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An Interview with Joe Clarke, Director and Star of Alta Vista

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2021

Joe Clarke on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Alta Vista - in a few words, what is it about?


Alta Vista is about a screenwriter who moves from Iowa to Los Angeles after the death of his father, and his journey through the underbelly of Hollywood. It's a wild rollercoaster that puts viewers on a whirlwind experience that depicts the process of grieving in a raw manner that I hope connects with people in a positive way!


To what extent are the goings-on in Alta Vista based on your own experiences in the movie world, and is your protagonist Sam in any way based on you?


My father passed away in Oct. of 2017, and I used real emotions in the middle of processing that to create the film. Although it was not initially intended as that, the film slowly evolved around that processing.


(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Alta Vista?


My biggest inspriation was wanting to fulfill a dream of making a movie in Hollywood. I've always wanted to make movies there, and so this was a big bucket list item.


Alta Vista doesn't follow a strictly linear storyline and is rather associative in its approach, with bits of the surreal and absurd thrown in every now and again - now what cpuld you talk about your movie's narrative style for a bit, and how easy or hard was it to not (literally) lose the plot in the process?


It was just as fluid in the creation process. The story was completely different at its inception. In many ways, I've grown to resent the non-linear story if its unintetional, because it can easily expose the story for being incomplete or not thought through. However, I think the production quatilty by our crew members (specifically Ben Handler behind the camera, Alex Kachingwe's soundtrack, and Catie Stark and Sterling Lev's sound design), the raw emotion, and the commitment onscreen carries Alta Vista past these potential shortcomings.


Do talk about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand!


It was a very collabroative environment on set. I was in front of the screen for most of the movie, so I had to lean on the rest of the crew for help. I was taking direction from Ben Handler (sound operator), Karl White (sound operator), Mae Bartek (assistant director), and Tanika Vickers (co-star). Everyone felt comfortable with throwing ideas out, which created a very upbeat and energetic atmosphere.


You also play the lead in Alta Vista. Now as someone who usually doesn't even necessarily appear in front of the camera at all in his movies, what prompted you to take the lead role in this one? And have you written Sam with yourself in mind from the get-go, and what did you draw upon to bring him to life?


The film was origianlly designed for others in lead roles, and I was going to be a supporting role. I grew my hair and beard out for about 10 months. However, after the leads dropped out, we had to scramble and adjust on the fly. I took my favorite scenes from the orignal concept, and we started with a fresh screenplay.


What can you tell us about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?


We were lucky to have this particular cast and crew. It was a project that demanded a ton of commitment and dedication that spanned years. Everyone that was involved was commited from beginning to end.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


It was a very easy-going, fun, DIY style shoot. The hours were manageable, and the set was kept very lighthearted. We only shot between 6-8 hours a day. It felt like a backyard movie, and we were just a bunch of kids running around LA making a movie. It truly was a dream come true.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Alta Vista?


The feedback has been more impactful than all of our previous films. I've recieved powerful messages from people about how they could connect or relate to the film, and their own experiences dealing with personal issues. We had a successful film festival run throughout the year, winning awards around the world from Los Angeles to London, and have played in several cities around the country.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


We are currently in development on our next film! We are aiming to make a big jump across the board, and I'm exciting to see how it plays out.


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Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?




Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


The film is available to stream on Amazon, and I encourage everyone to see it!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD