Updated: Aug 21, 2022
KingWolf catches up with Director Joe Leone, to talk about his passion for film-making and what’s next for him career-wise.
1. What was your drive behind making films?
I am a writer first and foremost, and I simply love weaving a crafty tale. I wanted to see more of my screenplays come to life (as many have been in development purgatory for years), so I just picked up a camera and began shooting. That was in 2017, and we now have eight features completed, with several more in preproduction. I love telling bizarre, often supernatural, somewhat sardonic, and hopefully thought-provoking stories.
2. What was your first job as a filmmaker?
The first production I directed was Parched (a snarky take on water pollution and its harmful effects…) - the now found-footage classic (*he says grinning ironically). It was a blast to shoot - which spawned Parched Productions - and most of the same awesomely committed and talented actors are all still involved. Parched set the tone for our style: ultra low budget, but lots of heart, and always a message.
3. How do you develop a story?
It always begins with a small nugget of an idea. Then I mull it around for a while, see if it grows (spidery) legs, and then I immediately start thinking about the ending, as the top and the finale are the most crucial parts for me in a film. Some broad concepts I’ll just jot down, and sometimes even come back to them years later. This was the case with The Past is the Past, a story I recently finished about a queer girl who is haunted by her own past lives.
4. What are some of your favorite movies?
As mentioned, I’m fiercely drawn to the surreal, the irreverent, the poignant, and the eerily hilarious. My favorite film of all time is Being John Malkovich, which perfectly encapsulates all these elements. I love Fellini’s films, especially Le Notti di Cabiria (which I even have my characters discuss in Death Sentences). His style and subject matter was always about 50 years ahead of his time. And of course I love horror comedies, like Creepshow 1&2 and Fright Night. Plus the entire Stephen King cannon - the absolute master creepy storyteller (regardless of who directs his novels, they always come out pretty darn good, because of the source material).
5. What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received in your career?
I’ve heard this articulated in various forms over the years, but it’s always the same message, which was so perfectly crystallized in last season’s The Handmaid’s Tale: Illegitimis non carborundum. “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” As any form of artist or creator, you will inevitably receive rejection and repudiation, and (sometimes it even feels excessive) criticism and negativity. But if you believe in what you’re doing, just go for it - and never look back. If I can really reach even just one person with what I presenting to the world (by either entertaining them or inspiring them to really think), then all the heartache is worth it.
6. What do you think are the most important elements for a good film?
For me, it’s all about story. Everything else can be mediocre, but if the story grips me, I’m all in. That being said, certain magnetic actors are also film gold, and I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of these pure talents. Naturally, the mood, tone, score and soundtrack play a huge part too - and these are all elements I’m trying to heighten with each progressive shoot/edit.
7. What are the toughest aspects of making a film today?
I believe it’s the same dilemma since the first bit of celluloid was ever seared into life: finding money. Securing financing is always insanely difficult, whether is a super low budget film like mine, or a giant studio situation. It’s all relative, and the cash is universally key.
8. If you were not a filmmaker, what would you see yourself doing?
I’ve worked as a copywriter in the past, and the boring version of me could probably exist doing solely that …but I’d actually prefer to do something that helps humanity/the world in a more substantive way. I’m not smart enough to a doctor, or savvy enough to become an ethical politician, so maybe I’d just volunteer at a dog pound. I mean, who doesn’t love dogs?
9. Is there a film director that inspires you? If so, who and why?
There are quite a bit. Currently I love Jordan Peele, and everything he’s done for the horror genre, elevating it to new heights of social/racial awareness and creating utterly unique scares. In the past, I love the classic horror directors: Romero, Carpenter, and Cronenberg. And I’m a huge fan now of Julia Ducournau, who directed Raw and Titane. Love her cinematic eye and take on societal issues, and can’t wait to see what she creates next. Ooh la la.
Indie film supporters, check out Joe's latest Suspense/Thriller DEATH SENTENCES. Arabella, a young, blocked author sequesters herself in a remote cabin that her extended family owns. It is here that the ghost of her older cousin is now eager to strike up a deal with Arabella; "Find my killer and I will finish your novel."