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Continuing my interview with independent filmmaker Joseph
Christiana, creator of THE NIGHTMARE, begun here…
FANG: Did you ever want “in” to Fortress Hollywood, or do
you think the future is going to be about finding ways to subvert it?
CHRISTIANA: Well, I’d certainly be interested in working
with some sort of a budget. There’s something to be said for the creative
virtues of working within a certain set of constraints, but having even just a
little freedom could bring forth an energy that’s almost giddy in nature, an
energy that could be translated into something entirely fantastic.
That said, I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I
don’t have to make a sale to Hollywood in order to live. I can continue making
whatever type of films I want to without feeling compelled to compromise in any
significant way. It’s probably both a blessing and a curse. But I know that if
I somehow find myself within the walls of the castle, it’ll be on terms I’m
The thing is, through my day job as an industrial-design
creative director, I’ve learned how commerce interacts with artmaking on a very
intimate level, and I have resolved, somewhere along the line, to set my
tolerance for compromise very low when it comes to film. I have the luxury of
keeping something sacred in my life. And I’m grateful for that.
And of course, there are interesting films, subversive
films, being made within the system as well. If “the system” is defined internationally,
rather than just by Hollywood, the artists making these subversive films are
either foreign filmmakers, like Herzog, Haneke and von Trier, those who’ve
broken through the gates with more conventional modes of filmmaking, virtuosic
anomalies like Arnovsky and P.T. Anderson or moonlighters like Soderbergh.
In any case, the walls aren’t impenetrable. And there will
always be periods of rebellion against the system, this being one such period,
and some will be ushered inside because they’ve figured out ways to work around
the system. The strongest of the subversives will be able to continue being
subversive from the inside. Their will must be iron.
FANG: With content creation and delivery power moving more and more into the
hands of everyday people, what is the future as you see it for the industry?
Will the indies ever take it down, or will there be two systems?
CHRISTIANA: I’m no authority on this, but anyone watching
carefully would probably see that the film industry is on a very similar path as
the recording industry before it. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing,
necessarily. The music industry has suffered greatly, obviously, but music has
gotten better because of it, in my opinion. The music I’m talking about isn’t
in the mainstream, of course. And what’s happening now outside of that
mainstream, as far as I can tell, is that musicians are making music because
they want to make music, not because of the lures of fame and money. They’ve
actually become liberated from the tyranny of the industry, and the focus is
once again on the music. They might not be getting paid what they were when
they were being exploited—but it sounds to me like there’s a renaissance
quietly and diligently burgeoning just under the radar.
My guess is that there’ll be similar shiftings in the film
industry. Like the nonsense that still exists on mainstream radio, the
cineplexes will be filled with more and more nonsense as the studios squeeze
every last drop of blood out of the tried and tired formulae, but there will be
an increasing amount of good film out there for anybody to watch, or make, if
FANG: Many would argue that the reason we have studios and publishing houses
acting as gatekeepers is largely quality control. With millions of people out
there putting their work on the web, we kind of have to acknowledge that a lot
of it still isn’t of the caliber we’d like to see. Do you think this is an
adequate argument for the continued existence of a creative establishment that
curates everything for us, or
do you think it is time for something else?
CHRISTIANA: I think it’s a valid point that there’s more
shit out there because anyone can do it. But the notion of “studio as
quality-control gatekeeper” is laughable. At the upper echelons of the studio
system, somewhere, maybe, there are producers who are truly interested in
making good films. But my—admittedly limited—experience with the industry
almost entirely contradicts that notion. For example, over and over, for a
script that’s even firmly rooted in genre, I’ve had comments such as this:
“It’s very well-written, intelligent and elevated, but not commercial, so we’re
going to pass,” or—I shit you not, this is an exact quote from a producer—“It’s
too intelligent for what I’m looking to do.” This could just be my opinion, but
these don’t sound like people who are looking to make good films; they sound
like people looking to make a buck by churning out hackwork.
OK, disclaimer: There’s nothing wrong with making a buck. But making a buck means minimizing risk. And, as mentioned
above, that’s always in direct opposition to making a good film. Again, it’s
If we go back to the music industry again as a point of
reference, we see that the shifting trends have created new forms of curation.
It’s not the music producers and studios who are curating—and reducing the form
to their most simplistic, marketable common denominator—but indie Internet
radio, word of mouth, social media, etc. These things are all bringing
attention back to the music because the people doing the curating are more
interested in the music than all the other nonsense that the industry built and
came crumbling down around them. I still think there’s a long way to go to
perfect the filtering system, but the job’s been started.
I think similar things will happen with film. The festivals,
the good ones, will begin collecting and curating good films, using respective
unifying criteria. There will be word of mouth. The streaming-video sites will
get more selective to suit audiences hungry for something other than talking
With luck, the movie studios will shoot themselves in the
foot by becoming obsessively territorial about their “product,” shutting down
the on-line channels…which in turn will seek out well-produced content by outsiders.
If the programmers of those on-line channels are smart, they’ll seek innovative
material and not film-school-apes-Hollywood hackery. We’ll begin to see marked
changes in the form then. To that end, I think the notion of webisodes is ripe for
outsider innovation; it’s something I’m actively developing, actually. In any event, redefining the landscape is always painful,
but it usually signals good things on the horizon.
FANG: If pop culture keeps looking to the underground to get
ideas, what keeps really subversive ideas out? How do the best ideas always
seem to get co-opted, and what is it that you are trying to infect the pop
landscape with, if anything?
CHRISTIANA: Truly subversive ideas are impossible to market. Quasi-subversive ideas are perfect to market. They become
the “unique identities” a mallrat can pick off a shelf. I’m not sure I’m trying to infect anything. I’m just trying
to tell an interesting story the only way I can.
FANG: Who is the peer of yours who is out there making incredible stuff that
nobody really knows about?
CHRISTIANA: I collaborate with one of the guys who
contributes to this blog. His poetry is
unlike anything I’ve seen. It astounds me. Laurent Rochelle, a French musician who contributed a lot
of the music to MOTEL AMERICANA VOL. II. It blows my mind that this guy isn’t
widely known. When I listen to his stuff, I can close my eyes and I see movies.
Ron Muga. He is a dear friend of mine and an incredible indie-folk musician. We’ve
written hundreds of songs together.
FANG: What is the most important thing you want us to know about Joe
CHRISTIANA: He hopes you find his work amusing or
interesting, or both.
FANG: Do you have any advice for people reading this who have ideas and
ambitions and are struggling with where to start or finding the motivation to
CHRISTIANA: Personal trauma is a good place to start. So is
FANG: What are you currently working on?
CHRISTIANA: I’m working on a feature-length script about a
serial killer, the nature of self-deception and the hypocrisy of the
found-footage genre. I’ve just been invited to co-host a new horror podcast
with the team that created Planet Macabre. http://www.planetmacabre.com There
I’ll pitch a Kickstarter project involving the serial-killer movie mentioned
above. I’m also working on an animation about a little suburban girl and her
family’s efforts to keep up with the Joneses by feigning to have contracted the
Finally, I’m currently working on an interview for Dave Pace
of FANGORIA…just finished.
My thanks to Joseph Christiana for taking the time with us.
I assure you this is not the last we have seen or heard from him in this space.
Before I go, I really wanted to share one last thing I think the FANGORIA
Faithful will appreciate. I found it while looking for other indie movies to
feature here. It’s over eight minutes of old VHS horror-movie covers, and it is
oddly engrossing. There are movies you remember, movies you own, movies you
always wondered about at the video store but were too young to rent or even
look at too closely. There is a comforting nostalgia for the dying empires of
the neighborhood video-rental place and the movies that were mostly forbidden
to you. I’d sit down and watch all of these—the ones I haven’t seen, at
least—in some twisted marathon. It might kill me, but at least I’d get to see
what the hell STUFF STEPHANIE IN THE INCINERATOR is all about, and how exactly
you sustain that premise for 90 minutes.
Bloody Blogs -
Long Live the New Flesh
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