Cannes Bound

Santa Monica College students on set of the short film “Broken Layers,” which will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival later this year.

Christian Pierce’s film career is off to a flying start. At just 22 years of age, the Malibu High School alumnus worked on a student film to be shown at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in France. 

“It’s incredible,” Pierce said when asked about the news of the film’s acceptance. “It’s hard to comprehend.”

The short film, “Broken Layers,” wasn’t really on lifelong Malibu resident Pierce’s mind when he learned the news—that’s because the movie was produced two years ago when he was a student at Santa Monica College. He has since moved on to the University of Southern California and has been accepted into the university’s top-rated film school where he will matriculate once the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.

It was during his time at SMC that the 2017 MHS grad enrolled in a film class and signed on as casting director for the student film project. The film was produced by the SMC film program, which is partially funded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the folks who put on the Golden Globes. 

Even though Pierce has been an actor since he was eight years old, he chose casting as his pre-production job making the film. Casting the project was appealing to Pierce, he said, “because I was familiar with different casting sites, break downs and the auditioning process. It was easy for me to transition to casting.” Pierce said he wanted a job behind the camera—not in front of it: “I want to learn all the other aspects of the industry.”

“Broken Layers” tackles topical subject matter. The story is about an American young woman from a multicultural family whose mother is from South America and father is Middle Eastern. The protagonist struggles, embracing her different cultures, as do those in her life, especially after she enlists in the military and is deployed in the Iraq War. 

Drama ensues with the young woman’s father who does not support her actions in the war effort. 

“When she gets to Iraq, she starts to see things she wasn’t expecting to see,” Pierce said. “She discovers how brutal and violent war can be. The film picks up when she comes back and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.” 

Casting the film was a challenge since actors needed to speak both Spanish and Arabic.

“It was very difficult to find people,” Pierce explained. “We got a lot of submissions, but a lot of the people actually didn’t speak Arabic, although they said they’d learn.” Pierce added that another challenge was the fact that Arabic is a diverse language with many different dialects.

As for his future in the business, Pierce commented, “I think film school has opened me up to how many options there are in the film industry and how many things I enjoy doing. 

“My plan at USC film school is to explore and work on as many sets as I can,” he continued. “I’ve directed a few student films and I love doing that. I’ve been an actor before and that’s also something I enjoy.” Pierce did say he thrives in the production element. He served as a grip on “Broken Layers,” so will have two credits on the movie.

Pierce was not the only former MHS Shark to work on the film; two other Malibuites—Sienna Aiello and Emma Younan—were also involved in its production. Aiello was digital image technician and Younan was script supervisor.


The Cannes Film Festival in France is scheduled to take place this July 6 through July 17. With the country currently in a COVID-19, lockdown plans are subject to change.