“Bumblebees” director Sebastian Sdaigui died before finding out that his short film starring A Quiet Place‘s Millicent Simmonds, Orange Is the New Black‘s Jackie Cruz, Destroyer‘s Beau Knapp, and newcomer Isabella di Rienzo had been accepted into the Tribeca Film Festival. But his longtime producer Mariah Morgenstern says that “Bumblebees” is only the beginning of Sdaigui’s legacy.
“Sebastian’s production company still exists. His wife is still the head of it, and I think our mission now is we don’t want it to stop,” Morgenstern told MovieMaker. “This happened. But Sebastian left behind his wife and also his son Zeke, and so for us, we just want to keep making stuff where when people see it, they’re like, ‘This is Sebastian.'”
Sebastian Sdaigui passed away in February at the age of 32. His cause of death isn’t yet known, but according to Morgenstern, “he just went to bed and didn’t wake up.”
“We don’t know the cause. But it was definitely very shocking, very sudden. I know myself personally, I’d spoken to Sebastian two days before he passed. So when we all got the news, we were like wait, what are you talking about?” she said.
Sdaigui and his wife Chelsea’s production company is called Bellanoir Films, and through it, he and Morgenstern made music videos for artists including Princess Nokia, Kehlani, Future, 2 Chainz, and 24KGOLDN — the latter of which earned them two VMA nominations for the music video to “Mood.”
“Bumblebees” was meant to be the first in a trilogy of short films, and Morgenstern intends to keep going in Sdaigui’s memory.
The short film began as Sdaigui’s thesis film at NYU. The new version starring Simmonds, Cruz, di Rienzo, and Knapp follows the same premise of a girl gang whose initiation involves killing a man.
“‘Bumblebees’ was always the push to break into narrative,” she said. “Sebastian and I, we were both so passionate about not wanting to be music video directors or producers — we wanted to show that we can make films, and that’s always the first thing we fell in love with and that’s what we both went to school for. ‘Bumblebees’ was always going to be a part of a bigger picture.”
“We talked about ‘Bumblebees’ potentially being a limited series because it could fit in that realm, too,” she added. “So now, in his passing, I think so many of us are still committed to his legacy and we would love to see ‘Bumblebees’ continue in some capacity again, whether it is a limited series or we do get to make the other short films in his trilogy.”
Sebastian Sdaigui wrote in his director’s statement for “Bumblebees” that the film was inspired by the concept of found family.
“As a Mexican-Moroccan kid growing up in the East Bay and as a Navy veteran, I’ve seen family defined in so many ways. In that sense, a gang initiation isn’t so different from Navy basic training when you think about someone following orders to fit into a family and finally feel like they belong,” he wrote. “That’s what I’m exploring.”
“Bumblebees” will have its world premiere at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival on June 11.
Main Image: Jackie Cruz in “Bumblebees” courtesy of Bellanoir Films.