Ser O Estar Redux (2018)

After his hallucinations cause problems in the U.S., Andy starts a new chapter in the birthplace of his idol, Miguel de Cervantes, who created the greatest dreamer to ever occupy our imaginations, Don Quixote de la Mancha.

When life doesn’t go as planned, do you change the quest or change yourself?

2008 trailer to the original feature-length film produced in Alcalá de Henares, Spain.


Visions used to connect me to the living, and perhaps spirit world. They inspired my artistic exploration and drove me to tell stories differently. 

I found deep resonance with Don Quixote and set out to mesh my experiences with his myth through filmmaking.

Still riding extreme highs and lows, relishing in auditory and visual hallucinations, I wrote the script and spent a college semester in the birthplace of Cervantes. Taking the train to and from Alcalá de Henares and Madrid, I assembled an amazing European cast and crew. Jes, the other half of the Stiner Brothers, joined me in the summer of 2007 to add a few pivotal scenes and star in the guerrilla, half-experimental, half-traditional production.

After we wrapped, I traveled through the Netherlands, Greece, and Belgium capturing windmills on mini-DV and Super8 cameras.

When I returned home, warning signs led me to consult various doctors about the threats my visions might pose. I was diagnosed, after near identical consultations, with "schizoaffective," "bipolar," "an imagination," and "nothing at all."

I began trying different medications just as I started my last semester in the fall. Navigating the side effects made editing my thesis a mess. My head and heart weren't the same. I could no longer see the puzzle clearly. 

I started incorporating footage I'd shot in Spain before high school in an attempt to wrangle my compromised vision.

Somehow I finished the thing, got into a number of festivals, and saw my first feature play to crowds. 

The title contrasts the two Spanish forms of "to be." "Ser" is used for constant states, "estar" for states that change. The protagonist, Andy believes he can choose his state of being.

The end of the film is an example of what not to do, but I, not seeing much of a choice at the time, decided to ignore my own advice and follow in Andy's footsteps. Instead of first finding a way to accept my diagnoses and explore environmental, behavioral, and other solutions that would not alter my brain chemistry, I gave modern medicine complete authority and took the pills.

Andy decides to shut down when the film ends, as it appears to him easier on the head and heart. He lies and hides in order to protect himself from following his compass, after miserably failing at happiness or a clean slate in his new environment.

Unlike his hero, Quixote, Andy gives up before his quest kills him. He lets go of his dreams. At the suggestion of several doctors to get medicated, I did the same so as not to put myself or others in danger. 

Eight years of medication later, I was broken and could barely make it through the day. I needed to live like I once did. I needed visions. 

I decided to stop going to my psychiatrist, titrate off the meds, and configure a number of routines to rewire my brain. I changed my diet, increased meditation, did a lot of walking around Los Angeles, and confronted my anxieties and frustrations head-on. It was a brutal two months of reaching zero meds, but I came out the other end. 

It has now been four years without those hallucinations. It has also been four years without the gray pointlessness of my medicated life. I'm somewhere in the middle. I cannot claim to know what's best, but life is a lot better than it was on prescriptions, and safer than before I started them.


Stream the entire film here: