Your upcoming movie Killing Joan - in a few words, what is it
is the story of a woman, an
enforcer for the mob, who enacts her revenge on those that wronged her.
Killing Joan's synopsis reads like a
pretty wild genre mix - so what were your inspirations for dreaming up the
up going to Catholic school, I was told many stories of redemption and
confession. So I thought of the idea of someone who was a bad person that
committed horrible acts being given the chance to go back and atone for
their sins, even if it meant taking down the organization that you spent
so long trying to build up.
How would you describe your film's approach to
horror (as in suspense vs sudden shocks, atmosphere vs all-out gore and
tend to prefer horror films that inspire dread and are filled with creepy
atmosphere. This isnít a film with tons of blood and gore or a bunch of
jump out and shock you scares. This is a film that will hopefully cause a
sense of wonder and dread. In horror, itís all about lack of knowledge.
You are discovering things as the characters discover them. Itís about
the fear of what might happen. Thatís what stays with you.
For me, Killing Joan
also sounds as if
it would feature quite a bit of action work - am I at all right in that
assumption, and what can you tell us about the action scenes of your
were a lot of great action scenes in this film. Our stunt coordinator,
Erik Aude, who also plays the part of Miles, did a great job of realizing
the fight sequences and death scenes. We even had a second unit go out and
film stunt sequences for us. All of these stunt guys came in and we got
some great footage for the film. We also had a full day of rigging and
green screen work. It was very exciting as a filmmaker to have all of
these great tools at my disposal.
Do talk about your overall directorial approach to
your story at hand for a bit?
belief is that a good director listens. If you go around barking orders,
no one will listen to you. I tend to approach directing as a benevolent
dictatorship. Itís a real collaborative effort. This film is the result
of a lot of really talented people coming together. I certainly came in
with my own ideas of how to stage a scene but if it wasnít working or
someone else had a better idea, I would change it up. As a
writer/director, at a certain point you have to step aside as a
screenwriter and be willing to sacrifice the script for the good of the
film. You canít be precious about your writing as a director. If
something isnít working, you cut it or you fix it.
What can you tell us about
your key cast, and why exactly these people?
spent about three months auditioning actors for this film. We started back
in November of 2014 and had our final callbacks in January of 2015. We had
thousands of submissions for the film and we called in hundreds of actors.
I wanted to be sure about each and every part in this film. When it comes
to the actual casting, I decided to cast for talent whenever possible. I
could have gone for more stereotypical types, but I always went for the
interesting choice. I think I ultimately assembled a great cast for the
Jamie Bernadette [Jamie
Bernadette interview - click here] was a front runner from the start for the part of
Joan. Each time she came in, she really brought it. She has this certain
quality of tough but sexy with an air of vulnerability that is hard for a
lot of people to pull off.
Teo Celigo, who plays the male lead and
Joanís ex-boyfriend, was one of the first actors we saw for the part. He
really brought a gentle and open aspect to the character.
Leigh Waters blew me away in the audition. I really wanted to use her but
didnít have a part for her. So I wound up taking a small, three line
character and rewrote the script to flesh out her character and really let
her shine. She plays a great villainess in the film.
A few words
about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
had a really great cast and crew on this film. When any issues arose, I
tried to take care of it quickly and efficiently to make sure that
everyone was there because they wanted it. We were incredibly efficient
and hard working as you have to be on an independent film set. I had a
great team with my DP, Jon Schweigart, and my gaffer, Wilson Holts. They
really busted ass to make sure everything looked great. Everyone, from my
AD to the PAs, all worked tirelessly to make sure the film got made.
David Carey Foster, Danny Gardner, Katarina
$64-question of course, when and where will the film be released onto the
had some preliminary discussions with a couple of different distributors.
But the advice Iíve gotten from many experienced producers and
filmmakers was to make the film and wait until itís completed. Itís a
risk, but if the film turns out well, it can pay off. We just completed
production and are just beginning the long process of post-production and
VFX. Iím aiming for a release sometime either late 2015 or early 2016.
It all depends on how long the post-production process takes. We will
likely go the film festival route before releasing the film online.
Any future projects beyond Killing Joan
you'd like to share?
have a handful of scripts Iím currently working on. Iíve also been
approached by a couple of different producers about possibly directing
films for them. But at this point, Iím still focused on finishing this
What got you into
filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any kind of formal training
on the subject?
was the kid that was always in the school plays and constantly writing. In
high school, my friends and I would make short films and record music with
our band. Iíve always been involved in various artistic endeavors. I
have a BA from UCSB, double majoring in Film Studies and Dramatic Arts. Iím
also a graduate of the Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA and
studied in the Directing Workshop there as well. Iíve gotten a lot of
support from UCLA, from the staff and other students and alumni. All of
our PAs came from UCLA. I actually met my producer Joe Cervelin [Joe
Cervelin interview - click here] through
the UCLA program.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Killing Joan?
I produced the independent sci-fi thriller, Pink Zone, which is currently on the film festival circuit. But this is my
first feature film as a director. Iíve been making short films for over
20 years. About ten years ago, my short film, Coffee,
went out on the festival circuit and wound up playing in the short film
corner at the Cannes Film Festival. It even wound up getting distribution
on DVD in the US and Germany. After that, I tried and failed to find a
good script to film. So I spent a long time studying screenwriting and
developing my scripts to a point where I felt like they were ready to be
filmed. Iím also working with Joe on his animated webseries, Coyote
Munch Mini Mart, where I play an evil spatula.
How would you describe
yourself as a director?
a writer/director, I tend to focus on interesting stories first. For me,
the story is the most important part of a film. Iím not a heavy handed
director. I like to gently guide things and work with the actors to
develop a convincing performance. I love the voyage of discovery where the
characters take on a life of their own. Fancy camera tricks are
nice, but if the performance isnít there the audience wonít care.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
tend to like different directors for different reasons. For me, Hitchcock
is a huge influence in terms of style. Heís a master at manipulating
audiences and their expectations. But I also love filmmakers like Stanley
Kubrik, Ridley Scott, Wim Wenders, Akira Kurosawa, and Wong Kar Wai.
Currently in horror, I tend to appreciate guys like James Wan, Takashi
Miike, and Neil Marshall. I also really love what Edgar Wright has
done with the Cornetto
always tough to pick a favorite movie. I have a very wide taste in films.
Some of my favorites include Blade Runner, Wings Of Desire,
Chungking Express, but I also love Harold and Maude for its dark sense of
humor. I guess you could say
that I like films that explore what it means to be human. Why are we here?
What does it mean to be human? What draws people to each other?
... and of course, films you really
wonít call out any specific films. But I think thereís a tendency
among certain filmmakers to try and show off with fancy camera angles and
quick cuts. But they donít spend enough time developing their characters
or the backstory. So the film looks cool but you really donít care about
the characters or what happens to them. They also have a tendency to start
the story way too late. I get so impatient with films. If nothing happens
in the first 20 minutes, Iím moving on. The marketplace is so crowded
with films that you need to grab the audienceís attention and hold them
there to the final frame. You have to surprise and amaze them.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
are still developing the website for the film. But until then, you can
keep up with the film on our Facebook page - www.facebook.com/killingjoan
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
special effects for the film are so important for an independent horror
film. I was originally going to try and do everything practical. Iím a
huge fan of old horror films from the 50s-70s, where you didnít rely on
computer graphics. But I really lucked out and met Paul Lada from Coco
Visual. He has worked on many big budget films such as Harry
Of The Titans, and Prometheus. Itís amazing what you can achieve now
with todayís technology. The stuff he has shown me so far looks amazing.
We still tried to get as much in camera as possible. But we will be using
VFX to amplify and create things you wouldnít be able to create
practically without spending a ton of time and money.
Thanks for the interview!