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Joe Castro

Joe: "As a Child, My hobbies were
fabricating dinosaurs".

Conducted by Phil Davies Brown
November 23rd, 2004

Joe Castro is a lot like me. Obsessed with the genre from a very young age, he was determined to make horror movies and now he's living that dream.

Joe is an inspiration to all of us, and I hope that this interview will help bring home the realities of the daily struggles of living and working in the horror genre.

In his most honest interview to date, Joe talks about everything from no budget filmmaking to those pesky critics, so read on and find inspiration and details on his latest movie, Jackhammer Massacre which is released today in the USA.

How old were you when you first got into horror movies and what was it that attracted you to the genre?
I was 7 years old when I watched my first horror/sci-fi movie. It was a Saturday afternoon and my father, Martin Castro Jr., sat me down in front of the television and told me to watch this specific movie. He said I would like it. He was right! It was Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (Hedora). When the movie ended I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up! I wanted to make Scary, Creepy, Sick, and Twisted movies with lots of special effects.

What were your hobbies when you were a child/teen?
As a Child, My hobbies were fabricating dinosaurs and other creatures out of paper Mache. I was also creating elaborate puppets and props by reading "How To" books from the library. As a teen, My parents had already bought me a VHS home video camera (this was 1982), So I was already creating masks and props and photographing them in my own home movies...I hope I get a chance to release some of these home movies to DVD some day so the rest of the world can see how warped I really was as a kid living on a goat ranch with a slaughterhouse in Helotes, Texas...I swear I think my ideas as a child were more morbid than some of the things I come up with today.

How did you go about breaking into the industry?
When I was 19, I moved from Helotes, TX to Los Angeles, CA to work on a film. When I got to LA the company that was making the film never got the financing and I started working at Universal Studios in the theme park as a janitor picking up cigarette buds. Eventually I met someone who needed my skills...cheap but effective make-up effects. That someone was Fred Olen Ray and the movie was "EVIL TOONS".

I heard that you won a competition and got to visit a studio? Is this correct?
When I was 15, I won a national make-up effects contest that was sponsored by Forrest J Ackerman's magazine Monsterland. The winner was picked by Joe Dante. I was flown out to LA from Helotes TX and got to meet Joe Dante and sit in his director's chair on the set of "INNERSPACE"... oh my God; I was such a rotten child! My parents and family have always provided for me everything I wanted to pursue my dreams.

How did you study your craft and prepare yourself for work in the low budget horror industry?
What the f#ck kind of question is that! (Phil I'm kidding.) Is there really a way to prepare yourself for this completely screwy, f#cked up life of a filmmaker/artist. To be criticized, judged, praised and mostly ridiculed on a daily basis by people who don't even know you and think that you are your work and not the kind person who helps out family, friends, and strangers in a time of need. As for my craft...I watch movies, lots of movies and pick them apart, trying to find out what I like about them and how can I do that. I also like to pray for inspiration...That always works.

Your first feature was the 1994 horror flick Ceremony. How did the project come about and did it take long to get it made?
I wrote the project with a friend in 1993 and it wasn't released until 1996. I consider the release date of any of my films the finish date because you have to continually work even after you have finished post production on your film to get it distributed, to make a profit. Then and only then do I consider my film a success.

Joe: "I also like to pray for inspiration...That always works".

Despite having a feature under your belt, you continued to do make up effects for other people's movies. Amongst other things, you did make up effects for 1997's excellent 'Campfire Tales' how did you get the job and was it fun to work on?
I was only a crew member of the make-up effects team...I did very little. The great guys of SOTA FX (Roy Knyrim and Jerry Maculuso) hired me. It was fun. I have a great Polaroid of one of the sets of my friend Mark Viallobos and I standing in the set we just drenched with blood for a shot.

The film had a great cast. Did you get a chance to hang out with any of the cast members?
I don't remember anything from that film really...I was doing so many little projects at that time. I was, and still am a hermit...Like right now here at home on the computer.

You also worked on Wishmaster 3 and 4 in 2001, which effects were you responsible for bringing to life?
I had the privilege of sculpting the Djinn's horns and helped fabricate the baby Djinn suits as well as some severed heads and other body parts...Mostly I molded a lot of the pieces working closely with Josh M. Logan who was supervising the construction of the main Djinn suit.

You then started to concentrate more on directing low budget horror movies. Terror Toons was a big success but is not out yet here in the UK, what can you tell us about the project?
First of all I can tell you that the sequel will be completed by Halloween 2004! Next...I love that little cheap movie so much....and finally that movie was made possible by my co-producer, Steven J. Escobar. He was singly responsible for the entire post production of that film.

You also just finished directing the sequel, is it similar to the first?
Yes and no. The production values are much higher because of a bigger budget (Yippee!) but I think the second film is much funnier and the effects are far superior to the first.

Which of the two is your favourite?
They are two different films. I think each film stands on its own...I can't pick a favorite, you know that. It would be like telling one child that I liked them over another...That would never happen.

What are some of the obstacles that you have had to overcome as an indie filmmaker?
That's an easy question...Criticism, disappointment, failure, and competition! It is a cut throat industry...Everyone seems to be so critical of everyone else’s work. I tend to just keep my mouth shut if I don't like someone else’s work. If I am asked if I like something and I don't, I just say that it is not the sort of film or project that I enjoy watching and that's that. I believe that you don't have the right to criticize someone else’s film unless you have made and sold one yourself, PERIOD! So for all those fools that are critical of other peoples films without doing the work yourself...your opinion doesn't count to the rest of us filmmakers, you need not speak...in other words...SHUT THE F#CK UP!

Joe: "expect some severe Jack
hammering scenes".

Your next three films Butchered, Maniacal and Near Death were all out in 2003. How long do you normally spend working on each of your projects?
I was only a hired gun on Butchered and Maniacal so I don't own those two movies. I probably spent a month and a half working on them. As for Near Death, I own that film along with Michael Kovacs of Slaughterhouse Cinema...we spent about a year getting that film prepared for its release.

I obviously know the constraints felt by filmmakers as I too am one, but what would you say to the critics that brand your films as trash and cheesy without justified explanations?
Well I think I explained myself pretty clearly before but again what ever happened to being professional? You have to remember these 3 things in order to determine if something should be said about someone else’s work. Is it kind? Is it true or just an opinion? And is it necessary to say it? If you don't have something constructive to say (constructive being the key word) then don't say it.

Would you like to add anything about the hardships of no budget filmmaking for the misinformed?
Yes, remember when you are being critical of a micro-budget project that it is really hard to make one, and it is even harder to get it distributed...I have been fortunate, in that I have been able to get distribution for all of my movies.

You often work with the same actors, is this because you have little time to spend casting, and you already know what they are capable of so you are guaranteed a good performance?
I like working with people who are fun and who are team players with no primadona attitudes...So if you see the same person in my film from one to the next it is because they are great to work and play with. It is all about the process for me.

What can you tell us about Blood Sisters?
I can tell you that I think "Blood Sisters" is a nice little film but not really what I enjoy making. I was just a hired director, and I would have never included all the nudity that is in the film.

Jackhammer Massacre is just about to be released in the US, what can we expect from the film?
The movie will be released Nov. 23, 2004. What can you expect...I know that expectations can lead to disappointment so I will just say that it is my best film to date, in terms of acting and drama. Lions Gate are distributing domestically. Oh yeah and you can expect some severe Jack hammering scenes if they haven't been cut for the "R" rating.

What will you be working on next?
I'm almost done with the second draft of my new feature. All I will say is that I wrote it with out the confines of low budget limitations, and that I hope it will be my sickest film ever.

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Joe.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."

Jackhammer Massacre is released today in the USA.
Find out more about the movie by clicking here.

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