Josh Whittall is a Canadian filmmaker and pop-culture fiend from Vancouver. In 2006 his first feature film, The Gutter Diaries, travelled the international film festival circuit, picking up numerous awards including "Best Director" at the New York Independent & Video Awards and Pumelo International Film Festival in Mumbai India. In 2008 he followed this up with his second feature film, Impulse, which was later retitled City of Vendettas.
In addition to making his own films Josh has also served as 2nd and 3rd assistant director on various films and television programs and has most recently turned his attention to creating and producing an upcoming graphic novel titled "Fate".
With the rise of independent micro-budget filmmaking over the last decade, Josh has been a champion of the format, proving to the bigger players that story, above all else, is key to making quality films. I have personally known Josh for 15 years and of the many filmmakers I know, he is absolutely one of the steeliest. Unperturbed by industry rules he pursues his visions until the product is in hand. I am VERY excited to see how his new graphic novel turns out and you will find an exclusive sneak peak below. It's my pleasure to introduce you to Josh Whittall...
Have you always had a passion for movies?
Yes. As the youngest of 3 it was great growing up in the 80's & 90's, my older brother and sister would rent the restricted films to watch with their friends before going out to parties. That was my chance to sneak in and watch Alien, Blade Runner, or First Blood alone. My parents were really cool to, they didn't really seem to overly care I was watching films like Robocop. From their position I was occupied, not messing up the house, and it gave them more time to conjure up punishments on my two older siblings for breaking curfew.
What was your favourite movie as a kid?
Really tough question. I think you go through your genres as a kid. I remember seeing Lion Heart and Blood Sport for the first time - instantly I wanted to see everything martial arts or with JCVD. Films like Revenge of the Ninja, American Ninja, and all the Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris flicks. Weekdays after school were spent kicking the shit out of friends on the trampoline acting out those films. But looking back, it has to be the SciFi movies of the 80's. they still hold up so well today.
When did you decide to pursue film making?
Funny but you largely played a part in that. When we first met in high school we got talking and I remember you telling me all about some night courses you were taking at the Vancouver film school. And this was really before film schools were so popular. I had never heard of anything like what you were doing. I was so fascinated with what you were doing. Of course we both had a love for films and it was shortly after graduation I got asked to attend an open house by a teacher that was looking to fill a roster for a film program at the local college. I was hooked after that.
Was it something your family supported?
They supported it but deep down I think they were worried I was getting into a very tough industry and the worry came from what all parents want and that's for their kids to have job security and be successful. I was very lucky to have parents that paid for my education in that regard, much gratitude to them for having to overcome the reality that I was not going down the traditional employment path.
How did you get into it?
How did I get into film school? I had to write an essay on why I wanted to be in the program. I was lucky, the film school I went to was only in its 2nd year so it was a bumpy ride.
You have made two low budget features. Can you tell us about those?
Very tough. You learn everything about people but more importantly yourself. How quickly can you adapt? How are your problem solving skills? How far can your patience go? How far are you willing to push your body mentally and physically when you have no idea what the payoff will be? It's a very hard lifestyle on so many levels. Trying to sustain a regular job to pay bills, a relationship, health, it's clearly not for everyone.
Micro-budget filmmaking has become a popular and viable way for people to get a start in the film biz. What piece of advice would you give to anyone wanting to get a start?
Start making shorts and little 30 second funny vids you can shoot out online to get noticed. It's important to get critiqued and to read and understand what people are saying. At the same time I think a never ending marriage between a filmmaker and the structure of STORY is so important. I relate what I learned with Aristotle's dialectic to everything I do creatively now.
What's been the most challenging aspect of making films?
Post. When you have no budget you're on other people's time.
Do you prefer writing or directing?
Writing. But directing is more interactive, which I really enjoy. I try and surround myself with people who are fun to be around but will push and challenge me creatively. When writing I am at war with my mind.
What are your thoughts on Canada's film industry?
I think it's still a work in progress. The crews are some of the most adaptable in the world when you factor in our weather and the talent is here. Trying to get funding however is very difficult.
Which film makers have influenced to your work?
Tarantino, Francois Ozon, Sam Peckinpah, David Cronenberg, Chris Nolan, Ridley Scott, Steven Soderbergh, Roger Corman, and Coppola just to start.
If there was one film in history that you would love to have directed, which would it be?
There's a novel by Elmore Leonard called Glitz, I'd love to make that film.
What are some of your favourite Australian movies?
The Proposition jumps to the top of the list, I loved that movie. Romper Stomper and Chopper both are sensational and come on, Mad Max.
What's your favourite genre?
Do you currently have any new projects on the go?
I'm currently taking a break from filmmaking to try another passion, graphic novels. I found an amazing Chilean artist Maria Barros and we're working on the 2nd issue to a series called FATE that I hope to have published early 2014.
What is FATE about?
It's a scifi saga about where we came from, where we are going, and ultimately what it means to be human.
Awaking alone to find himself in the middle of the woods on presumingly an unknown world in a full astronaut suit and a case of amnesia, Ryder, who's only memory is of his wife and daughter, struggles for answers. His only companion is an onboard computer called p.h.i.l. (Post Humanoid Intelligence Liaison) that appears to withhold vital information from him. Determined to get to his family and to uncover answers as to why this is happening, Ryder will learn he is a mere puppet who's strings are being pulled by the most powerful man on planet Earth known only as the Project Manager.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Prison! No just kidding but at a major comic-con signing my book and hopefully trying to squire financing to turn Fate into a film.
Josh, thanks for your time and keep it real, mate. Cant wait for FATE!
My pleasure homie, it was fun.