Seth Ferranti is an author, filmmaker and frequent contributor here at Transgression. What many may not know is that Seth also spent over twenty years locked up inside Federal prison, a consequence of the ‘War on Drugs’. The very kind of experience that has destroyed so many, has instead seen Seth emerge as a creative force to be reckoned with.
With some exciting new work on the boil, we caught up with him.
When did you first notice you had a talent for creativity?
I’ve been a very creative and artistic person as long as I can remember. I was big into Star Wars figures and stuff like that in the 1970s when I was a kid and I would make these big elaborate worlds in my house and room and have Star Wars figures everywhere in a film that only I could see. I’d orchestrate their movements and everything that was happening with the figures and all the other accessories that I had. I used to play Dungeons and Dragons and create worlds and characters for me and my friends to pretend to be. I have always kind of existed in a fantasy world. In my head at least.
As a teenager I started writing poetry, song lyrics and songs, making collages and even doing little stories or outlines for stories. I was into photography and taking pictures and even staging photos and dressing people up. So the creativity has always been there. For the longest time it was just a lack of direction and the inability to follow through with my plans or ideas. As I got older I discovered that I had that talent too. But for me it’s been an evolution from poetry to articles to books to screenplays and graphic novels. About feeling free to create and letting my imagination run wild
Lengthy prison sentences have a tendency to irrevocably crush many inmates. Yet, you have managed to come out of such a horrible experience with a creative force that goes from strength to strength. Why do you think that is?
I just don’t make excuses. I refuse to lose. I am patient and determined, but my number one tribute is that I’m relentless. I’m a grinder. I learned that in prison. It really helped me with waiting for my projects to grow to fruition. It can be very frustrating in prison, stifling even, for an artistic person. But I made it work for me. I lived through my books and my writings. People that get crushed are just people that give in and let the world do what they want with them. I live life, I don’t let life live me. It’s just like when I was inside. I did my time, I didn’t let the time do me. I set goals and I made plans and I followed through on my plans and I accomplished my goals.
I am lucky because of my personality too. I have thick skin and I don’t mind rejection. But at the same time I refuse not to be heard. I jump out there. I’ve always been the type of person who wants to be noticed and recognized, even from a jail cell. I screamed and yelled and clawed and scratched to be heard. Years and years of work and reaching out to the world to be recognized. I can almost say that I willed everything into being in a sense. I notice now that when I settle I don’t make any progress but when I reach for something more, something greater, it transpires in some sort of way. Not maybe how I envisioned, but it happens.
After spending so long inside, how was it adjusting when you got out?
My last two years of prison I read over 100 of those Dummies and Idiot’s Guide books about everything computer and Internet related. I got a Masters degree in prison so I felt confident in my ability to get out and work and even get a good job if that was on the cards, but I knew I was lacking in tech skills. So I read and I read and I read some more. I read about the Internet and iPhones and MacBooks and operating systems and cellular and Wi-Fi and all the things that people in this modern world take for granted. When I got locked up they didn’t have the Internet and the cell phones were carried around in suitcases, so I had a lot to adjust to, but like everything else in life I just did it. I prepared myself by reading and gaining some knowledge and then I got out and had an iPhone 5c in my hand the moment I walked out of prison. I got a MacBook shortly thereafter and I’ve been learning ever since.
When I was in prison I cut off the outside world to a certain extent and now back in the real world I have cut off prison. Not that I don’t remember, I do, but it was like a different time, a different world that is slowly fading in the background of my memories. I just think humans have this amazing ability to adapt to whatever situation and I happen to be a human that is pretty good at it. So I live and I learn and I adjust daily. I won’t say it’s easy and that I don’t struggle, but my wife Diane has been a tremendous help in getting me adjusted. At the end of the day I just concentrate on doing what I am good at and let other people handle the rest. It’s worked out so far.
To suggest that the war on drugs has been a failure would be an understatement. If you were in charge of minimising the impact of drugs in your community, how would you do things differently?
I think all drugs should be legalised. Have your heroin and coke and meth dens. Let other drugs like marijuana and alcohol be more loosely regulated. People are going to do drugs just like people are going to eat chocolate. You can’t stop it, so just minimise the harm that it does and if someone gets to the point where they are slowly killing themselves on drugs, because it does happen, then have some sort of program in place where people that need help can get it.
I don’t think people taking drugs is the problem – stealing to supply your habit, not paying your drug dealer and the criminal organizations that run the illicit markets are the problem. So legalise it and you knock over half the problem out. Not that there still won’t be problems. There are always problems with everything so why would drugs be any different?
You’ve recently tried your hand at filmmaking. Your piece Easter Bunny Assassin made the official selection at the St. Louis Film Makers Showcase. Want to tell us a bit about that?
Easter Bunny Assassin is an idea that has been floating around my head for a while. At first I envisioned it as a graphic novel but I wanted to be involved in some local film stuff. I acted in a local feature, Dog Days, the first summer I was out and it kind of showed me how to do it. I’ve always seen film as the ultimate forum where I would end up. For a creator it’s the pinnacle I believe. I had all this little ideas- Santa Claus Crack Dealer, Tooth Fairy Mafia Don, Jesus Christ Junkie- all floating around my head and the Easter Bunny Assassin was the main character. A rabbit that was an assassin with big Easter Bunny head, but all sleek and James Bond like. It’s like The Professional meets Benny Hill. An MTV Liquid Television, Tarantino inspired ride on the pharcyde.
Filmmaking is a very involved process. I was used to writing, something I do with an editor basically. Shooting a short film took a lot of people and a lot of planning. I can honestly say that we did it totally guerrilla style. I had an awesome team and it was a test for me really. To see if I could get what was in my head on paper and then onto film. I was very pleased with how it came out. Not surprised because we had a good plan, but until you actually see it on the screen you never know.
I was fortunate enough to have a read of your soon to be released autobiographical comic Confessions of a College King Pin. This of cause will not be the first time you have blended true crime stories with some brilliant illustrations. Where did you get the inspiration to use such a blend of mediums?
I’ve always loved comics. I grew up reading them. While I was sitting in prison writing gangster and prison stories I always wanted to see how that type of material would translate to comics. It was also an idea I had for a while, but until I got out I couldn’t make it happen. I always tell people that I wrote the books I wrote because I wanted to read them and couldn’t find them and I feel the same about the comics. I’ve always wanted to read comics like the ones I am now producing. I hope to make waves in the comic industry with this one. We will see.
Confessions of a College King Pin will be released this August.
Seth’s work can be purchased at sethferranti.com
You can check out The Easter Bunny Assassin Trailer here.