Your new movie Johnny
- in a few words, what is it about?
is about the consequences of child abuse in adulthood and how
devastating that can be to the mind of the victim.
What were your
sources of inspiration when writing Johnny?
The story is inspired by true abusive events that I lived in my own
childhood. It was a terrible thing to go through as a child. Staring at
true innocence in flesh and bone (watching my son sleep with his blanket
in a cold night) was what pushed me to make the film because I thougth
ďHow can someone possibly hurt an innocent child?Ē I have artistic
inspirations as well, like Donnie Darko and
The Machinist just to name a
question, why a ventriloquist dummy?
The ventriloquist puppet reflects an escape or unlocked door (in
Floydís mind) for him to find the answers of his mental state. It
represents the pulling of the strings from the master puppeteer which is
Floyd. He is the puppeteer of his own mind. My film has a lot of subtext
including some numeric code that most people don't see at first because
its hidden in a subliminal way. Thatís the wonderful thing about this
film; when you watch it more than once, youíll discover new things.
Itís one of those films.
From what I've
read, you've built the ventriloquist dummy used in Johnny
yourself - so what can you tell us about its creation?
making the film, I built the ventriloquist dummy for a music video of a
song that I had made a couple years back where the beginning of
the song had a few words of dialogue that sounded like a puppet talking.
The music video was too complicated to make, but the ventriloquist
puppet I built was fascinating enough to make a film. Then one thing led
to the other.
doesn't exactly follow a strictly linear storyline and seems somewhat
associative in approach - so why is that, and how easy or hard was it not
to (literally) lose your plot in telling your story that way?
To me, the best films are the non-linear films that take you
back-and-forth and through different doors, eventually leading you to
the final door where the conclusion can be found (or not). A film is
just like a painting, you can have ten people standing in front of the
Mona Lisa and every single person will have their own interpretation.
Non-linear films are a little bit harder to make because you canít
lose track of the characterís path or goal. So it's more challenging in
can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at
My directional approach was a combination of a theatrical and
naturalistic style. It was a hybrid mise
en scŤne of those two. It worked out perfectly
and served as a balance to the disturbing subject. I used some classical
cinema techniques when selecting angles and transitions, and used vivid
color as an ironic approach despite the darkness of the characters
ecosystem in order to ease the tension a bit.
You also play the lead in
- so do talk about your character, what did you draw upon to bring him to
life? And have you written him with yourself in mind from the get-go?
Floyd is a troubled man who suffered an abusive childhood that led
to traumatic unhealable scars. Those traumatic events are devastating
enough for the character to hallucinate in a constant and tormenting
pool of confusion where his damaged mental equilibrium floats. All
this is based on true events. Floyd was not in my mind at first
because I was sort of hesitant to spill my personal bucket shit in the
can you tell us about the rest of Johnny's
cast, and why exactly these people?
I carefully selected each castmember for the role, and even though
it was really hard for me to cast people for such a disturbing script,
I would have not selected the actors if they didnít have some sort
of connection to the characters I had in mind. For instance, Gary had
to be intimidating, young Floyd had to look like Floyd, Henry Aldo had
to have that disaster scent to him, Josh - wellÖ he had to be just
like Josh the neighbor, and the Bus Stop Man had to be a completely
morphed version of Floyd with a creepy sort of lifeless look.
From what I've read,
it took you six and a half years to make this film - so what were some of
the main issues during production?
The reason why it took me that long to make the film is because it
was my first film, I had recently moved to California from the east,
so I had no equipment and no financing, because the subject was so
dark for a filmmakerĎs first that it was very difficult to gather
cast and crew, location issues, etc. Iím in a different boat right
now but Iím definitely not the first to have spent that long making
a film, as I have read, for example, it took Tarantino about eight
years to get his first film off the ground.
Do talk about the
shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
The on-set atmosphere was fun and relaxing, but the shoot and the
logistics of it were very difficult; in fact, Iíve never heard of a
film director that enjoys the filming process, itís very stressful,
complicated and a daily problem solving nightmare. But thatís not
why we do what we do. We do it for the end result, an immortalized
masterpiece with life of its own that can be enjoyed or hated by
generations to come, each with their own interpretation.
can tell us about audience and critical reception of Johnny?
This is a very interesting question because Iíve read and
watched many filmmaker interviews where they say that they just make
films for themselves and donít care about the audience, whoever
follows their work is welcomed, and it kinda just stops there. I
donít have that approach. I do think about the audience because
thatís the whole point of making a film; youíre not going to make
a film and lock yourself in a room and watch it by yourself forever.
You need the audience as part of the experience, you need to send a
message across. We are messengers as filmmakers, and we have a huge
responsibility to communicate one word across an ocean and reach as
many people as we can with that message. Itís early for me to
discern which kind of audience is going to gravitate towards Johnny,
but I am sure some people will love it and some people will hate it.
Those people that will love it will be identified with the story, the
cinematic approach, and with the characters. They will start to follow
my work like a film cult that identifies with its creator. I do
want them to know that I thought about them (the audience) every
single step of the journey. I want to give my audience a fascinating
and mysterious journey with clues and secrets. I want to challenge
their brain for two hours with hidden messages and numeric
calculations. I want to give them a strange ending that can be
interpreted differently by each viewer. I care deeply about my
audience. It's why I do what I do.
future projects you'd like to share?
I want to continue to explore the damaged human mind in
conjunction with the spiritual reasons behind it. I have amazing ideas
in the back burner, and the pencil has already touched the paper in one
of those, but I donít want to say anything about it right now. I
like being mysterious about whatís cooking in the oven, especially
because somebody could steal my ideas. An artist is the king of
thieves, and thereís a lot of artists out there right now.
From what I've
read, before getting into filmmaking you had a career as a recording
artist - so do talk about that for a bit?
I was a recording artist for many years and earned an audio
engineering degree from Full Sail University. This was the best thing
that couldíve happened to me in order to enhance my filmmaking
career. I said in another interview a while ago that every filmmaker
brings something to the table, something they were doing before films.
I can safely say that I bring really good sound because of my
background In audio engineering. Iím proud to say that my film
earned a Best Sound in a Feature Film award recently in a
festival in Chicago. Johnnyís soundtrack was written, composed,
recorded , engineered and performed by myself.
What got you
into making movies eventually, and did you receive any formal training on
As I said in another interview, I was born to be a filmmaker,
and I didnít even know it. All the audio engineering years were
just the fundamental preparation to the overall filmmaking, because
without sound a film is incomplete, or at least in this modern era.
Sound is a key element to the storytelling process. Iíve always
wanted to be an actor when I was a little kid, and my mom enrolled me
in acting classes at a very young age. I dreamt of being on the big
screen someday but I never imagined that I would be in my own film. As
I got older, I developed a much deeper interest for the filmmaking
process. I got my training from my own film. It's the best way to do
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Johnny?
is my first feature film, but it doesnít feel like that in
my heart. I feel like Iíve been doing this for a while in another
life prior to Johnny. I did a short film called
Pounding Echoes which
I then disintegrated and incorporated all the key pieces into Johnny.
I did promotional videos for other artists and a music video for
myself prior to the film. I studied photography for over 20 years, which is
also why my lighting and color looks decent in Johnny. All those
little pieces of the puzzle were needed to complement me as a
would you describe yourself as a director, and how as an actor?
I describe myself as a
director that pays a lot of attention to
detail, likes to put clues in the story for the audience to decipher
and lots of hidden messages. I like to play with the
audienceís mind and love stories based on true events. I like to be
very clear and concise with the messages Iím trying to deliver to
As an actor, I like to play difficult roles and love
characters that are mentally disturbed (without limiting to just that),
and of course I like physical transformation.
actors, whoever else who inspire you?
My biggest inspirations are: George
Lucas for his perseverance and vision with Star Wars, Alejandro GonzŠlez
IŮŠrritu for his impressive storytelling skills, Alfonso Cuarůn and
David Fincher for their outstanding broad range of technical skills,
Stanley Kubrick for his mastery in composition and elaborate
innuendos, David Lynch for his unique style and sound design
involvement, and Darren Aronofsky for his brilliant execution of dark
psychological subjects that often torment his characters. Paul Thomas
Anderson is also among my favorite directors.
like actors such as Christian Bale and Jared Leto for their physical
transformation. I like Robert De Niro and Joaquin Phoenix among
I like hundreds of films but I will mention only
few: Babel, Biutiful, Magnolia, The
Driver, The Predator,
Enemy, Mr Brooks, The
Shining, The Empire Strikes Back, Ghost, Sleeping With The
Enemy, The Elephant Man, etc.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
... and of course, films you really deplore?
There are tons of bad films. Too manyÖ this is an endless answer.
movie's website, social media, whatever else?
You can find me at Urbantunnelfilms.com and
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Johnny has transitions such as ďThree Hundred and Thirty Three
Minutes LaterĒ which are all numerical coding leading to the
same three digit number implemented in the entire film over and over
in a hidden way. For instance, ask Google how many hours are in 333
minutes. Try it!
for the interview!