Justin R.Romine with Heather Dorff
photo by Shane Smith
First of all, why don't you introduce yourself to those of us who
don't already know you?
Sure Mike, I'd be glad to. My name is Justin Romine and I am a
storyteller. I say that because filmmaking is not my only talent. I consider myself a bit of an accomplished writer aside from as a
screenwriter. I've worked the past 13 years or so in the television
world and as a journalist. I have also had two book published.
I consider myself a storyteller; I'm also a songwriter/musician, and
an abstract painter. I didn't say I was a good songwriter or
painter, but I find I constantly crave an outlet. Sometimes I may
not be up to writing a screenplay, but maybe I can paint something. I've
trained to work in the television broadcast field and as a filmmaker.
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Film from The University of Nevada.
I was fortunate to train under some of the best in the industry. I've
worked with the late Tony Curtis - a beautiful person -, television writing
veteran Sean Clark, who has penned scripts on anything from Coach
Sliders to Northern Exposure as well as writing the bulk of Chicago's own
Early Edition, and I also trained under horror legend David Schmoeller who
directed the cult classic, Puppetmaster. I was also fortunate
enough to work with actor Bill Fagerbaake who is most well known for his
role as Dober in Coach and as Patrick Starfish in the animated world of
Spongbob Squarepants. I also have trained under numerous other
extremely talented artists.
Ron Fitzgerald, Kelsey Zukowski
You have only recently made the
vampire-short Afraid of Sunrise. In a few words, what is it about?
of Sunrise is about the power and corruption of the government over the
second class citizens. It takes place in the near future and the
second class citizens just happen to be vampires.
Yes it's a vampire movie. No our vampires do not sparkle and talk about
their feelings. Our vampires are vicious and oppressed and will kill you
in an instant for the fresh blood in your body. The government
controls and sanctions the blood to the vampires, who have been
microchipped so they can be tracked. Some vampires slip through the
cracks and escape the vampire ghetto, thankfully there are still vampire
hunters who still clean the streets. It can be considered a horror
vampire conspiracy thriller.
Schatner [Andy Schatner interview -
click here] does not only play the lead in Afraid of Sunrise, he has
also produced and written it. What can you tell us about the man, and how
did the collaboration come together?
Afraid of Sunrise is
the fourth time now that I have directed Andy. On our first project, Dwelling, a short which I wrote and directed, Andy played the lead. We had a great experience together. Immediately after we
wrapped shooting Andy told me about Afraid of Sunrise. Once I read the
script, I was in wholeheartedly. The idea for Afraid of Sunrise was
to make the short film because Andy also has a feature length script
called Afraid of Sunlight, which we want to do badly. That film
is way more elaborate, a different story line, different characters.
It also will have a very large budget attached to it. Our hope
was to shop the short around as sort of a commercial for the feature film.
The only problem is that Afraid of Sunrise sprouted its own wings
and has just taken off. The film is no longer likely to be a short,
but more of a feature as the run time may be an hour plus at this point.
We had originally wanted to do a 20-30 minute short.
with Tom Lodewyck and Deneen Melody
A few words about
the rest of the film's cast and crew?
The cast and crew of
this film are all amazing people. Of course the collaboration of
Andy, cinematographer Don Ford, and myself has lent this film a very
unique vision and feel. Our cast included the uber talented Tom
Lodewyck (Incest Death Squad 1 and 2, Blue Lines [Tom
Lodewyck interview - click here]), Deneen Melody
[Deneen Melody interview -
click here], who has
become quite the scream queen as of late, keep your eye out for this
amazing actress, and Heather Dorff [Heather
Dorff interview - click here], who is a great actress as well. Everybody
who worked on this film, Mike, from the production assistants to the
extras, have been top notch and very professional. I wish I could
work these people on a more regular basis, in fact, some of them I am
working with on another project.
Ron Fitzgerald, Kelsey Zukowski
With Afraid of
Sunrise being a vampire movie: Do you harbour a special love for the
genre, and your favourite (and perhaps also least favourite) vampire
Bela Lugosi's Dracula and even the much older
vampire movies hold a special place in my heart. My favorite genre
is horror and Afraid of Sunrise is also a horror film as much as it is a
vampire movie. But see, I love the darker, older vampires. During
the shooting of Afraid of Sunrise we tried to make it as dark and as
bloody as possible. I'm beckoning back to the vampires of yore, not
teenybopper vampires. My favorite vampire films are the
original Nosferatu and
Bram Stoker's Dracula, both the book and the
Coppola directed film. My least favorite are the Twilight-series.
Way too tame and lovey dovey. If vampires were real, they
would be ruthless killers with no remorse. Our tagline throughout
the whole film has been "Our vampires don't sparkle", a dig into
The 64-Dollar-question: When and where will the
film be out?
You're asking the wrong guy the answer to that
question. I'm just as excited to see the finished product as
everyone else. It is currently in post production. It's being
edited, scored, color corrected, sound work and so on. Not only does
post production take quite a bit of time but it usually also requires
money. We're still raising finishing funds so we can pay the people
who deserve to be paid. The film will be out this spring (I'm
guessing March/April). We plan to hold a couple private screening
for investors and other interested parties, but will also be submitting to
a lot of film festivals and horror conventions. Keep an eye out this
spring for Afraid of Sunrise screenings. There will certainly be
screenings in Chicago, count on that!
You have also recently finished the short Recidivism.
A few words about that one?
We shot Recidivism just before
Afraid of Sunrise. Andy Schatner [Andy
Schatner interview - click
here] also stars in that film as the
brother to a recently paroled murderer, Tanner. Tanner now has to
adapt to a technologically advanced society which he has never had to
deal with while being in prison. Tanner starts to learn things like
social networking and then begins stalking victims online. His
brother is the only one who can stop him. It's a great little film.
It's still being edited but I'm expecting that to be done in the
next month or so. I love this film particularly because I was able
to shoot at Joliet Prison, where they shot a lot of films including the
classic Blues Brothers. Director of Photography Don Ford and I both
sported our Raybans and fedora hats while shooting that scene and there's
Together with Keith Romine
(your cousin, I feel obliged to point out, in case anyone wonders) you are
also working on the webseries Cracked. What is that one going to be
Cracked is going to give Keith and I an opportunity
be be kids again. We're still writing episodes, but basically it's
going to be a short, comedy web-series with some very sick and twisted
humor. I think I actually will be playing the part of Miles, a
stuffed animal (we haven't found a large one to use yet) and Keith plays
the lead. Miles is sort of a voice in Keith's head. The
web-series will premiere on our website www.fatheadfilms.net and we hope
to produce at least one episode a week.
A few words about some other shorts you have
directed, in no particular order:
is the first film in which I worked with Andy Schatner. Dwelling was
a short script I wrote involving a couple and an affair. Geo had an
affair and is trying to end it. The girl Jo, stalks Geo and his
girlfriend. At one point she attacks Geo's girlfriend. The
film hits a few raw nerves for some people and it's about someone who made
a mistake that haunts him so much that he eventually has to do something
Rawhide Stagecoach Robbery of 1908?
The Western is my
second favorite genre. I found a horse a couple great actors and
shot a western, though it fast forwards to modern day. This was
actually a project for one of my film classes. I decided to go crazy
and make a western (I was a bit more advanced than most of my classmates).
I actually got to ride a horse and play a role in the film as a
cowboy! How cool is that? A dream come true, I'll tell you
that. That film was filmed just outside Las Vegas, Nevada.
Just Dropped In was something I did to cure some
boredom. I shot video of my record player, at various angles,
playing the song Just Dropped In (to see what condition my condition is
in) by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. I also shot a burning
cigarette. With the song playing, I cut together shots of the record
spinning and the cigarette burning at different speeds. It was fun,
gave me something to do and not only is it a damn fine song but I think
it's a hell of a video.
Death is actually the first film I directed (other than when I was a kid
making crappy movies with my black and white video camera). I wrote
and directed that film as well, that stars my cousin Keith and an old
friend Mike. The film is a bit of a mystery. One of the guys
has a briefcase, the other wants it. Both are willing to kill for
what's inside, but we never find out what's inside. Not a bad effort
for my first outting, was certainly a learning experience as every film
maddest film though was probably Tape:
The Musical, wouldn't you say? How did the whole concept come
Tape was actually part of a
48 Hour Film Festival.
For those unaware, 48 Hour Film Festivals give you exactly
that much time to write, shoot, edit and score a film. During the
competition your group is given genre, a character name, a line of dialog,
and a prop. You must then write your script and shoot it, making
sure you use the aforementioned. The film was just a creative
collaboration by all of us involved. That film is about a German
girl looking for acting gigs. She visits a talent agency only to
find some people would die for a role.
The travel-show pilot Weekend on Wings on
the other hand comes out of a completely different corner. What can you
tell us about that one?
I was approached by Las Vegas performer Doug Starks to help him put together
a travel show. Weekend on Wings, also considered WOW, would be a a
travel show for people on a budget. The show would highlight cheap
flights, hotel deals, and destinations. We shot the pilot at the
Valley of Fire, the oldest state park in Nevada. Doug's hope was to
be able to offer full trips for about 300 dollars a person.
The pilot is still being shopped around and we're hoping something happens.
It's been a few years though.
So far, you have restricted
yourself to directing shorts. Could you at all be tempted to eventually
make a feature film?
The goal, Mike, is to make a feature
film. Feature films cost a lot of money, so until you can come up
with that money, or until you can find a producer willing to put up some
money, you're kind of limited in your options. I will say that
FatHead Films is currently in preproduction on a few different feature
length scripts. I would also like to mention that Afraid of Sunrise
will be considered a feature, it originally was not intended for that but
as we added scenes for cast members, the script grew. And instead of
restricting the film, I decided, directionally, to let it unfold
naturally, which allowed us some breathing room. We didn't have to
rush any scenes, we shot every one of them perfectly and the movie has
become a feature, what I can I say? I'm extremely happy with what we
With Keith Romine, you run FatHead
Films. A few words about your company?
Well, Keith and
FatHead Films back in high school, many, many years ago. Till
Death was our first film and we continued writing scripts and shooting
video, learning our craft. Throughout college we stuck together and
produced films together (we both attended UNLV at the same time). We
both ended up back in our hometown and we are still pumping movies out.
How did you
get interested in filmmaking in the first place, and what can you tell us
about your time studying film?
My original interest in film
came at a very young age. I got lost in the stories of movies (even
if they were Disney movies). I loved how movies can clue the
audience in on something, yet the characters have no idea. This is
classic building suspense material but I loved how Hitchcock so carefully
crafted his movies. When I was about five I decided I wanted to tell
stories too, including through film and literature as well as other ways.
As far as studying film goes, it is a painless process if you love
movies as much as I do. We were taught HOW to watch movies and use
that knowledge in MAKING movies. It was a very valuable education.
I studied directors, cinematographers, producers, editors, and
actors. I learned how to watch the space on the screen, the framing,
the lighting, the performances, the cuts. It sounds very tedious and
it is, but it's important to know if you want to make movies. In
fact, I learned everything I could while I was in school. If you
know everything, you have a better chance getting into the industry than
if you just wanted to be come a director or an editor. That's how I
was taught, learn it, know it, and use it type of deal.
Besides making movies,
you have also written two books. A few words about them?
like I mentioned earlier, I consider myself a storyteller, even if it's
verbally, as a poet, or as a writer. The first book that was
published is called A Bard's Tale and it is a collection of
poetry inspired by Ireland (I have Irish, Native American, and Italian
heritage). My second book is called Short Stories for People
with Short Attention Spans. The stories are short, it was an
experiment on my part to tell well-crafted stories in just a few pages.
I think I did a pretty cool job and it's one of my favorite pieces
of work. It's fun.
who have influenced you?
My largest influences in writing
are James Joyce, Bram Stoker, Brendan Behan, and W.B. Yeats. Yes, I
am highly influenced by Irish writers. I am also largely influenced
by the writing of John Steinbeck, J.D. Salinger, Clive Barker, Cormac
McCarthy, and Ray Bradbury. I am also influenced strongly by the
songwriting of the Beatles, particularly John Lennon, Sir Paul, and George
Harrison. Ringo became a decent songwriter post Beatles.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
And since we are talking about
influences: Directors who inspire you?
There is a list of
influential directors of mine that spans a mile long. The more
important directors have been Orsen Welles, John Carpenter, Tarantino,
Robert Rodriguez, John Carpenter, the Coe- brothers, and Adam McKay.
I love a good comedy!
My top 5 movies are: Citizen Kane, Pulp
The Big Lebowski, American Beauty, and Halloween.
... and of course, movies you have really
Anything starring Keanu Reeves except the Bill
Your website, Facebook, whatever else?
out our website at www.fatheadfilms.net.
can find us on Facebook by looking for FatHead Films.
else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
like to everybody to check out the film What They Say. It's the next
film I'm directing. It's starring Heather Dorff [Heather
Dorff interview - click here] who is also producer
and writer of the project. It's a very dark film that deals with how
people cope with problems and inner demons. It's going to be a very
tense and dark film. Please check our website at http://whattheysayfilm.wordpress.com
for the interview!
Thank you, Mike, it was my pleasure. I hope it was
enjoyable and I hope we have some new fans!
stills from Afraid of Sunrise copyright by Curtis Clegg