Tell us about yourself. How did you become an artist?
I have always loved storytelling and writing. As a kid, I constantly wrote fan fiction or adaptions of TV, video games, or films I loved. Typically it was horror related, and what was funny was that people would ask to be killed off in them with chainsaws or stepped on by monsters. My teachers weren’t happy, but my family was always supportive.
But being a writer was secondary due to my love of dinosaurs and paleontology. However, in 2009, I rewatched my favorite film, Jurassic Park. For years I never cared how movies got made. As the credits rolled, something clicked in my mind. I thought, ‘How did they do that?’ I instantly watched the making of documentaries on any movie I saw and was blown away by all of them. Seeing how a single shot takes thousands of moving parts blew my mind.
That’s when I knew that I wanted to become a filmmaker.
What was your first job in the art field?
My first job was in corporate video, and I helped film a fashion show. Half the time, I had no idea what I was doing. But by the end, I learned a lot.
What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?
I think for myself there is a drive and constant need to share what madness is going on through my mind. Plus it’s fun to drive my friends and family crazy with my work.
Thematically you usually write what you know, and for me, it’s anxiety, fright, wonderment, adventure, horror, action, and a hint of comedy. But I also love depicting and discussing blue-collar workers or people who are barely able to afford what they need or where they live.
All of these themes are raw, exciting, and frightful that relate to my own life.
Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?
I need a clear shot for a scene that allows me to visualize the characters, the lines, and the movie. When I start writing, it’s written as a book, which is easier for me to develop. Writing a typical script is when I get writer’s block. It probably has something to do with writing as a kid. Also, when I have a catchy title, that helps too.
Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that were influential for you?
There are a lot (Ace Ventura deep breath): Steven Speilberg, George Lucas, Joel Schumacher, David Lynch, Rob Zombie, F.W. Murnau, Roland Emmerich, Michael Bay, James Rolfe, Mel Brooks, Monty Python, Ishiro Honda, Akira Kurosawa, and Hayo Miyazaki. In other words, way too much. They all have unique styles, artistry, and imagination.
But the films that are influential for me are Jurassic Park, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, Godzilla (1954), Eraserhead, Beauty and the Beast (1946), Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Evil Dead 2, and once again, many more.
So for me, my influential films mean a mix of horror, science-fiction, fantasy, surrealism, and comedy. I love watching an amalgamation of films instead of being so specific. It helps my imagination kick into high gear to help me gain ideas. To quote my mother: "Turn the sound down! I’ve heard that dinosaur roar 15 times this week!"
How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?
COVID affected filmmaking greatly. So many productions got halted by it, and even student films, including my thesis, were heavily impacted. People got COVID before filming, constantly having to check people’s temperatures, getting new crew or cast members on the fly, and being in a super tight house made it extremely difficult to film.
But since many mandates have lifted, independent filmmakers can make truly dynamic films again -- from short films on YouTube to features. A great example is Skinamarink.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?
Don’t strive for perfection! Allow yourself to fail. Never be afraid of failure. For a long time, I strived for perfection, which consistently turned into failure. Failure is a powerful lesson that can bring you down, but once you learn from it -- you'll be great.
Write what you know, and try writing what you don’t know. Even if it doesn’t make a lick of sense, write it or film it!
Learn to do everything. Figure out what you can and can't do.
Watch good and bad movies. You will learn a great deal from both. Too many film schools or YouTube analysts tell you never to watch bad movies. Ado Kyrou once said, “I beseech you, learn to see the ‘bad’ movies, they are sometimes sublime.”
Do yourself a favor and watch a double feature of Citizen Kane, and The Room, you will learn a LOT.
Finally, drink a lot of coffee!
Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?
1,000% they can -- films are the most accessible means of art, and so many people can take something different from them. What romance is, what adventure is, what horror is, etc. They change the zeitgeist and can say things that we cannot.
What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?
People still love blockbusters, dramas, and made-for-TV Christmas films. I don't think much has changed in that regard. But in terms of what kind of blockbuster or drama, if you look at the box office or award nominations, people loved films like Avatar: The Way of Water, The Whale, Everything Everywhere all at Once, and Top Gun: Maverick. To see such a change to more diverse films is incredible, and seeing that people still want to go to the theater brings joy to my heart.
Please tell us about your upcoming projects.
Currently, I am in pre-production for a short film called: Cosmic Coffee.
It’s a sci-fi horror comedy about a man who refuses to sell his coffee shop to corporate suits. But the man has a heart attack, and then his lazy son makes a deal with the corporation, unaware of their otherworldly agenda.
It lands the themes I love. Plus it's funny, exciting, and terrifying in all the right ways. Also, this is the first time I didn't write the script! I am directing, co-producing, and executive producing the film. My team and I have a wonderful cast. But we are still building a crew and budget.
However, I am really excited about interpreting and depicting this script. Bringing it into reality is challenging, fascinating, and frightening.
I love it.
Further down the line, I have plans for other shorts and a potential feature film.
Also, if I may, I would like to reflect on something I have learned in my filmmaking journey thus far: Belief in yourself will make you prevail in your dreams.