My buddy Charles and I talk through my writing process for Then There Was Joe. This is the second part of a two part episode, so you should probably go back and listen to part one first, if you haven't heard it.
And if you can name the tune I hum at the beginning, then you will immediately win my cinematic respect.
Last night was one of the greatest nights of my life. There was so much love and good energy in the room, you could feel it on the back of your neck. I sincerely want to thank the Arkansas Cinema Society for throwing an amazing premiere for Then There Was Joe and for every single person who came out and supported our film. The response has been amazing!
Thank you for joining us at the start of a life-long journey to put stories on screen that make people laugh, think, and heal. I’m stunned by the amount of talent my home state, and phenomenal our cast our crew.
I’m PROUD to be homegrown. (📷s by Jason Shivers)
Ahhh!!! We're SOLD OUT for Feb 3rd y'all!!! If you missed an opportunity for tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the waitlist!
If you want to know when our next "pop-up" screening is of Then There Was Joe, please click here to join our email list! You'll also get some fun behind the scenes videos instantly.
I'm humbled and grateful to the Arkansas Cinema Society for picking Then There Was Joe as the first film in their Homegrown series. I've never been more proud to represent my home state!
If you're in the Arkansas area, we'd love for you to come out! We're doing a panel discussion after the film along with an after party. It's gonna be a great night.
THEN THERE WAS JOE
Saturday, February 3, 2018 6:30 p.m.
The CALS Ron Robinson Theater
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 each and include the Screening, Conversation with the Filmmakers, and After Party.
Q&A Panel hosted by Matt DeCample
Come out and party with us!
A lot goes into a movie poster. Good ones are tough to get right and very, very easy to get wrong. Attempting to sum up a two hour movie, in just one single image, challenged us to better understand our own creation.
We’ve gone through more iterations of our poster than I’d care to admit. But much like the filmmaking process itself, every iteration (or straight up misfire) informs and builds upon the last, and has inched us closer to what we’re declaring to be our “official poster.”
Cool, huh!? I hope it grabs your attention and promises a fun, unpredictable adventure of sibling rivalry!
MISSTARTS, MULLIGANS AND DO OVERS
My first instinct for our poster design came to me early during the editing process while crafting an unusual scene in the second half of the movie. It’s one of those scenes that is difficult to “unsee.” So, I figured It would be wicked clever to reference that moment, all while attempting to communicate that this film is a comedy about an rule-breaking tough guy. I’m embarrassed to show you this, but here was my first initial mock-up I made over a year ago.
Yes, I’m well aware. If Adobe Photoshop were a school, I’d be a grown ass man reading at a first grade reading level. I’m actually embarrassed that mock-up has even seen the light of day, but what the hell.
At the time, it seemed like the best idea ever. So I hired our brilliant D.P. Charles Leisenring (who is also a brilliant graphic designer and animator) to create it for us. After a few days, he sent me this, which I, to this day, very much like.
I definitely wanted something that would make you do that dog-head-tilt-thing when you saw it, which I think this achieves. But as we began testing the poster on people unfamiliar with the film, we got some consistent, surprising responses.
“It looks like a movie about frat guy at Christmas who goes to jail”
Hmmm. Kinda. Minus the Christmas and the frat part.
So, we went back to the drawing board. At one point I thought it would be fun to do a family portrait, highlighting Joe as the “outsider” of the family. The photo itself, taken by the talented Rich Gordon, was awesome. But again, much like filmmaking, things that feel great while you’re shooting, don’t necessarily translate the way you thought they would. My wife bragged that she could knock the poster out on her off day. Although she'd never even seen photoshop, she was confident that a solid hour of online tutorials would give her all the skills she needed.
This is what she came up with.
OH MY SWEET LORD, GOD, NO. NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Is it obvious that I hate this with the fury of a thousand suns? My wife is the most amazing person on Earth, but she is no Photoshop prodigy.
And in a moment of despair, it hit me. At its core, the movie is about the journey of two related strangers who finally discover what it means to be brothers. The orange recalls prison jumpsuits, which is a connection you’d likely make after watching the film. I wanted it to feel like it was hand made. Made with love. Like our film. Then There Was Joe is a fun, wild adventure between two very different people. We pared it down to its essence. And I’m so very glad we did.
“Joe” is almost “done.” and will be “released" soon.
You may have noticed my liberal use of quotation marks. I've acquired a rather healthy dose of cynicism on this journey, which I try to keep contained. I've learned a hard, but beautiful lesson in life: You’re never actually “done”.
You scale the mountain. You’re full of hope, but midway up you’re parched and running on fumes, only to discover the mountain you just conquered was actually a tiny hill. The real mountain is ahead, with eleventy other mountains looming in the distance. But somehow, because you climbed the hill -- and survived -- you’ve become a teensy bit stronger. So, you hike up your big boy (and/or girl) pants and push ahead. Life is a never ending lesson in the art of perseverance. It’s the climb we’ve got to learn to enjoy. Because the destination is merely a concept. I’m learning to find joy in the grind.
Great news. Joe is sound mixed and picture locked. I literally just shipped the hard drive to our colorist. Please see my "happy face" below.
Wait, Justin, what’s a colorist? I can hear some asking. Let me explain. I’m about to get science-y.
Basically, when you shoot a movie digitally, usually the files look like they do on the left half of the video below.
See the one on the left? Not sexy. Digital cameras record that way because some person way smarter than everyone alive, figured out that recording a “flat” image maximizes the cameras “latitude” or ability to capture a wider range of light values. And then, a tiny army of determined digital ants inside the camera's sensors take that data and they...well...just I -- just trust me. You know. ‘Cause science. A colorist sprinkles magic on the movie and it looks well...like a movie.
(Only, it should look better than this video, ‘cause I did this on my computer in about fifteen minutes while sipping burnt coffee and murdering a cheesy gordita crunch.)
Fortunately, we’re working with some of the best colorists in the business over at WILDFIRE FINISHING. So even if you watch our movie and hate it, at least our little indie comedy is going to look really, really good.
Color should take about month. Hopefully there will be no delays, but hey, there has been a delay at every single step of this process, so I’ve given up telling people when the movie will be “done.” But we are SO. CLOSE.
The second I get the movie back, I’ll post a video of me partying like it’s 1999, only to stop mid hip-thrust, stunned by the next mountain to climb: Actually getting people to watch this damn thing. The thing I locked myself in my bedroom working on and stressing over for the last two years. Did you know I have gray armpit hair now? Thanks, Joe.
In other news, I recently got to actually SEE MY ACTUAL REAL LIVE ACTUAL BROTHER ACTUALLY IN PERSON. It was an event. I almost cried. It was literally the first time I’d seen him in the flesh in over six years.
He’s focused and working hard to get his life on track. He was so hyped about Then There Was Joe that we decided to film some behind the scenes stuff that we will share very soon.
Our next video diary features the "real" Joe and will be sent to our email list. To see it when it drops, and to view all our past episodes instantly, please click here and add your name. There will be laughter and perhaps some tears.
What’s crazy is that this film has essentially mirrored our family’s journey with my brother’s arrest. If you want to know the details of what happened specifically, you can read about it here. And FYI, me linking to this article is totally cool with Jamie. When the news broke, our family received literally hundreds of messages so...this whole thing is not a secret by any means.
When we went into production, Jamie went on the run. When we ran out of money during post-production (did I ever tell y’all that?) he went to prison. He was stuck in jail and I was stuck in post (totally not the same, but go with me here!). And when we finally got the money we needed to continue, Jamie was selected to be a part of a work release program, which allows him to live in a group home while he works a full time job, helping him transition back into socieity. When I finally saw him, Jamie -- and the movie -- had a clear path forward. And he is thriving. When my brother puts his mind to something, he can accomplish anything. Here is a letter that Jamie wrote, which the Arkansas Community of Corrections featured on their facebook page.
He gives me hope in the future.
I’ve always believed that movies can change lives. Fortunately, “Joe” has done nothing but bring our family closer together. I sincerely can’t wait to share it with you. Until then, please go hug someone and tell someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time that you love them. Life is too brief for grudges.
YEAH YEAH, BUT WHEN WILL JOE BE RELEASED?
We are planning the release right now. It's taking longer than expected to pull everything together, but it's looking like it will be early next year.
If you know of any place we should screen the movie, please click here to fill out our screening request form. These things require lots of lead time, so if you have any leads, please hit us!
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but the other day my iPhone vibrated while it was touching my coffee mug. The loudest, most otherworldy sound jolted the room. I squealed and unintentionally discharged teensy droplets of wee in my pants. For a moment, I thought judgement day was upon me.
Thankfully, it was just a text message from an unknown number. I usually delete those, but this one had an Arkansas area code. Leaning closer, I narrowed my eyes. Three words was all it took to know exactly who it was:
Whaddup Young Thang?
My mouth fell open. I had to read it three or four times just to be sure.
It was Jamie. My brother. The real Joe.
The guy who disappeared for three years. The guy who was supposed to make my first movie, Then There Was Joe, with me but skipped town and went on the lam because he was doing very illegal things. The guy who has more potential than anyone I know, but has only succeeded in leaving trails of broken hearts and promises. That guy.
But this time something was different. A split-second later he sent this photo:
He was clear-eyed. He was smiling. Beaming even. This is not normal ladies and gentlemen. Texting with the actual Jamie shares similar odds of successfully snapping a photo of Bigfoot taking a picture of Elvis. I weighed my options. Could my mini-poodle have slipped meth in my coffee? Did a government agent construct an extremely impressive, Oscar-worthy-Jamie-skin-suit? I assumed the texting would end there...but it continued.
I was finally talking to my big brother.
The back and forth felt effortless. It had a different energy this time -- one of someone finally aware of their mistakes and willing to put in the work to make things right. Despite all that’s happened, despite everything he’s done and hasn’t done, I found myself filled with gratitude. Thankful for that small moment.
In film school, a professor of mine said something that stuck with me: We tell stories to heal. I’ve carried bitterness about Jamie much longer than I’d care to admit. But something happened to me while I was making “Joe.” I learned the immense power of confronting something that hurts you and deciding to laugh through the pain. When used correctly, laughter is therapy you don’t have to pay for. A chuckle here, a knee-slap there, all chipped away at my resentment for Jamie, and opened me to perhaps our greatest avenue we have for healing -- forgiveness.
It stings when people you love let you down. And it totally jiu-jitsues the living shit out of your brain. When love and hate intertwine in equal parts, it rots you from the inside out. At least it did for me.
I’m very drawn to this picture of Jamie and me. It’s twenty-eight years old now. It represents potential. Of what could have been. Up until a few years ago, whenever I’d see it, I’d get sad: I’d ruled out the possibility of redemption.
But since we’ve been talking again, this picture has new context. Now, it fills me with hope. Can we begin again? Is it too late to say sorry? Too late to say I love you? I know now that as long as we are alive, right now, this very moment, we have the power to change our destiny. We can decide to point our ships toward the shore. Toward home.
So, nearly three decades later, not much has changed. I’m still that little kid sitting on my big brother’s lap. I still long for him to build legos with me and play NBA Jam. And despite what we’ve been through, I believe our future is bright. I believe in people’s capacity to change. We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s work that, for the first time in my life, I’m willing to do.
-Justin Warren, Writer/Director
I put together our third entry in the Video Diary series. In this episode, we take a look at the crazy journey called post-production sound, including a peek at an in-progress scene from the movie. I hope you enjoy it!
The most beautiful thing about making your first feature film is that you’re armed with perhaps the most incredible asset you only get once:
Full-on, unadulterated stupidity.
Sure, I’d been to film school. But clearly wasn’t prepared for this grueling marathon of cinema sausage-making, designed to slowly eat away and crush naive souls.
I shudder now, but at one point I actually muttered these words in the presence of other living, breathing humans:
“Nah, Bruh. It can’t be that hard.
If I could have coffee with my twenty-eight-year-old self, I’d wrap a warm arm around his neck, gently caress his face, and volunteer to google affordable neurosurgeons due to either deep, hidden brain damage or demonic possession.
The origins of Then There Was Joe began with a simple wish: To make a dramedy based on my turbulent relationship with my middle brother.
You see, my brother is a rather gifted individual. The Warren boys were instilled with strong, timeless values to be high-achieving individuals.
I decided go to film school to become the best film director I could be. My oldest brother decided to attend law school to be the best lawyer he could be. My middle brother decided to study the artistry of thug living to be the best criminal he could be. And he has truly mastered his craft. Our family has learned to laugh at that last part, because if we don’t, we’ll ugly cry and not stop for many, many moons.
With his blessing, I wrote a comedic speculation of what our life might have looked like if we spent more than a few minutes together. In 2015, we raised over $35,000 on kickstarter to shoot the film. You can look back at our pitch video here:
Here’s a news story that aired just after we wrapped principle photography.
We finally finished editing earlier this month. I'm thrilled with how it's turning out, and I can't wait to share it with you. To receive free behind the scenes videos, please put your name on our list.
And now we are beginning to craft the sound design, do the visual effects, line up a colorist to make it look all purdy. We’ll be finished with the film this summer.
-Justin Warren (Writer/Director)