“Oh, hi Mark.”
This iconic deadpan quote is immediately recognizable to any watcher of the cult classic “The Room,” often called one of the worst movies ever made. On April 2, Greg Sestero — the film’s Mark — spoke about his experience in the entertainment industry at an event held by 5×5 Films, a 5C student-run production company.
“You know, being in the greatest bad movie ever made you think would be something that people might want to duck away from, but it’s been such a blessing in so many ways that I’ve embraced it and continued to follow my passion,” Sestero said.
Sestero chronicled his experience in “The Room” in a co-authored 2013 book, “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made,” which was later adapted into a 2017 film starring James and Dave Franco as “The Room” director Tommy Wiseau and Sestero, respectively.
Most recently, Sestero has been working on “Miracle Valley,” a film about a cult he is producing with one of the Franco brothers that is expected to debut in 2022. Because his team wrapped up filming before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sestero recognized how lucky he was to have that experience one last time before everything changed.
“So much of the experience is the connection with your team and the actors having fun because those are the experiences that you carry on,” he said. “You have no control over what the movie is going to be, but that experience, the collaboration, the camaraderie between the cast and the crew — that’s what you take with you, and so I think nowadays it can be a lot less personal, and restrictive.”
“We think we have time, and really, the time is now.” —Greg Sestero
Even with regards to films’ post-production and premieres, Sestero acknowledged how much things have changed since the pandemic. With a horror movie like “Miracle Valley,” festivals and audience participation were crucial to the experience, Sestero said. Now, much of that has become unclear.
A student asked about what recommendations Sestero had for young creators starting out in the entertainment industry; the actor’s response was that they should collaborate with other passionate people, also insisting that they do not wait for a perfect time to begin the process.
“A lot of times we kind of wait for the right time; we feel like, ‘Oh, when we’re ready we’ll try it,’ and I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes we make as creators,” he said. “We think we have time, and really, the time is now. You’ll catch up to what you want to be doing once you start doing it.”
Sestero also discussed his earliest experiences on a film set, particularly his role as an extra in the 1997 science fiction movie “Gattaca.”
“When you’re on set as an extra, you’re so hungry, especially when I started out. You’re just like, ‘How come I’m not there?’ You’re watching Ethan Hawke do this scene, and you’re thinking, ‘Hey, that should be me.’” Sestero said. “You’re just so excited to get going and get in front of the camera, but it’s always good to do extra work.”
Now, over 20 years later, Sestero has not only worked as an actor, but as a director, writer and producer, which has offered him new perspectives on filmmaking.
As for the creative process, Sestero finds inspiration in his favorite movies — “Jurassic Park,” “Back to the Future,” “Fire in the Sky” and “Ex Machina” are a few — as well as physical locations.
“I always love to pick a really cool location that’s inspiring on its own — a place I’ve always wanted to travel to — and then try to craft a story in that world, so you’re always in new environments, which I think creatively is very inspiring,” Sestero said.
Previously, as an actor, he mostly only thought about himself and how his performances went. But as a filmmaker, Sestero finds himself in the role of a spectator who looks out for everyone, he said. He also had to consider how to balance corporate interests and deadlines with his creative process.
“I wonder how much better movies would be if people got an extra six months to reevaluate, to think about it, to test a movie, to edit … I think a lot of times, there’s always usually a better version of that movie that exists,” Sestero said.
As the event started to wind down, one final question was asked.
“I wanted to know what you personally thought was the biggest life lesson or life takeaway that [Wiseau] actually taught you,” a student said.
Sestero recalled watching a tape that Wiseau made of himself driving down Santa Monica Boulevard where he talked to himself about the people he saw there having fun.
“‘Every night they go home, 4 o’clock morning, and wake up, and then they’re upset in the world because they’re not successful. And so, these like me, I will go home, I will study, I will write script,’” Sestero said in an impersonation of Wiseau.
The tape, as odd as it was, shook Sestero with the realization that he had to do what he loved to do, and the restrictions keeping him from going for it were, to some extent, self-maintained.
“I really believed [that] his goals and his passions came first, and that always was a big thing for me,” Sestero said of Wiseau. “[It’s like], ‘Hey, what are you doing today to follow what you really want to do?’ … You can be anything you want if you just really go for it.”
One of the final pieces of advice that Sestero gave was about never giving up.
“[Wiseau] wasn’t wanted by his generations during that time, but he created an outlet for people to go and let loose,” he said. “I think that’s a beautiful thing to always think about — there’s always a way to get our voice out there, and there’s some times we’re told ‘no,’ and those voices maybe aren’t the right ones.”