Thursday, June 28, 2007
Interview with Filmmaker Joe Castro
Joe Castro is the creator/director/writer/producer and special FX artist for the recently released Terror Toons 2. He is well-known in the independent horror community as both a director and a special FX artist and has worked on films such as Terror Toons 1 and 2, Campfire Tales, Legend of the Chupacabra, The Jackhammer Massacre, Near Death, Wishmaster 3, Maniacal and many, many more.
We recently had the chance to chat with the enthusiastic and very genuine Joe Castro about his craft(s), his films and his upcoming appearance at the SiliCon Convention in San Jose, California.
Fatally Yours: Hi Joe and thanks so much for chatting with us! You’ve been a long-time horror fan since you were pretty young. What was your first experience with a horror film and how did it make you fall in love and pursue the genre?
Joe Castro: I grew up on a goat ranch in Helotes, TX…. Well when I was 7 years old, on a Saturday afternoon, my father, Martin Castro Jr., sat me down in front of the TV and said “watch this son…you’re gonna like this”. And he was right! It was Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster! My dad was so cool he truly knew what was good for me. Sadly, he passed away 10 years ago. Since that glorious Saturday afternoon I knew I wanted to work in the field of Film and Special Effects.
FY: Your father sounds like a great man! Has your family always been supportive of your film career?
JC: For the most part yes. I practically destroyed the living room floor, the front porch and the barn with my movie magic & SFX “antics”.
FY: What is something your family did that helped you to pursue your filmmaking dreams?
JC: When I was 12 (1982), my mother, who was a high school teacher and my father, who was a TX rancher bought me a state of the art JVC home video camcorder. It was the first of 2 cameras ever on the market offered to the public. On my parents modest income that was 2 months of their full paychecks.
FY: So, with that present in mind, what were your favorite pastimes growing up in Texas?
JC: Running around butt naked with other guys on my high school water polo team in the locker room. LOL! Well that and getting them to take their shirts off for me so I could photograph them and put them in my home splatter movies. These guys were very willing to take of their shirts so I had plenty of exposed flesh to put knarly wounds and gore make-up on for my extravagant death scenes. I have hours and hours of bizarre and fantastic home splatter movies that showcase this work well…we had a lot of innocent fun.
FY: That sounds hot… did you spend a lot of time testing out these kind of special FX?
JC: I spent ALL my time creating SFX.
FY: When did you decide to leave your Texas home and go to California to follow your dreams?
JC: When I was 19, a year after I graduated from high school, I was invited by a fellow pen pal and FX artist, Jerry Macaluso, to come to LA and work in the horror FX shop he had started with friends. So my high school friend, Chris Olivia and I packed a U-Haul and drove to Hollywood, CA. Three months later Chris moved home and I stayed in LA.
FY: Tell us a little about your first recollections about being in California and about your first big break.
JC: I don’t think I’ve had my “big” break yet. I’m still trying to achieve that actually. My partner and Executive Producer, Steven Escobar, tells me he feels my big break happened when I was young and won the national Monsterland magazine FX contest. Joe Dante picked the winner (ME) and I was flown to LA to meet and rub elbows with the who’s who of horror in Hollywood. This is how I first became introduced to Brinke Stevens who stars in Terror Toons 2.
FY: What a great experience! If I’m correct, you started doing special effects work before directing. What made you interested in trying your hand at directing?
JC: Well actually I started directing the same time I started doing FX because I truly feel my career started when my parents bought me the video camera. Fact: you can purchase one of my splatter home movies on the DVD released of Terror Toons 2.
FY: Yes, I loved that one of your first films, Blood Thirst, was available on the TT2 DVD! (More on that later!) If you had to choose between either directing or doing special FX work for the rest of your life, which one would you chose and why?
JC: That is a tough question actually. Do I have to decide right now? LOL! No really ummm…I can say that I would choose directing . Why? Because over the past few years I have moved into other genres of film that are quite gratifying; comedy, drama, melodrama…etc.
FY: Tell us how you came up with the “sick and silly” premise for TERROR TOONS!
JC: Terror Toons is a concept that was inspired by a wicked cartoon cat sticker that my friend Mark Villalobos and I saw on the back of a car while driving to a movie set just outside of LA.
FY: I have to tell you, I adored Terror Toons 2, but why did you decide to a second one?
JC: I created the sequel for Michael E. Kovacs. He loved the first Terror Toons and wanted to pay, Executive Produce, for a second one…so I jumped at the chance to do so. He spared no expense and even allowed us to film in his beautiful home…Thank you Michael!
FY: For the eager fans out there, the question is will there be a third Terror Toons?
JC: YES there will be a TERROR TOONS 3. We are shooting the first footage at the end on July 2007…get ready! It will be the most Sick and Silly of them all…promise! I can’t say right now but I have a huge star that has agreed to participate.
FY: Can you tell us about any other upcoming projects you have in the works?
JC: A comedy TV series and an apocalyptic horror epic. It’s a secret.
FY: We’ll keep it hush-hush! Out of your earlier films, is there one that stands out as being the most fun to work on or one you are most proud of?
JC: The original Terror Toons…because it involves so many of my close friends and The Jackhammer Massacre. I met some really talented peeps on both of these projects…but recently I directed a full blown comedy The Young The Gay and The Restless. I had way too much fun. So we will defiantly do that again.
FY: Your high school short film, Blood Thirst, that is included on the special features of Terror Toons 2, is amazing! It shows that at such a young age, you already had a good grasp of special effects. How did you achieve the effects in that film?
JC: Before I answer, I just want to take a moment and let you know that I am answering these questions, eating a bowl of cereal, listening to my favorite music, while sitting at a desk that was giving to me by my great friend Jerry Macaluso…and I am so grateful at this moment…for my life and I am deeply touched that you asked about this film. Thank you for the kindness and the kind words about Blood Thirst. I just got up from the desk and ran over to the living room floor, laid down on the carpet with our 2 dogs, Buster & Missy and kissed their tummies. I’m Looney! Okay I’m sane again. As a youngster, I used to watch movies on VHS over and over again, most of which were given to me by my awesome 3rd cousins Eddie and Ernest Perez. They were like almost 20 yrs. older than me and way cool. They are the older brothers I never had (so are Michael Kovacs, Jerry Macaluso and Roy Knyrim). They would take me to see all the “Dead” films and Italian Splatter epics on the big screen in downtown San Antonio, TX! I saw The Deadly Spawn at the movie theater called the Aztec 3; it was a gang infested downtown movie theater. Take a guess what the other film was on the bill: Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice. Ok, well I would dissect the scenes from these films shot by shot and re-create them. I would construct the props and execute the FX as best to my ability. That was my FX school. Self taught.
FY: That’s amazing and it’s so nice to see a filmmaker still enthusiastic about their earlier work! Fans will get a chance to meet you at the SiliCon convention in San Jose, California in October. How did you become involved with the convention and what do you have in store for us there?
JC: I contacted the festival via Myspace and asked to participate if there was room to promote Terror Toons 2. Also, I love doing make-up in public and they asked if I would participate in an FX panel…I plan on creating/applying FX make-up for a full scale Fulci Zombie for all at the convention to witness.
FY: Joe, it certainly was a pleasure talking with you and we look forward to seeing you at SiliCon!
JC: Likewise as well! I plan on having a great time and hope others will join in the freak’n’ fun as well!