A Crooked Somebody: Richard Sommer On Tricks And Frauds Of Psychics

Beware of psychics.

Most people will view psychics as a frauds or simply a form of entertainment. But, there are still many who firmly believe in the psychics.

In A Crooked Somebody, a fake psychic was kidnapped by a murderer who seeks atonement for the crime he committed long ago. The psychic takes advantage of the situation and turned it into a publicity scheme to promote himself.

A Crooked Somebody stars Richard Sommer, Clifton Collins Jr., Amanda Crew and Ed Harris. It is directed by Trevor White and Andrew Zilch.

LRM Online had a phone interview with Richard Sommer to discuss about his character and the tricks of psychics.

The film is currently out on VOD.

Read our exclusive interview below.

LRM: Let’s start with the easy question. Why were you attracted to something like A Crooked Somebody?

Richard Sommer: Well, Crooked Somebody is actually based on a sort of germ of an idea that I had about 15 years ago. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say that I had a close friend who started seeing one of these psychic mediums. She tried to contact her son. I watched the amount of money and the amount of emotion that she poured into someone that I didn’t necessarily feel was giving her what she actually was hoping to receive. Fast forward many years, Andy Zilch and I have had been very close friends for a number of years. We met in college. We made movies together in college. He asked if he could take a wack of writing this idea I shared with him a number of years ago. We wrote the story together. He wrote the screenplay and here we are. I guess I was attracted to it since it’s a story I wanted to be a part of telling for a long time.

LRM: When you actually wrote the story yourself–you actually had yourself in mind to play the main part?

Richard Sommer: That was sort of the goal. Andy wrote the movie with both of us. We wrote that story and he wrote that screenplay with me in mind. I also was there very from the beginning. Not everyone in the world will necessarily picked me for this role. [Chuckles] If we got it to a point where we were actually able to show it to people. Keeping in mind neither of us had at the time any sort of live agents and sort of screenwriting agents. This was all just sort of bonded by fire in my backyard playing around with ideas. When we started that process, I made it clear to Andy that if ever he was able to sell this thing and those people didn’t want me in the movie–I would hundred percent would give my blessing for someone else to be in the movie.

The real goal of it was just to get this script filmed, because it was a story I wanted to have told. I, of course, wanted to play the role, because I had been with this idea for so long and to make a movie with Andy was sort of my dream. We lucked out that when we showed it to Trevor White, who had produced a movie that I had done. He just immediately jumped and said he wanted to direct it and would only direct it if I would do it. Which was sort of insane to have all of those little dreams come true with one phone call. [Laughs]

LRM: Where did the murder mystery aspect came from for this story then?

Richard Sommer: With this story, I wanted to show a couple things. I wanted to show how these people do some of their tricks. I wanted to show that it doesn’t always pay off in the end. [Chuckles] We had to kind of figure out a way basically what’s the worst thing that could happen if someone believes a lie you tell and what kind of trouble could that lead to.

LRM: Did you do any research or preparation for this role? Like going to psychic readings yourself?

Richard Sommer: I have only participated in one psychic reading. It was a gift from someone at the end of my grad school time. She bought a reading for our entire class of eight people. We all had a reading in that time. I personally have not had an experience where I felt like it was a legitimate thing. I’m not saying nobody to do it in the world. Just saying I certainly not encountered it.

As far as my research goes, I’ve been a big fan of Penn and Teller for most of my conscious life. One of their big mentors is a man named James Randi or Amazing Randi. He wrote several books. Chief among them were two books that I had since I was young. Flim Flam! and The Faith Healers. The Faith Healers are about people who sort of like the movie Leap of Faith. It’s those faith healers used sometimes perhaps slightly disingenuous tricks to kind of achieve their means. Flim Flam! is all about long storied history of seances, psychics. and garden gnomes coming to life. I’ve sort of been researching that I could read.

LRM: Do you believe in this stuff? It sounds like you don’t. [Laughs]
Richard Sommer: I don’t. I always want to clarify that this movie is not a movie that sets up to say that every psychic medium in the world is fake. Now the definite fake is Michael Vaughn, For me, as Richard Sommer, I’ve never encountered anything that would lead me to believe it. I’ve sat down with a lot of people, especially to get this movie ready. There were a lot of conversations Sometimes it can be a little like politics. People have really entrenched opinions. I’m better at having a conversation about psychics and mediums than about politics. When it comes to psychics and mediums, I always say the same thing–I have not experienced anything personally that makes me believe it. I can’t refute it. If you had an experience that led you to believe in it. How can I tell you that you’re wrong? I don’t know. It feels weird. For me, no. I don’t believe in it, but I don’t count out I suppose the possibility for other people.

LRM: So the character of Michael Vaughn, he’s a magician trying to fool his audience. What is the most common trick that you discovered through your research that psychics use?

Richard Sommer: The basic move is something called cold reading. They use a process something called shotgunning. They throw out a few ideas. They watch to see which one kind of hits you in the right way. If they see something or hear you say something that seems to indicate that they’re on the right path–they will throw away all the other things they’re talking about and focus just on the one path. They keep doing that. They keep shotgunning. So they’ll throw out maybe three or four ideas. If one sticks, it’s like the other two or three never existed. They just keep going down that path. For a lot of people, I have found they can recount.

I also have a hobby doing card tricks. A lot of psychology of card tricks is making someone believes something happened when it didn’t. At the end of the card trick I can say I never touched the cards. You shuffle the cards. You’re dealt the cards. That may be a lie. They believe it because I’m recapping it quickly. They go, “Oh right. Yeah, yeah” You must not have ever touched the card even though I did.

That happens with psychics too. I think people will recount the story that if you play for them, say a recording of that exact reading. They can see where certain ideas got left behind. So shotgunning and cold reading their sort of their biggest tools.

Source: LRM Online Exclusive

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Gig Patta

Gig Patta is a journalist and interviewer for LRM and Latino-Review since 2009. He was a writer for other entertainment sites in the past with Collider and IESB.net. He originally came from the world of print journalism with several years as a reporter with the San Diego Business Journal and California Review. He earned his MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management and BA in Economics from UC San Diego. Follow him on Instagram @gigpatta or Facebook @officialgigpatta.

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