First of all, why don't you introduce yourself to those of us who
don't already know you?
name is Jose Zambrano Cassella. I am a Cinematographer and Director. Been
working in this insane biz since 1988. My website:
Your most recent,
not-yet-released film The Sacred - what can you tell us about that
a pretty chilling story about a group of college students who venture into
a patch of land deep in a central Florida river, a cursed
patch of land, and then the crap hits the fan.
How did this project come into being in the first
just finished a wonderful but extremely exhausting shoot for a film
called The Tenant (www.thetenantthemovie.com),
I was out of it, and then I was approached by Shannon Reed, a filmmaker
friend. She wanted to do something, she had the energy, it was
contagious. I was beat. But somehow she convinced me. It was a low
budget but I said "what the hell!?"
to make sure the script was compact, we could not afford much, I also
wanted to make sure the project didn't end up looking like porn, it had
to be visually impressive for me to be involved.
almost broke her neck on a watersport incident weeks before shooting, so
she had a neck brace for the duration of the shoot!, THAT made me more
convinced that this project had to be special.
The film has a Native American theme to it. Did
that at all influence your directorial style, and how would you describe
the style of the film as such?
didn't influence anything really. As a director one has to translate what
is on the page into visuals. That is the job. So I just applied my style
and used natural tones and colors for the whole thing. The backdrop for
the characters is the woods, lakes, etc, so it had to look natural. But it
was a challenge to make every shot count with such a fast shoot and no
How far will the film go
concerning violence and gore?
some violence and gore, but not much, I went old school. So many horror
films nowadays just show so much. I didn't have too much to play with so
that helped (lol). But I just decided to let the ambience, the sacred land be a character, let sounds and atmosphere scare
people instead of showing too much gore.
A few words about your
cast and crew?
these names. Jessica Blackmore, David Mackey, Ryan Marsico, Lauren Brown
and Jordan Wall. All in LA now and all taking off. We got so lucky with
these talents, they made the film. I've never been so fortunate, it was
painless and easy to cast.
worked so hard, we shot during one of the worst tropical storms to go
through Florida, and we got rained on almost everyday. I credit this
wonderful crew of film students and young professionals for making this
film look and feel like a million bucks.
When and where will the film
(tentatively) be released?
to brag, but we are getting tons of offers for distribution, but one has
to be careful because most of the time the primary goal of sales agents
and distributors for indie films is to royally SCREW the filmmaker. So we
are looking at offers and hopefully the film will be out mid year 2010.
Not too long ago, you
released Second Coming - a few words about that one?
hell, I love the film and for the budget it is a miracle, it looks
great, has great moments, but the producers really did a number on me
and prevented me from getting the things I needed to get the film I
wanted. Didn't even have a final cut. So I had to detach myself. Its the
old cliché... why hire a Director if you won't allow him to release the
film he directed the way he intended?
in all, it was well received and actually selling very well. I am proud
because many could not do what we did there for the budget we had.
met the best producers and friends in my life there. So it was good...
just took a long time for me to realize this.
debut feature as a director was Delivery - what can you tell us
about that one?
the classic, the masterpiece (lol). I am actually very proud of this
film. Shot it for like $4,500, and it looks better than most of the
$100,000 plus B-movies out there.
shitty camera, a water hose (for the rain), and 2 work lights - that's
it. And it came out, Warner
Brothers loved it and released it! It was
so funny seeing this microscopic flick start out with the WB
wonderful and supremely talented Tara Cardinal [Tara
Cardinal interview - click here] there (she is amazing)
and Matt Nelson, the lead actor, who gave it his all. I love the film
and the ones that don't can blow me. That is all I have to say on
Speaking of ... Delivery was also the feature
debut of actress Tara Cardinal, on whose upcoming Legend of the Red Reaper
you lent a hand. Could you talk about that project
for a bit?
who is one of the most talented and driven people I have ever met,
contacted me about this project. I thought Legend of the Red Reaper
finished years before. It broke my heart to find out it wasn't and
became intrigued. That and the fact that I had not seen Tara in years,
really wanted to connect with her again.
me the rough cut of her film and I saw there was quality there, I saw so
much effort and time put into a project, it was such a good story, it
should not be wasted, something like this should not just fade away. So
I asked her if I could help, she agreed and pre-production on a new Legend of the Red Reaper
in December 2009, it was a double treat for me, shooting some cool
visuals for such a fantastic concept and meeting Tara again after all
these years. She had not changed, she was as beautiful as the last time
I saw her :)
Besides features, you have also directed two
shorts, Mina and Wish. What can you tell us about those?
been a DP for so long, sometimes I feel like telling stories that
intrigue me. These shorts were intriguing so I made them. Mina will be a
full feature film in the future, pre-production has been happening on
that one for a while. Both shorts did great at festivals, specially
artsy fartsy festivals that don't care about horror or fantasy, I was
amazed by that.
other films you have directed I have forgotten to mention?
can ask many DPs and they will tell you they were really the directors of
this and that film they DP'd. When I work with a Director that thinks
directing is just dealing with actors I have to then actually
"direct" the film by blocking and exploring the scene. It's a
thin line... so If I follow this theory of mine I've directed a lot of
future projects you'd like to talk about
film is called Projections, then it will be the feature film version of
Mina. After that a documentary on Tinnitus for Nova or Discovery.
after that a long vacation on a deserted island, so I don't lose my
Your films were
pretty much all shot in Florida. What can you tell us about the Florida
alive and very healthy. Lots of great people and talent. I lived in LA for
9 years in the past, when I got to Florida people thought LA people were
genetically superior or something, they kiss your ass so much. But the
reality is that there are crew and actors in Florida that are as good as
the ones in NY and LA.
Your films so far all have a horror theme to
it. Is horror a genre especially dear to you?
really, it just has been that way, Horror has been cheaper to shoot :) - my
next film is a paranormal thriller so I won't do horror for a while.
usually write or co-write your films. What are your main inspirations as a
like to think of myself as a writer, I have too much respect for
writers, especially the ones from the golden era of Hollywood.
as if I was watching the film - and it always end up being 120 pages
get inspired by the great films of yesterday, not the latest crapfest
that came out last week. I strongly believe filmmakers HAVE to watch
older films, go for the good stuff.
How would you describe your approach to
right in the scene, I HATE directors who sit on their ass and yell
"action". I rather be right behind the camera, lighting it,
shooting it, creating it. THAT is what a director is to me.
why a director has to know Cinematography and Editing. I strongly
believe this. Why let someone else do this, its YOUR film.
You broke into the film business as a
cinematographer though. A few words about the cinematographer Jose
had a charmed life as a Cinematographer, it was tough, it was hard at
first, but I've been lucky, I've shot for the best and the worst, I've
done it all and in every format. My dream of shooting images came true.
I love to shoot, if I could not do it I would die, its that important to
me. Its like breathing, like eating, it is life.
I am the
kind of DP that will fight, till the end to get a great image on film or
HD, regardless of budget. I am passionate about this.
You have literally made hundreds of
commercials. How does making those differ from making feature films?
more money in commercials per day versus a feature. I can use the newer
toys, lenses, cameras. On a feature we have to be more conservative.
commercials I get to practice, I train, in features I put this
experience to use.
all that, you are also a musician and have released 2 CDs so far. What can
you tell us about your music, what does it sound like and where is it
always loved music, it is my FIRST love. I play drums, bass and
keyboards. I went to a Motley Crue concert 5 years ago and it was so
loud, it left me with the nightmare of Tinnitus (constant 24/7 ringing
in the ears). Thank god it slowly faded away, but for some it goes on
and on, forever.
started making music during the times with Tinnitus, it was a way to
escape. Its ambience music with emphasis on beats and musical textures.
I could play Metal because it would be louder (lol).
I made a PSA about Tinnitus, to spread awareness, it was seen by at least 10
million people, it hit a nerve. I re-posted it recently, it is here:
for the ones for this problem, visit the American Tinnitus Association www.ata.org
are available here:
Your website, MySpace, Facebook,
Your main influences as a director?
Kubrick, Brian DePalma, John Carpenter, David Lean, David Cronenberg,
David Lynch, George Miller.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
here is the list from my facebook:
- Don't Look Now (1973)
- The Wicker Man
- The Omen (1976)
- Animal House (1978)
- The Other (1973)
- Cria Cuervos (1973)
the Eagles Dare (1968)
- Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)
and the Monster from Hell (1973)
- Ben Hur
- Star Wars
- Rebecca (1948)
- Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key
Largo and The Maltese
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
- The Fly (1987)
- Planet of the Apes (1972)
- Donnie Darko
- Brainstorm and Creepshow (1983)
- Doctor Zhivago,
Bridge over River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia
from New York (1978)
- Magic (1978)
- Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, Twelve
- Theater of Blood
of the Damned (1960)
- The Conversation, Tron, Poltergeist
- An American Werewolf in London (1980)
- Xanadu (1980)
- The Great Escape, The Guns of Navarone
- The Dirty Dozen (hell yeah!)
- The Wild Bunch
- The Thing (1983)
- Maniac (1980)
- Dawn of the Dead
Anything from Hitchcock (except Topaz)
... and of course, movies you really
especially. Anything that is made by
people who confuse good storytelling with just loud explosions and quick
cutting. And in the case of Twilight...
for making Vampires gay.
Anything else I have forgotten to ask and you
are just dying to mention?
hate Raggaeton music and most of today's Hip Hop. I am passionate to
point out that Lil Wayne, Daddy Yankee, T.I. and Ludacris are supremely
Thanks for the interview!