Let me preface this interview by disclosing that I act in Undercover Cops alongside its star, director, writer and general nuisance “Lil Sean,” Sean Coleman. Not only that, but I’ve known Lil Sean for almost a year now. This probably presents some kind of conflict of interest, I’m sure, but there isn’t much about Lil Sean’s first foray into filmmaking that doesn’t present some kind of moral quandary.
Created by Sean, though guided by PhilaMOCA curator and Cinedelphia founder Eric Bresler to ensure completion, Undercover Cops is an exercise in unrestrained insanity. The movie is the culmination of all the things a 12 year-old boy would think is cool. That often leads to gaps in logic and questionable circumstances, but that’s part of the movie’s charm. We can’t all be Martin Scorsese. In fact some of us don’t even want to be, we’re more interested in studying at the altar of Cirio H. Santiago. I’m not sure Lil Sean even knows who that is but they have more in common than Sean probably realizes.
CINEDELPHIA: Sean, what motivated you to make Undercover Cops?
LIL SEAN: Because, I don’t know, I just wanted to make a movie. I thought it’d be fun.
ERIC BRESLER: Are you a movie fan?
LS: Uh, yeah, I like a lot of movies.
C: What movies do you watch?
LS: Um, I watched Let’s Be Cops. I love Finding Nemo.
EB: Were there any movies that made you want to make your own cop movie?
LS: Not a movie, per se; but, like, the TV show called “Cops.”
EB: So the TV show called “Cops” made you want to make Undercover Cops?
LS: Yeah, and I thought it’d be fun to arrest people!
C: I understand your father is a cop. Did that play a role in your making the movie?
LS: No. I have Netflix, so I watch “County Jail,” “Woman Dallas Police”…
LS: It’s a bunch of girls who are cops, and I guess the show is just to show people that girls are vicious too. And they are.
C: How old are the girls in the show?
LS: Oh, they’re like 34 or 27.
Lil Sean goes to his phone to look up info on “Police Women of Dallas.”
EB: Sean, put your phone away. You’re being interviewed.
Sean puts his phone away.
C: Sean, what’s your favorite cop movie?
LS: My favorite cop movie? Let’s Be Cops.
EB: That just came out, didn’t it?
C: What’s it about?
LS: It’s about these two guys who, like, this guy makes games and he has these old cop uniforms that he got from a store or something. They act like they’re cops and they drive around. There’s this guy who’s wanted, and they solve the case. At the end there’s a big shootout.
C: How did you write Undercover Cops?
LS: I sat down and told Eric what I wanted the scenes to be, then Eric wrote them down.
C: Who is Eric?
LS: Eric? Eric runs PhilaMOCA.
C: Do you hang out at PhilaMOCA a lot?
LS: Yeah! I do door, AV…
EB: What’s your favorite part about making a movie?
LS: I like how people come up to me and are like, “Hey, Lil Sean!”
C: You like being a celebrity?
C: I heard you’re called the Mayor of the Eraserhood. Did you come up with that name?
LS: No, it just happened.
LS: It was fun. He shot it, we had two people do sound. And the cast was really fun.
C: So Eric helped you direct the movie, then?
C: You’re the director of the movie?
C: How did you go about directing the movie? How did you set up each individual scene for your actors?
LS: I just told them, “Stand here, stand there, sit down, stand up.”
C: Eric shot that for you, then?
LS: Yup, and Karli [Cox, a former intern at PhilaMOCA and Sean’s love interest in Undercover Cops] did sound. So did Catherine [Haas, another intern at PhilaMOCA and regular contributor to Cinedelphia].
EB: How did you go about casting?
LS: I tried to use all the interns in PhilaMOCA, because I thought it would be fun.
EB: That’s an interesting way to go about casting.
C: Didn’t you put out a casting call for one of the female characters?
LS: Yes, prostitutes.
C: How did that go?
LS: That went well. We got a response right away.
C: And it was the right person for that role?
LS: Yeah, she’s a transgender person. Her name is Shana.
EB: She’s a neighbor.
C: With Undercover Cops, where do you see it going now that you’ve directed the first one?
LS: We’re gonna do Undercover Cops 1, and then two more.
EB: So what you’re saying is that it’s a trilogy?
LS: That’s what it is!
C: And everything is going to follow from each film to the next, there’s going to be a larger plot?
LS: We’re not working on the plots to all of them yet, not particularly. We’re starting the second one now, but we’re not starting the third one.
EB: We know what’s gonna happen in the third one, Sean.
LS: Yeah. No, but yeah.
C: What can we expect for the sequel to Undercover Cops?
LS: Undercover Cops what?
Eric begins to laugh.
C: What’s going to happen in the sequel?
LS: Number one?
Eric loses himself in a fit of laughter.
C: Number two.
EB: You’re the best, Sean.
C: Give me a preview of Undercover Cops 2.
C: Okay Eric, how did you get to know Sean?
LS: I don’t know. Oh, your turn. Go ahead, Eric.
EB: Sean was just a neighborhood kid who used to ride by on his skateboard and bike a lot, and eventually he started coming inside. This is going back like two years. We haven’t been able to get rid of him since.
C: Isn’t he sort of the PhilaMOCA mascot at this point?
EB: Yeah, I think people are just surprised that this 12 year-old is hanging out, especially at certain events which aren’t suited for anyone under 18. He’s become a mascot of sorts.
C: What gave you the idea to do a movie with Sean as the lead actor, director, writer and so on?
Sean bursts into laughter.
EB: Well, we always try to educate him. He’s not just hanging out, sitting around or watching us, we always try to get him involved in events. We’ve put him on-stage numerous times for something as simple as him telling the crowd Your Momma jokes, to more complex things like a rendition of William Shatner’s “Rocket Man” performance. That last one actually featured three different Seans, two on-screen and one live.
LS: That’s me!
EB: We’re trying to teach him as much about the arts and event management as possible, and when he said he wanted to make a movie, I was like, “Oh great. You can learn how to make a movie.”
C: This movie took awhile to get going, though, didn’t it?
EB: Yeah, the script was written over the winter. It just took him a while to get focused enough for us to pull it off.
C: What was the creative process like writing with a 12 year-old?
EB: He really did write it himself, I just typed as he narrated what was gonna happen. I tried to preserve all of his grammatical errors as much as possible to keep the film as pure as possible. That’s why when you see the film you’ll notice a professional production wouldn’t have edited it in this manner. We kept in some errors and some obvious flubs, because it was all Sean’s call. Whatever he wanted is what he got.
C: Sean is credited as the director, so he actually helped set up the shots and directed everything that happened on-screen?
EB: That’s why you get the most boring two-minute scene of the main characters just running around on the roof in one, single take. That’s all Sean. That’s his style.
LS: Mmmmhmm. Wait, you’re giving away too much, Eric.
EB: Sorry. The most useless scene in the film, I don’t wanna give that away.
Eric and Sean start laughing.
C: Sean mentioned this is going to be a trilogy, and I’m assuming you’re involved in helping to guide a narrative arc for him. What can we expect from the next movies?
EB: It can be hard to get this 12 year-old to focus on things, so…
LS: Put down your drink, Eric. You’re doing an interview.
EB: …I try to throw him ideas as far as where a three-part film should go. There’s a thread that goes through all three films. I think fans will be very surprised where these films take our young hero.
C: You mention the issue of Sean focusing being a problem throughout filming. Was there any issue keeping Sean focused on the set?
LS: Don’t bring that up!
EB: Sean’s a 12 year-old with a lot of energy and very little focus.
LS: That’s right.
EB: It can be hard for him. For instance, he had a good six or seven months to memorize the script. On the first day of shooting, he didn’t know a word. Didn’t even know the plot. He had plenty of time to look over the script, a script he wrote, but didn’t bother. Didn’t know what happens in the movie, left out really important lines that drive one scene to the next. He actually at one point created, through his lack of studying the script, he was able to create this time loop so that if it was edited according to what he said at the time it would’ve reached this point where one scene leads to the next but then that scene leads to the previous one which then leads back. It would’ve just continued like that over and over and over. That’s where some post-production dubbing came in.
C: Do you have a response to this Sean?
Sean just laughs.
C: Final question.
C: How do you guys like working together as a team?
EB: Lil Sean is an annoying joy.
LS: Eric is an annoying joy.
EB: Shut up.
Sean steals my audio recorder to finish up with…
LS: MY NAME IS SEAN COLEMAN, HAHAHAHAHAHA!