells. One of our producers, Schalet Jackson, produced a TV pilot he was in. How can anyone beat that? We couldn’t have found any better person.

The triplets… Keegan, Carly & Tanner Sells. For Tanion and Aunt Alice we wanted someone big. I was reading an article on James Phelps who said he doesn’t get opportunities by himself. Since he’s forever paired as a twin from his role in the Harry Potter series. He is one of the best. I feel he deserves multiple opportunities. He deserves a chance to be known for more than that. Our agent sent him a script and three hours later, he wanted the part. Nikki Buggs was a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader. She joined late in the process and suddenly we had a great cast.

Great local talent like Russell Hawkins. Cleo Bowling beat out a bigger actress. Katie Hubbard got her part as Aros from her reaction to forgetting her lines. Dillon Perry was pretty nervous. It was his first-ever audition. He liked basketball and wanted to be a point guard like Kyrie Erving, so we began with that to put him at ease. He worked out great as well as Gavin Ferguson. We got our Shiloh in Rick Montgomery Jr. who also was associate producer.

Please describe the scope of the special effects, design, and costumes.

A huge challenge. It’s comparatively easy to get the concept and find good actors. Mounting a production, especially fantasy film where we create an entire world, is a huge challenge. It was my first feature film. I was too far in at that point to give up. Jordan Kimes from Columbus met up co-executive producer Zack Throne and me for coffee. We laid out the logo, costumes, props. I could see what’s in my head and better. This was attainable. We had these great forest settings in Columbus and could enhance it.

We had the special effects. Now to write, edit, and complete the cinematography he had Daniel Stemen, a regional Emmy winner, who helped finish writing the script (got story credit). He did a lot and very well without complaining. No one thought we made a ”Marvel movie,” but the effects are really good.

My wife walked in and her jaw dropped. “That looked fantastic,” she said. People were impressed when the characters vanished as well. For the attention to detail, we slowed it down frame by frame. The pixels then the beginning of the arm. How the air around them shimmers. It was really good. Dan gets a small smile. That’s big because he’s very humble. “Not too bad,” he said. Could win some awards. The costume shop we used was Debbie’s Costume Shop in Columbus.

How were the location shots in the Wapakoneta, Ohio area like the Temple of Tolerance and in the Hocking Hills, Ohio area.

We were fortunate to get everything, which was the big trick. How to we make the forest look huge. We shot in Hocking Hills in one day. We used the caves and other settings to really amp the budget up. The whole team went there.

Wapakoneta, was kinda…we needed an ethereal location. Something beyond natural to look at during a jaw-dropping moment. Then the pastor said to think about my hometown…the “rock garden” owned by Jim Bowsher at the Temple of Tolerance. We got permission right away. Jim said you can come on up whenever.

One of my favorite parts of shooting was there. I didn’t let the cast see it. Nobody “Googled” it…I asked them not too. The kids got there at 8 a.m. You see this house in the middle. They thought what is going on? We walk back to see it all when the whole crew is ready. I walk the cast (“crew stop here, cast come with me”). I stop them at the big barrel and tell them don’t move until I call action. I walked back to the camera then said “action.” Their reaction is genuine. Russel Hawkins gets this big smile.

They asked how much money to build this thing? Jim jokes with them. We figured we would shoot more scenes. There were woods behind his house that we turned into magical woods. These are the same woods I grew up playing in. Everyone was with us – it worked out great. The rock garden is such an iconic place.

Please comment on the 13-day film schedule you undertook in July 2018 for this film.

With 4 or 5 pickup days. Most shots were about 20 minutes at a time with Daniel with the camera. The bed & breakfast sequence was separate. We just did sound recording some days. Some establishing shots. We also filmed a new opening sequence in March 2019. Four days after wrapped, I traveled to Tanzania on a special trip. We got done with the trailer and had a very rough cut by October.

After that, it was big stuff. By the time it was January, we could take things frame-by-frame. Next, we looked at the little things even adding cricket sounds. The editing was all done in Columbus.

The music from Erick Schroder was completed out in LA. He had studied under James Newton Howard. Andrew Osano did the music for the trailer and was one of our other final choices. Erick’s score was breathtaking…really nice. It’s so satisfying and humbling to see our team’s efforts on the screen.

I had several filmmaking discussions with one of my college professors. He was into playwriting and really loved what we were doing. He said, “I think what you’re doing admirable” and gave me good stuff and things to work on. I had lots of notes on it. How to expand Grandpa George. Somehow to kept it going with deeper development. There are so many times it could have stopped.

Are there future home video plans for Cadia and what else are you planning for the future?

I’m still working it out. We’re getting a lot of interest from different streaming platforms. We’ll possibly have a digital release and even a limited theatrical release. DVDs too. This release has high potential. We were talking with an executive on the phone when he asked how we got here. I told him the whole thing. He was shocked. “There is less one in a million chance this is happening,” he said. “If you make a dollar, then I want to make a movie about how you pulled this off.”

Thanks so much.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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