The first time I saw Daniel Sjerven was in the film Group Home. I was struck by how natural and likeable he was on the screen. I didn’t realize at the time, that I would soon be seeing him again in the incredibly sweet new film from Christopher R. Mihm, Cave Women on Mars, in which he had a starring role. While watching that film, he reminded me a bit of a young Bruce Campbel. That left me saying to myself, "I gotta interview this guy!" So I did, and here it is…
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Let’s start off by having you introduce yourself to everyone and tell us all a little about yourself.
My full name is Daniel Ronald Sjerven. This is actually my very first interview. Oddly, it sort of feels like I’m applying for a dating services are something. With that said, this is a perfect time to say that I just got married in November and I couldn’t be happier. Life is treating me pretty well lately.
You’re relatively new to the acting thing. What attracted you to acting? Was it something you always wanted to do or is it something you just sort of fell into?
I was attending Northern State University in Aberdeen, SD. I was pursuing a Music Education degree and I had very little acting experience before I attended college.
Several of my friends were auditioning for “Inherit the Wind”. They convinced me that it had lots of “town’s people” and they talked me into auditioning as well. I got a small speaking role, which was more than I expected because I was mostly there for the social aspect.
However, when the next show rolled around, it had a small cast and I wasn’t very confident and I didn’t want to try out. Essentially, I was dared to audition for “Of Mice and Men” and I landed the part of Curly. Although it was still a relatively small role, I had a great time with it and I received positive feedback.
I’ve had the itch ever since.
When did you first hook up with Cave Women on Mars director Christopher R. Mihm, and how did it come about that you were offered the role of Lieutenant Elliot in his latest film?
My first film was Group Home. Two of my fellow cast mates were Brooke Lemke and Rachel Grubb. During our down time on set Brooke mentioned CWOM to me. At that time, she had already been cast as the female lead and she suggested that I audition, so I did.
When I arrived at the audition I met Chris as well as Josh Craig for the first time. Brooke read lines with me and the audition was BAD…no I take that back. IT WAS TERRIBLE. I kept making Brooke laugh and we could barely get our lines out.
Not only that, but Chris kept throwing Star Wars and other Sci-Fi movie references at me. However, I knew the stuff he was talking about and we’d go off on some tangent about Ghostbusters or something. Now that I think about it, it might have just been a test.
In any case, Chris apparently saw through the crappy audition and I landed Lt. Elliot.
Was it hard trying to play your character in that old 50’s style, or did that whole vibe come pretty easy for you?
I immediately grabbed the concept of it, which really excited me. My first flick had some crude moments to it, so I wanted to be a part of something that was more family friendly.
I did however have to work on the “campy” side of acting, which was unique to me. I had to watch 50s movies to truly understand that some of the acting is really bad…but it’s also what makes them so great.
I don’t think that it mattered for me anyways. I spent most of my time “getting hit” and falling down.
Much of the film was shot in a mountainous / forest type area. Where was it shot and what were some of the biggest difficulties you guys had in working out there?
Believe it or not, it was all shot in the back yard of a home in a Twin Cities suburb. Although the location was very convenient, we had to battle with the neighbors mowing their lawns, planes flying overhead, kids playing out side, etc. We were actually close to a rail road too, so when they were moving box cars around that was a pain.
The biggest difficulty for me was the heat. The flight suit that I was wearing doesn’t have much for ventilation. On some days it was in the upper 80s and the humidity was incredible. For the first time in my life, I got sick from being too hot.
What was the most fun for you about being in this film and what was your favorite moment from during the production?
Everyday was fun. We did a lot of laughing on set…probably too much if you ask Chris. It doesn’t take a lot to make Brooke laugh. If you look at the special features on the DVD you’ll see what I mean.
There’s nothing specifically that stands out for me as a favorite moment during production, but I’ve enjoyed forming relationships with everyone involved with the process. I’m proud to call them all my friends.
After seeing the finished product, how do you think Cave Women on Mars did in emulating those old films, and what aspects in particular did you think worked really well?
I think that CWOM is a great combination of 1950s films and modern cinema. I think that if Chris made a carbon copy of the 50s movies, they wouldn’t entertain today’s audiences as well as CWOM does. The look and feel of the 50s is apparent but CWOM also allows our generations to relate.
I believe that having actual music from the 50s gives the film “credibility” for lack of a better term. For me, a movie’s music score is an additional cast member. If you have a great score then you can better convey your message.
Take the movie “Jaws” for example. John Williams wrote that “Buh-dum” theme, which always had your attention. Even though you didn’t see the shark, you knew it was there…all because of “Buh-dum”.
I’m not saying that’s what is achieved in CWOM, but Chris is trying to recreate the feel of those movies, so what better way to do it then by using score from that era.
Were you a big fan of classic b-movies before you got into this film, and has being in this film affected your feelings toward them at all?
Before CWOM, I was not a big fan of the b-movies and I’m still learning more about them. The more that I watch them, the more I warm up to them. It’s sort of like the movies that you watched when you were a kid. When you watch them today, you can’t believe how bad they are. You ask yourself “How did I ever watch this?”, but you still love the hell out of it.
I was lent some DVDs for “educational purposes” but only a handful. I find myself laughing out loud at how serious the actors are and how terrible everything looks.
What can I say…when a woman is screaming for her life, because a man in a bending card board robot costume brakes through her living room window, that doesn’t have any glass in it….I laugh.
You worked with a great cast of people in this film. Two of them, Rachel Grubb and Brooke Lemke you worked with in a couple of other films as well, including a small part in one of their new films called "Why am I in a Box?" Tell us about your part in that film and what it’s like working with Brooke and Rachel.
As I mentioned before, I’ve developed professional relationships and personal friendships with everyone from the film. Since wrapping CWOM, Brooke and Rachel have asked me to do some small, non-speaking roles in their films. Whenever my friends need something, I always try to help them out.
Is there any kind of a character that you would just love to play, and alternatively, are there any types of characters that you would just flat out never want to play?
Obviously, I would love to be in some major features.
If George called tomorrow and asked if I would like to be in the Clone Wars, live action series that’s in development, I would most likely say “Yes”.
Also, I’m a huge fan of LOST. I would lose a couple toes to get on that program.
Seriously, if the story is good and the director is a person of conviction, who wants to complete their vision and won’t crumble when things get tough, then I’m on board. However, out of respect for my wife I do tend to shy away from the physically romantic stuff.
After seeing you in Cave Women on Mars and comparing you to a young Bruce Campbell, I’m sure you’d have a lot of appeal for other independent film makers when it comes to castings. How can people contact you if they’re interested in casting you in their film?
Unfortunately, my website isn’t complete so for now I’m asking to be contacted at www.MySpace.com/DanielSjerven. I try to respond to all e-mails, but sometimes it takes a while so be patient. I love hearing from everyone, so don’t be afraid to say hello.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?
The weekend of July 12th/13th I will be at Os Fest in Omaha, NE and the weekend of October 3rd/5th I will be at Shocker Fest in Riverbank, CA. Again, don’t be afraid to say hello.
Thanks for being my first interview. I hope to do more with you in the future.