Following Sean

PBS Premiere: July 31, 2007Check the broadcast schedule »

Ask the Filmmaker

Anne from Kansas asks: As I watched "Following Sean," it occurred to me that you and Sean's father shared much of the same upbringing, culture, context and community. However, your choices and paths in life are very different. The film continues to make me think about the 1960s and the idea of freedom. If you could go back and relive those decades of your life, knowing what you know now, do you think you would make the same choices? Or would you do it differently?

Ralph Arlyck: Thanks for your interesting question. I wouldn't say that Johnny and I shared much of the same upbringing. He came from a conservative Republican California family -- a family of bankers. I was a product of liberal New York Jews. You can't get much different than that. Johnny also felt alienated from his family whereas I had extremely warm feelings towards my folks. I also think the sixties hit Johnny harder than it did me. But we both do worry a lot about the nature of work and who you work for and why. Would I make the same life choices? Hard to say. I'd definitely marry the same woman.

Peggy from Texas asks: I was completely fascinated by "Following Sean." I, too, grew up in the sixties. It was clear that Sean was a very smart little kid in a strange environment. What were you expecting when you went back to find Sean decades later? Did you expect him to have grown up "unscathed"? Or were you expecting something else?

Arlyck: I really had no idea what Sean was like when I started the project (which is kind of crazy when you think about it). But there must have been something about the self-confidence of the 4-year-old child which let me to believe that the adult would somehow be okay. Happily, this turned out to be the case.

Mary Lou from New York asks: Thanks for your wonderful film. I was wondering if Sean has gone on to attend law school since the film ended, or whether he is still planning on attending law school in the future.

Arlyck: Sean has no current plans to attend law school. He told me that he spoke with a number of lawyers and asked them what their work life was like. They told him they spent most of their time processing paper. This isn't attractive to Sean. For the time being he's staying with electrical work and he's also teach electrical classes within the union.

Rebecca from Texas asks: I thoroughly enjoyed "Following Sean." Are you working on something else now? I would love to see more of your films.

Arlyck: I have a few ideas for new films percolating but haven't launched into one yet. Funding is always the big hurdle and I need to be sure that whatever I tackle next will be both personally captivating and fundable.

Denise from Illinois asks: Great film! What did Francois Truffaut say about Sean? As a young filmmaker at the time, how did you feel about the fact that the great filmmaker had noticed and complimented your film?

Arlyck: I found out that the original Sean movie was going to be playing with Truffaut's Wild Child and the London Film Festival in 1970. Since I was only the producer of a short they didn't invite me but I guess they invited Truffaut and that's where he saw it. I later contacted him to see if I might be able to do an internship with him. He said this wouldn't be possible but given the movie I'd made he didn't think I would have much to learn from him. This was very nice but, frankly, I would have rather had the internship than the compliment. I'd always loved his work and think it would have been great fun to watch one of his films being made.