The next time a film director is struggling to find actors who engender the most believable dynamic, they may want to take a page out of Marcella Cytrynowicz’s handbook and cast people in roles they have in real life.

A longtime Santa Monica resident and recent USC graduate, Cytrynowicz just wrapped up her first feature film, “WE,” in which six out of the seven main characters were not professional actors, but people who played the same or similar roles in Cytrynowicz’s life.

Written, produced, edited and directed by Cytrynowicz, WE is based on Aristophanes’s philosophy that people used to be made up of two, and when they became too powerful the gods split them, leaving everyone to search for their other half. “WE” stands for Wyatt (Marcella Cytrynowicz), the main character, and Elijah (Jamison Gilmour), a neighbor of Wyatt’s with ulterior romantic motives, who gives her a way to redo her life after her other half dies tragically.

“And when given the opportunity to redo her life so that she can forget this painful thing, will she take that opportunity?” Cytrynowicz said.

Cytrynowicz acts as the main character, her parents (Maura and Daniel) in the film are her real life parents, her little sister (Antonia) plays a younger version of her when she goes back in time, her then boyfriend played Elijah and a younger version of him was played by a friend of Antionia’s. Mr. Cytrynowicz also composed an original score for the film. Wyatt’s soulmate, Tobias (Marc Patrick), was a professional actor.

Cytrynowicz’s older sister Valentina funded the film with a $25,000 paycheck she received from a modeling job with Ford, and is listed as the film’s executive producer.

“It was magical,” her mother said after watching the film. “I liked acting with Marcella, and I liked what she brought out in me. She was a really great director.”

In the version of Wyatt’s life where she meets her other half, she has been a loner ever since an incident causes her parents to see her as a thief, and the family in the film is cold and disconnected. There was a perfect irony about the family acting in the film as loveless and severed, when they are actually so close that they were able to work together on a movie set.

“She has such an imagination that she could come up with something like that that’s so different from her childhood,” Cytrynowicz’s mother said after a private screening of the film on June 27.

Cytrynowicz said her imagination drove the film, as well as other French films like “Je T’aime Je T’aime,” a sci-fi which centers on Claude Ridder (Claude Rich) who, through an experiment in time travel after a failed suicide attempt, experiences his past in a non-chronological order.

“I’m really interested in the idea of people’s mental states and what they’re thinking about,” the WE director said. “Because I’m always day-dreaming and I think that day-dreaming can be considered a form of time travel because when you’re thinking deeply about being somewhere that you want to be in or you have been, you’re not really present in your environment but you’re more present in what you’re thinking about.”

A lot of WE does take place in a dreamscape, where Wyatt and Elijah meet to view the past. This was shot at Joshua Tree Park in August of 2016, often at temperatures above 120 degrees.

Though imaginative and sci-fi, the use of real people acting in roles they have in real life emulates realism. Cytrynowicz was introduced to French New Wave and Italian Neo-Realism at a young age, as was her father by his mother when living in Brazil. He thought it would be good to show her foreign films that he loved as a child.

“I still cannot watch a movie with a happy ending,” her father said. “When I go to see a movie it’s not to be entertained, it’s more of an intellectual experience.”

He said they go to the Aero Theatre on Montana all the time, and that he loves Santa Monica because it “has a European flair to it.”

Cytrynowicz says she wrote the entire screenplay in Santa Monica and Abbot Kinney cafes.

“I love living in Santa Monica because I can bike everywhere,” she said. “My routine for writing was getting on my bike and I would bike to a different coffee shop in Santa Monica or Venice and write from there because when you have the ocean so close, and the breeze, and it’s never too hot, never too cold, there’s just something about having the ocean that close that’s really meditative and there’s such a good vibe that comes from it.”

But the genesis of the movie was during Cytrynowicz’s semester abroad in Prague. She wrote the movie as a short story on her own and then adapted it to a screenplay in the U.S. She said the film and literary culture of the Czech Republic inspires a lot of her work today.

“I read lot of pre-war literature,” she said. “And all the books that I read in Prague as well fit that category because they’re very meditative and they’re very in the characters’ heads. I actually sort of weirdly identified with these 1940s men who had multiple lovers and stayed up all night in dark bars contemplating life.”

Her father and WE’s cinematographer, Gus Bendinelli, said she has an “encyclopedic knowledge” of films. Her vast and nietzsche familiarity with different genres and classic films as well as obscures bred a film where dialogue was scarce, and instead relied on visual storytelling techniques, body language and a voiceover.

“I’m trying to think of a director to compare her to,” Bendinelli said. “I guess it’s a good thing that I’m having a hard time naming one right off the bat. She’s very visually oriented and extremely detail oriented when it comes to the use of color. She’s really dependent on body language and looks and expressions.”

But it’s for this reason that she is concerned her films won’t be successful in the U.S.

“I definitely have been told by people who know me that I have sort of a more European sensibility,” she said. “And I don’t really identify wholly as American because of my dad and because of my upbringing, so that definitely plays a big role in my writing not coming off as mainstream American but other projects I’m working on I make more of an effort to appeal to this culture.”

Right now she is in pre-production for different projects with her production company, “Artificial Calamari Productions,” including a film on Capoiera, which would be shot in Brazil.