If you haven’t heard of Sebastian Sommer yet, you will soon. The 18-year-old Tisch film student who goes by Seb Som started his NYU film career at a summer program where he made the short film, Mama Said Sardine Baby, which showed at the prestigious TriBeCa Film Festival. On top of such an impressive achievement, Seb Som has reached out to author Tao Lin, and adapted two of Lin’s short stories for the screen. In his most recent film, 18 Slash Stainless (which can be viewed above), former NYU student Russell Carter plays the role of a crazed young man with a strange obsession for following strangers. The young director describes 18 Slash Stainless as a “goodbye video” for his friend, who has left NYU to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. While Seb Som is only a freshman, his talent is undeniable, and something to watch out for.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Why did you decide to come to NYU for Film?
I’m from Manhattan and growing up in the city was awesome because there was always so much available. There were so many different things to experience and see. I knew I wanted to stay in the city and I knew I wanted to make films, but it was after doing a summer program at Tisch that I knew I wanted to come to NYU.
When did you start directing films—when did you know this is what you wanted to do?
A lot of directors have an “A-ha!” moment when they realize that this is what they want to do. Mine started when I was really little. I’ve been making films since I was six-years-old, ever since I picked up my parents’ camcorder. I’ve always really liked to tell stories and telling them in a visual was way perfect for me. I feel lucky in that sense, a lot of people don’t know yet what they want to do with their lives and I’ve never been more passionate about anything else.
How do you go about finding actors, writers, and composers? Are they friends typically?
It usually depends on what the film is about. Lately I’ve been using friends, but sometimes I’ll meet someone randomly and they just seem so perfect for the film. I really like spontaneity and improvisation on set, so working with non-actors is always a lot of fun. I don’t think there is any right way of casting people for your film. Music wise, I’ve always had friends who were in bands and could help out, and I recently became friends with NYU student Dyani Douze, who makes sick music and helped score Eighteen Slash Stainless.
I know you’ve made a short film based on the works of NYU alumnus Tao Lin. Where else do you tend to draw your inspiration?
Working on that film was a lot of fun because it was my first time adapting someone else’s work. It’s an interesting position to be in. Having to make a film that no only displays your voice, but the voice of the writer as well. Other than that, inspiration comes from the most random of places. I try to open myself up to as much art and film as I can, and let it stew in my brain so that when I make a film these elements come out in a wave.
Your shorts seem to be pretty experimental, and focus on characters that are lonely and struggle with being human. When you’re making a film, are there any particular themes, emotions, or images that you’re trying to convey?
Everything has been on a very subconscious level. I don’t like to think too much about why something is in my movie. It all comes from this very raw and organic place. If I re-watch a film I made, after it’s done, I can pick it apart and see why I made certain decisions and where they come from in my life. However, I think it’s much more enjoyable to just experience it and go with it. I leave my films up to interpretation.
To view more of Seb Som’s work, check out his website.