Riding the Dream

By Justin Petersen

Times Media INC.

McCarthy’s film “Raging Cyclist” was selected by San Jose’s internationally renowned Cinequest Film Festival 2005, as one of 200 finalists, scaled down from more than 1,000 original entries.

Since its August release, “Cyclist” has received favorable reviews from critics and audiences alike.

Metro voice Richard von Busack said, “It’s funny. McCarthy really worked on the film and it showed,” he said.

“It starts out like a conflict between a brash cyclist and some angry little girls and then goes wildly mystical. Sean is quite talented; it’s been a while since I’ve seen the valley produce someone who had not only such a real facility with the language of film, but also the dedication to pull something like this together,” von Busack added.

In the beginning

His success has not surprised McCarthy; rather it has induced greater confidence.

In 1999 “Cyclist” production took off. McCarthy was a senior at Leland with no formal credentials, but a slew of short films and one low budget feature to his credit. The new concept was to be developed as a sales tool for future endeavors.

“It’s all collateral,” said McCarthy. “Getting ‘Cyclist’ into film festivals is like walking around with a 30-minute business card. If we win anything that’s fine, but regardless, we walk with legitimacy.”

Production spanned four and a half years—and nearly $10,000.

“I remember trying to explain the idea to friends,” said McCarthy. “I had it in my head but they didn’t get it.”

The project developed a following in increments.

“First I said, ‘Okay, there’s this guy on a bike, and he’s chasing after a devil. But nobody understood until they saw Ephraim [Joseph] and Willy [Gharapetian].”

The deeper into production, the more help writer/director/producer McCarthy could depend on.

Sounds good

“Cyclist” sounds different than many independent films. Producers McCarthy and David Berg solicited the services of Ian D. Thomas, who acted as sound engineer, and siblings John and Al Kaplan, who wrote the score.

Thomas, a former drummer, who performed with overnight sensation Marmalade throughout the 90’s, was happy to work on the project.

“I was very excited when I saw the first cut,” he said.

“Many small films like this don’t incorporate sound into the story; they usually don’t need Star Wars’ effects. But from the beginning, Sean was very sound conscious. His knowledge of film is mind boggling for someone his age.”

McCarthy also recognized the value in Thomas’ work, going so far as to list the sound engineer in credits with the writer, cinematographer, producers and director.

“I appreciate it,” said Thomas. “I tend to agree with George Lucas that sound ends up being about 50 percent of the movie.”

Guerilla Wanderers

McCarthy’s production company Guerilla Wanderers Films spawned from the project. Partners include Berg and McCarthy, along with Leland grads Shaun Shaffie, Derrick Parks, Mathew Gallop and Cyclist stars Joseph and Gharapetian. The group formed based on the desire to showcase personal material while simultaneously honing their craft for profit.

The result was Wanderers, a multi-faceted media production firm based on revolutionary ideology and an approach that bucks bureaucracy.

“We have two mantras,” said McCarthy. “First, ‘learn what is taken seriously and learn to laugh at the rest,’ a quote from Herman Hesse’s “Steppenwolf.” Second, ‘a group of spiders can take down a lion.’”

“We don’t want to limit ourselves yet,” he said.

“Generally, we work off passion; we aren’t going to make a film just to make a film. In the marketplace you have to make something original. Passion does that automatically.”

Shaffie oversees business operations, delegating creative endeavors to McCarthy and Berg. Parks is the Web designer, Gallop produces marketing promotions material and Joseph operates as graphic design specialist.

Based on the success of “Cyclists’” aesthetics, Wanderers is currently in negotiations with Hitachi and Comcast, amongst others, and aims to specialize in commercial production and music videos, while McCarthy and Berg develop script projects on the side.

No limit

According to friends, family and industry savants alike, there is no limit to McCarthy’s potential.

“He’s been set on this since he was 11,” said Dermott McCarthy, who gets credit as co-producer on “Cyclist” and as McCarthy’s father. “It’s his full time passion. People didn’t think Sean would ever finish “Cyclist.” There were skeptics and he proved them wrong. I’m impressed. He’s got a lot of tenacity, and he’s willing to try different approaches.”

“Sean’s movie obviously has a different feel than the Hollywood products we’re so accustomed to seeing,” said film writer Peter Canavese. “It has this kind of scrappy energy we all admire in up and coming filmmakers. That said, it also uses some pretty sophisticated editing techniques to keep the story moving in an interesting and engaging way.”

“With any festival, it’s a chance to show the film that we really sweat blood for,” commented Berg on Cinequest.

“This is something we want to do for a long time and it is a great privilege to show what we want to do in our home town. Plus, if we can find somebody that is willing to take a chance and help us with future works, that would be fantastic.”