FILMMAKER ON NATIONAL TOUR AND PREMIERES LATEST FILM IN BEVERLY HILLS
HIT FILMMAKER SECURES NATIONAL DISTRIBUTION AND RELEASES NEW SERIES CONTENT
Joe Lujan is an American film producer, screenwriter, and film director. He is widely known for directing the sci-fi film The Immortal Wars. Lujan has also directed Rust and Atelophobia.
Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Joe Lujan, an American film producer, screenwriter, and director focused mainly in horror when he first started out. In 2014, his film, Rust, began as a short film. With no budget, he had his friends as his cast and shot the entire film in one day. Lujan screened the film at a number of film festivals and received overwhelming compliments and requests to see more. He then wrote and directed the feature film followed by its sequel, Ru2t.
In 2015, Lujan began writing an adaptation of an online comic book series. This adaption was a sci-fi/action tale of fictional characters, introducing a shared universe of all his feature films. He introduced "Trikalypse," a character that lead the story of the film known as The Immortal Wars, which has earned numerous awards from many film festivals such as “Best Sci-Fi Feature” and “Best Visual Effects”. The sequel, The Immortal Wars: Resurgence, released nationwide yesterday. The third and final installment will begin production in early 2020. This story has spread into a mini series called The Dawning and a published comic book series The Vanquishers.
We had quick moment to sit down and talk with Joe between his busy schedule and traveling on his press tour.
- Mary Swanson
NIE: Thank you for taking your time and having this interview with us. Congratulations on your upcoming LA premiere of your latest film, The Immortal Wars: Resurgence! What can you tell us about this project?
Joe Lujan: The Immortal Wars: Resurgence is the second installment in my trilogy. The film picks up at the exact scene the first left off. It’s sci-fi, action, and thriller all mixed in one. It's a story that focuses on good overpowering evil [and] fighting for freedom and equality. I wanted to, in some way or another, mirror the way the world is right now. In this chapter, the antagonist Eric Roberts, who plays Dominion Harvey, is now world leader and he will do whatever it takes to end his biggest threat, Trikalypse. In this film, I took on many hats as I do in all my projects. I am the writer, director, [and] editor. I also did all the VFX [and] designed the costumes and props. I like to have my hands in every element of my films.
NIE: We know you are on a national press tour for this film. Where else has the film premiered, and how do you the reactions differ in each area?
Joe Lujan: Yes, I am halfway through our press tour. The tour consists of screenings and special events such as books signings, comic cons, and horror cons. As for screenings, [the] film has been to El Paso, TX; Las Cruces, NM; Las Vegas, NV; and most recently, Los Angeles, CA. The reactions have been great and very different. There has been connections with certain elements of the film, from the costumes to the actors, [from] performances to the cinematography. We have received many great positive reactions.
NIE: So this is the next installment in your sci-fi trilogy, which is based off your comic book series, The Vanquishers. What can you tell us about your vision of the comic books compared to what you have done to convert them to screen? Is there parts left out that are not in the films? And was it always your intention to create the comic books to screen?
Joe Lujan: The comic book actually follows the events after The Immortal Wars. In the books, the main characters refer to an event called "Dominion's Battle" that happens years ago. "Dominion's Battle" is actually “The Immortal Wars”; in the books, we actually show [a] slight glimpse. I wanted the imaginations of the readers [to] take hold and create the wars themselves. Creating the films was always the plan. Funny story—the films actually came before the books. I had already completed the first Immortal Wars three months prior to releasing issue one of The Vanquishers.
NIE: When did the original idea for this comic book come to life, and why? Do you gravitate specifically to sci-fi?
Joe Lujan: The idea first started with one character, called "Trikalypse," back in 2009. I was attending college back in El Paso, Texas. I would sketch one image of this character, write a whole story to it, and post it online. It was my escape from all the studying and school work. Eventually, it was put in the back-burner when I focused on only filmmaking. I mainly focused on the horror genre, but I was asked by my producers and team if I had anything more family-friendly. I then went back and pulled out all that [I had] created and presented them with an entire universe, which included almost fifty characters at that time. At first, I was very scared. Sci-fi was new to me; I felt [more] comfortable with horror. But, as I've learned throughout the years, it’s the chances we make that determine what are strengths and weaknesses are. Soon, I was loving the sci-fi genre. I haven't done a horror film in almost four years.
NIE: We notice you have worked with Eric Roberts and Tom Sizemore. How was it working as an independent filmmaker with Hollywood actors? How did you get them to work on this low-budget production and ultimately cast them?
Joe Lujan: Eric and Tom were great. It wasn't really easy to get them on board at first. We went through a lot of meetings and phone calls to get everything settled, but eventually, we got them as well as Bill Oberst Jr. Once everything was locked in, that's when it hit me: I will be working with talent from Hollywood that have been in films I've been a fan of for years. I was very nervous the day of filming; I remember that morning I was sitting by myself and kept on telling myself, "Don't mess this up, you got this!" I was scared to meet them, but all that fear went away once I met them. They were nice and ready to get started.
NIE: What have your learned from the first film that has helped shape you for the sequel? And sequentially for the final part of the trilogy?
Joe Lujan: I have learned so much from both an artist perspective and the technical department. I’ll start with the most challenging lesson: I had to learn how to do VFX. My original VFX team got pulled into another project right when post-production was getting started on Immortal Wars. I had to figure out how to keep the film going. So I learned what I had to learn in VFX, which I also did for the sequel. Post-production was about a year and eight months for Immortal Wars. The eight months were for just VFX alone.
As an artist, I realized that the viewers were connecting with certain characters and scenes of the film; I used all that to rewrite and rethink scenes and characters for the sequel. The next installment will be the final one. I have rewritten the script about five times now just using everything I’ve learned from the first two.
NIE: What was your favorite part of the project? What have you learned specifically from each production that will help you in your continued profession?
Joe Lujan: My favorite part of each production has to be seeing my characters come to life [and] watching the cast and crew all come together to help me bring the universe to life. Nothing can beat that. Through both films, I have learned not to hold back on what story I want[ed] to tell. I learned that you can't make everyone happy, and not to let myself from those who want [to] ruin what we are creating and use it to benefit themselves.
NIE: Where did the desire to be in the film industry stem from?
Joe Lujan: I have always been fascinated with film. The first horror films I was allowed to watch were Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Since then, I was constantly drawn to horror films. I hadn't focused my life on film at that time. I was determined to set my education to be a veterinarian. I was on that path until 2002, when [that] all changed. I was obsessed with the video game Resident Evil. Me and my brother and sisters would play on a regular. When the film came out, my older sister snuck us out of school for a “doctor appointment”—she took us to go see the film. I was completely blown away with the film. When those roll credits began, I decided film was what I wanted to do. Since then, I dedicated my entire life to filmmaking.
NIE: What techniques do you use to write your characters versus acting as them? What position in the industry and what role have been the most challenging for you, and why?
Joe Lujan: I do have a specific way I do things. When I write my scripts, I actually handwrite them in composition books [and] also in a super diagram. It's more formatted as notes that end up creating a map of where my story goes. From there, I transition it on to a scriptwriting program.
As for acting, I do try very hard to bring these characters to life as close as possible, but I also like to give the cast the liberty to bring in elements they feel fits that character. I love to let the actors use their creativity and incorporate that to the story. If things don't seem to work, then I work with them to find a way to better the overall performance.
In this industry, every position has its challenges, which I feel is great. In a way, it helps those who want to pursue a career in the film industry figure out what department they really want to focus on. As for me, I have found that the editing process has really challenged me. Not in the sense of it being too hard, but more I dive very deep in to the overall editing process that, in a way, I lose myself. I know, it’s weird.
Learn more about Joe on his website at www.carcass-studios.com
- Mary Swanson