The odd one out at a dinner party; Lexi copes with her anxiety in a dangerous way.

Parties have certainly taken a different angle since the pandemic, particularly for people battling with anxiety. ‘Skip to the End’ takes this anxiety to the edge as our protagonist Lexi copes with it in a dangerous way. Director Sean Cruser took in from his on experiences to create a mind-bending, abstract and puzzling piece that will certainly keep you on your toes. We spoke with him to get a little more insight of his intentions. Here is what he had to say to us:

Still from 'Skip to the End'

Can you tell us what inspired you to bring this story to life?

Okay starting with the big question. Without getting too personal and boring; I’m an introvert most of the time, and feel like I have nothing of consequence to say… so parties/large groups are super not my thing. Like most well adjusted adults, I used to soothe those anxieties with alcohol. But alas, I stopped drinking in 2019 and when people started hanging out again post-vaccine, after over a year and a half of lockdown, I felt like I was absolutely drowning in most social situations. Out of all these feelings, ‘Skip to the End’ was conceived.

How did you go about casting ’Skip to the End’? Who and what were you looking for?

Basically all the main cast I have worked with before multiple times (either as a director or cinematographer). I try to write with friends in mind for roles, but this was a little more amorphous at first. I had just finished the script and the lead actress (and producer) Shalini Bathina reached out to potentially collaborate and she immediately clicked in my mind for the lead of ‘Leixi. We’d not worked together for a few years, but it was a dream to reconnect and collaborate together and we’ve now worked on multiple projects together over the past year since ‘Skip to the End’. I’ve both directed and DP’d films with Cami Storm, and she’s such a smart, intuitive performer that I knew she’d bring an amazing depth to ‘Rose’. The one role I wrote for an actor specifically was Novi Brown; specifically because she’s one of my favorite people to work with and can do anything and I’d never seen her do something like her character ‘Hannah’. The rest of the ensemble: Tyler Beveridge, Murphy Martin, and Charlene Miranda; I’ve worked with many, many times and will happily go bigger and stranger without any prodding because they’ve been on set with me so much. Michael Fariss and Derek Lewis were the new actors for me, but came at the recommendation of other cast members and were an absolute delight.

As I list all these wonderful collaborators out, it really just reinforces I’m very fortunate these talented human beings lend their time and support to my own weird cinematic sensibilities. I will keep calling them back as long as they say yes.

Shalini Bathina in 'Skip to the End'

This film has its fair share of twists and puzzles. As the writer/director were you open to changes or suggestions during the shoot or was it important to stick to what has been written?

The tone of the film is quite surreal and *hopefully* has layers of meaning the audience can dig through. There weren’t really changes suggested but others asking for clarity on the intention and themes. But after that, everyone was on the same page. There’s definitely some light improv in bigger group scenes, but for the most part, what was written on the page is what is on screen.

Behind the Scenes of 'Skip to the End'

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?

Every shoot has a variety of challenges and every director has that low buzz of stress during a shoot no matter what. That said, we didn’t make our first day (of three total shoot days) because we started late (thank you LA traffic) and things took a little longer than anticipated in the group scenes. I left that first day panicked and feeling like a total failure, so I completely redid the shot list from scratch for the rest of the shoot to make the most of our time efficiently. Thankfully my cinematographer Kim Cohen is the best and adapted to the changes with ease. We wrapped early and on time for the final two days; even with the extra scenes added to the schedule.

Behind the Scenes of 'Skip to the End'

What has this film taught you about filmmaking?

I’ve been doing this so long and always learn something new on each set. On this set, I was able to gain a lot of confidence in shooting less coverage than normal as the shoot went on because my ensemble cast was so strong, and the crew (1st AC Sierra Bove, Sound Recordists Ken Hobson and Gwendolyn Wang) were perfect. So if you have it, you have it. Just trust your gut and move on.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?

Never wait for permission, don’t work with assholes, and keep your shoot days well under 12 hours.

What do you hope people will take away from ‘Skip to the End’?

“Wow, I would love to see this team make a feature film.”
But seriously… I make uncomfortable, obtuse films that I am fully aware aren’t for everyone or the easiest sell, but it’s just the type of movie that comes out of me. At the end of the day hopefully the film can both entertain, confound, reassure and maybe even offer some hope about the human experience.

What are your favorite films?

Genuinely impossible to answer without being her forever so I’ll skip to the end and just list my Letterbox profiles Top 4: Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, the Wachowskis Speed Racer, and Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.

What are your favorite short films?

Because I love actors so much, short films that get out of their own way and allow performers to really shine through almost always tend to be my favorite.

Which films you can say directly inspired this film?

At the risk of sounding pretentious, the films on my mind for tonal references were Mary Harron’s American Psycho, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse, the Coen Brothers A Serious Man, and David Lynch’s Lost Highway.