Joe Zaso : FGM Interview
INTERVIEW BY SLICK MATECHECK
This time around we’re talking to Joe Zaso, a filmmaker whose name you may not immediately recognize, but you probably know his face. Joe has starred in 5 Dead On A Crimson Canvas, Demonium and Nikos and is very active as a producer, writer and director. He is a very affable, knowledgeable guy and I enjoyed discussing all aspects of filmmaking with Joe, who clearly knows what he’s doing and enjoys the process. Make sure and visit Joe’s official site, www.cinemaimages.net and check out his DVDs!
FGM: I understand you’re a big horror fan and have been since you were a kid. When and how did your love of horror begin?
JZ: I have always admired the dark side of film. I was a child of the ‘70s, so for me the golden age of horror began mid-‘70s, into the ‘80s. I like old horror films as well, but the ones that honestly made an impression on me were movies like The Omen, Suspiria, Gremlins, Squirm, Carrie, The Exorcist, Dressed To Kill. In real life, I despise anger, violence, sickness, watching loved ones dying, aggression…but in film, it’s completely inviting. I remember arguing with my older brother that I wanted to watch Sesame Street when he wanted to watch Creature Feature horror movies…but oh what a difference a few years makes.
FGM: Do you have a very favorite horror flick?
JZ: The ones I mentioned above are my favorites, but definitely the ORIGINAL version of The Omen. It completely petrified me like no other movie ever did and has since when I saw it at the age of 7.
FGM: For someone who maybe isn’t familiar with your work, what should he or she check out first?
JZ: I would say Red Midnight, Rage Of The Werewolf and 5 Dead On The Crimson Canvas are good starters.
FGM: You do pretty much every aspect of filmmaking…acting, directing, producing, writing, even sound! What do you enjoy doing the most?
JZ: Acting and producing are my two main interests. Definitely not technicals as I have no talent for mechanical things. Producing is a job I’ve always done, mainly as the only way to get a project off the ground. I think I do it pretty well and I’m always learning more and more with each picture. But I began my career as an actor and I want to continue focusing on the craft of acting because it’s very fascinating. Life experience builds this craft indeed.
FGM: You’ve made movies in Italy. How does that compare to filming in the States?
JZ: It’s a lot of fun making movies in Italy because the crews are made up of so many interesting and passionate characters. I speak a fair amount of Italian and the crew usually speaks at least a little English, but it’s amazing how one almost needs no words to communicate. The language of filmmaking is clear to everyone. Plus, the cultural differences and the swapping of stories always makes the experience warm and fun. However, and many of my Italian friends openly admit this, the Italians do not have a knack for being organized. :)
FGM: You have your own production company, Cinema Images, that I understand you started as a junior in high school. How did you get that going as such a young age?
JZ: I loved the idea of making movies and with the family video camera (which was humongous back in the ‘80s), I began making movies. I would mimic the style of my favorite filmmakers with budgets of a few hundred dollars. Very, VERY primitive and amateurish, but the drive and the style was developing with each project. It wasn’t until I began to properly collaborate with college filmmaker classmates that my company’s efforts started to take off.
FGM: I know that Dario Argento is one of your favorite filmmakers. What is it about his films that you find particularly inspiring?
JZ: They have a certain flavor that has always inspired me. The combination of the deranged child-like and yet oddly cultured plots, music, editing, breathtaking camera work and beautiful faces and backdrops has always been unique to me, even though there are far more groundbreaking filmmakers. His cinema has never tired me.
FGM: You seem to have a do-it-yourself, indie approach to filmmaking. Are you interested in doing big studio flicks, or would you rather stick to your own thing?
JZ: Yes, I would love to do big studio flicks, but I’ve always done it the hard way and cheap way merely out of pure necessity. Financing is not always an easy thing to come by.
FGM: Living in New York, do you find it easier to be an independent filmmaker there than if you lived in LA?
JZ: New York was always more of a theater town and LA was always the TV/film arena. But these days, I’m convinced you can be an independent filmmaker in Parsippany, New Jersey as easily as you could in New York or LA.
FGM: What are you working on now? Is it something for your own company?
JZ: I’m working on two co-productions for my own company. One is Barricade-Welcome to Hell, which is a German-style Hills Have Eyes shocker being made in Germany for Timo Rose. I will act opposite the lovely Raine Brown (Woods Of Evil, Satan’s Playground) as we fight off a mutant family in the woods. The other project I will be doing in January is Darkness Surrounds Roberta, which is a giallo murder mystery which I will act in and co-produce for Giovanni Pianigiani (who directed an episode of Red Midnight for me).
FG: Since you seem to do it all, do you ever have a hand in the scores and soundtracks of your films? Are you a big music fan? If so, what do you listen to?
JZ: I listen to anything but country or rap. Mainly film scores, ‘70s and ‘80s pop music and classical music. Film scoring is the most fun part of making a movie. It’s the cherry on the cake, and so important. My favorite composers are Jerry Goldsmith, Pino Donaggio, Ennio Morricone and Goblin, and I try to get these composer’s styles into my films whenever possible.
FG: Being in such good shape, do you do a lot of your own stunts? Do you like doing that kind of thing?
JZ: Never had to do too many. Although I work out a lot, my athletic ability and interest ends at the gym.
FIT MUCH? DAMN!
FG: How do you feel about effects? I read something about you saying how awful the fake blood tasted on a flick. Do you find that part of filmmaking a task or do you enjoy it?
JZ: I admire special effects, but I hate having to do them and include them in film because they’re tedious, expensive and very hard to pull off convincingly on a budget. Plus, there are way too many of them in film these days. No more psychology or style is seen these days. And forget the overuse of CGI!!!
FG: Whenever I read anything about you, it’s in glowing terms. Fans talk about how sweet and down-to-earth you are and colleagues talk about how professional and easy to work with you are. Have you ever found it difficult to stay grounded in the crazy world of movie making?
JZ: I try to be the fiercely positive person I am. I despise arrogance, divas, rudeness, needlessly difficult people, huge egos…it’s hard enough to make films with extremely limited conditions. I will always accommodate my cast and crews as much as possible. I find there are a lot of bullshitters and politics even in the world of underground/indie filmmakers. A lot of snakes, liars and flakes to be found in all aspects of filmmaking. Keeping your cool can be tricky.