Over the past decade, director Joe Lynch has poured his heart and soul in to each of his projects; something that has not lost on his growing legions of fans. For Lynch, films like ‘Wrong Turn 2’ and ‘The Knights of Badassdom,’ along with every project before them, were not only labors of love but amazing learning experiences that continue to influence his work and evolution as an artist. His latest film is a culmination of his love of influential action movies from the past and the lessons he has learned as a filmmaker on his journey as one of Hollywood’s most creatively diverse talents.
‘Everly’ is not your run-of-the-mill action flick. At Its core, the film is an intense action extravaganza that is not only clever and fun but technically impressive. Starring the eternally gorgeous Salma Hayek, the film focuses on a down-on-her-luck woman who is forced to fend off waves of assassins sent by her ex, a dangerous mob boss, while trying to save her estranged mother and daughter. To up the ante (and tantalize you a bit more), the film takes places it almost exclusively in one room, while Hayek dishes out heaping helpings of badassery in a flimsy nightgown. Whether it is the the thought of “‘Die Hard’ in a room” or a scantily clad Salma Hayek that does it for you; this is not a film to be missed!
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with director Joe Lynch to discuss his unique career, his evolution as a director and storyteller, the challenges of bringing ‘Everly’ to life, his upcoming project “Switch Culture” and much more!
What was it about the world of filmmaking that intrigued you early on and made you pursue it as a career?
Honestly, I think what really captured my imagination early on was the opportunity filmmaking process offered to delve into other worlds from the confines of the movie theater or from the comfort of your couch in your own home. I have been a fan of cinema from a very young age. Film had a big impact on me as a kid from the point where I would run down to the front to try and look behind the screen to see if I could see C-3PO, E.T. or whoever! [laughs] Movie magic was such a wonderful medium and I was always fascinated about how you could get into that as a career. I became interested in all the aspects of filmmaking. First, it was makeup effects, acting and writing. When I saw the remake of “The Blob” by Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell, I saw how the audience reacted to that movie. There are so many crazy twists and turns in that film! Immediately, I thought, “Alright. Whoever orchestrates all of this from the special effects to the cinematography to the actors to the story is amazing!” Putting all of that together with one clear vision but also being collaborative was something that got me so excited. That was the day I said, “I want to make movies!” So, thanks Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont!
Being a filmmaker is not the easiest road to go down. What has kept you focused and driven as you continue to move forward?
I think it was when I actually started doing stuff with it and seeing how I could create using all of these various tools. Those are the tools that are not just directing but also doing makeup effects, cinematography and editing. When I was a little kid, I used to put two VCRs together and start making movies and music that I loved. That would result in a weird hip-hop remix of the train scene from “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” set to A Tribe Called Quest or “Lucy In The Sky With DIamonds” set to the trip out scene in “Hardware.” All of these things were allowing me to be creative and do things I loved in a medium I loved but I also loved seeing people react to them. Whether they laughed or cried, it was those things that made me say, “I love this art! I love doing it in any capacity!” I think that helped because I wasn’t so strict on just being a director. Back then, I didn’t even know what a director did. until “The Blob.” Up until then, it was the love of being able to shoot something or put something in a scene, be it an actor in a scene, a pyrotechnic I made out of bromide and seltzer water to blow something up, a makeup effect or visuals effects like making UFOs out of tin cans. There was something so exciting about doing something that, ultimately, I saw all of my heroes doing at the time. That really inspired me! I figured if they could do it, so could I! Maybe that has been the blind gumption that has been keeping me going for so long! [laughs]
Looking back on your career so far, what do you consider your biggest evolution as an artist?
Wow! That is a good one! I think every single thing I have done and continue to do as a filmmaker is part of a learning process. I think that is an important way to view things as a filmmaker. No matter what the project is, big or small, opens on 1,000 screens or two people on YouTube, I think if you have the attitude of telling a story through this content – whether it is commercial, music video, a four season 10 episode arc on a TV show or a feature film – it is all part of this storytelling medium. Every single thing I have done from the short films I made as a little kid to the short films I made with my brothers to short films, music videos and commercials I made in college to doing every different thing you could do on a set through Troma, learning that discipline and applying it to the next thing has made a huge difference for me. Learning what I did through those experiences led to doing music videos for no money but led to me creating my own TV show on Fuse called “Uranium.” That show got me more music videos when I came out to Los Angeles. Those music videos got me “Wrong Turn 2,” which led to something else. You know what I mean? I have tried to keep my voice as uniquely mine as possible, within the confines of making content for a record label or a movie studio. “Wrong Turn 2” is a great example and is a project I am really proud of. I would say it is a good sequel, at least in heart, to the first movie but at the same time very much different than the original film. That is something I was really strict about and wanted to make sure it stood on its own. I am really proud of the fact that we got to do that within the studio system! I mean, oh my God, to cut an American idol in half and have the intro fall out of her vagina in a major release, that is pretty cool!
Because of the studio knowledge I got, it helped me get my next film. Being able to deal with ensemble actors really helped me with “Knights of Badassdom.” I wish I would have had more experience before making “Knights of Badassdom” because we all know how that kind of turned out! [laughs] With “Knights of Badassdom,” which was really my first independent feature film, I learned so many do’s and don’ts about indie film production and how to work in an indie realm or business model. That really helped when we were going out with “Everly,” with production, post and everything since. Everything that happened on “Knights of Badassdom” helped me figure out what to do and what not to do with “Everly.” One of the most important things, from a creative standpoint, was that you don’t have to make everyone happy. As the director, it’s very important that you are making yourself happy and have a clear goal and focus. Filmmaking is a collaborative process, of course, and it is good to make sure the actors, producers and everyone else are on the same page and driving toward the same goal. On “Knights,” I think I was more subservient to making sure that everybody was happy, including myself. With “Everly,” I was like, “Look. I appreciate everybody’s concerns. There are probably ways that we can make everybody happy but I am steering the ship at this point.” That might sound megalomaniacal, egotistical or too auteur theory-esque but there has to be a captain on the ship. Whether you think I steered it into stormy waters into clear sailing or steered it in the rocks is all objective.
Looking back on “Everly,” I am proud of all the hardships we went through to make it because it was not an easy movie to make. At the end of the day, I always walked away saying, “I know that I got something that I am really happy with and that I know is going to work.” I look back at and think, “I am so glad I fought that fight!” Or “I am so glad we stuck around and got one more take!” When you are making a movie, you are under the gun. In the past, going back to your original question, I was sometimes more focused on, let’s say on “Knights of Badassdom,” making my day so that I would look good in front of my producers and the production company as opposed to getting everything I wanted. When you are done with a film and in the edit, you are going to kick yourself if you don’t have a certain moment. You can never go back and get that moment! I didn’t really adhere to that as much as I wish I did. With “Everly,” thankfully, I had a really strong core team of people who were behind me, especially Steve Gainer, my DP, and Evan Schiff, my editor. They would say, “We might never be able to come back here again. Yeah, it’s pretty much guaranteed we aren’t coming back. If you want it, we’ve got to get it now.” You have to remember we also shot in continuity as well. If something blew up, there was no going back and putting it back in! [laughs] The thing I learned the most from “Knights of Badassdom” to “Everly” was to stick to your guns and be true to your vision. No one is going to watch this movie and go, “Wow! They really made their days on that one!” No one gives a shit about that! No one in the audience cares that I look good on paper for the producers because I made sure we got everything in the day. No one gives a shit about that! They just want to go on a wicked roller coaster ride!
As you mentioned you had a great team of people supporting you behind the scenes. Was it difficult to find the right mix of people to fill out the characters in front of the camera?
One of the things that was great about what we were setting out with was we always knew we wanted to be a sort of melting pot movie. We didn’t just want to fill it up with a bunch of scary white dudes or make it where every Asian person in the film is evil. We aren’t trying to stereotype too much and are playing with the archetypes of what these characters do in other movies. The second that we cast Salma Hayek, it became immediately clear that we could cast around the world and make this as diverse a cast as possible. In the world within this film, you have the Yakuza working in America. They have a satellite faction of their family working an import/export thing in America. Coupled with the fact that Selma is Mexican, we thought “Wow! We can really cast anyone we want!” The fact that we shot the film in Serbia helps give it more of an international feel because we are surrounded by all of these neighboring countries we can cast from including Bulgaria, Spain, London and so on. There was a wide ranging gamut of faces, creeds, races and sexes that really gives the movie a global feel in a way. That was slightly by design at first. Once we rounded out the cast, we thought it was great because everyone had a voice! It was like, “Cool! They aren’t just killing my people!” [laughs]
You talked about your most recent project, what you’ve learned and how you evolved. Where do you see yourself headed next?
Honestly, I just want to keep creating, no matter what the form is. I have done feature films, TV, commercials and music videos. I have even acted in a TV show for “Holliston.” I have tried to do it all! That is really what excites me, the unpredictability of where I will be telling a story next or what I will be doing to provide creative juices to the next project. Features are always exciting things but, at the same time, I have been wanting to do TV since the day that I first saw “The Sopranos.” When I saw that show for the first time, I remember saying, “OK, things are changing now. If they are able to produce something that is feature film quality on TV, that is where I want to go.” In that format, you can go much bigger and you don’t have to race through plot and character in 90 minutes. You get 6, 10 or 22 hours and that is really exciting as a storyteller to have those facilities and parameters to work with!
I am doing another feature called “Switch Culture.” It is definitely not what you would expect from me. It is more of a sci-fi/erotic thriller, if anything. That is the thing! I love jumping genres! Obviously, if you look at the three or four movies that I have done, yeah, there is the element of horror in them but I think that is something that comes from me almost inherently. “Wrong 2” is almost a horror/action film and “Knights of Badassdom” is an adventure/comedy/horror-esque kind of movie. “Everly” is more of a European action/thriller/exploitation movie. I am not looking to make my serious Oscar-based movie anytime soon and I love working in the genre business. I love that I can work and be in a forum that I can embrace these genre tropes and maybe play with something that is a little bit different in the genre.
Now, I feel I have done the action and the horror and I would love to try something new. The script for “Switch Culture” came along and it blew me away immediately! I knew immediately this was the next film I had to do! So, there’s that! There are also a couple of other things I can’t quite talk about yet. I know everybody says that but have nothing up their sleeves! [laughs] There is something coming up soon that might be really exciting and I am looking forward to that as well!
You have done some projects that were outside of the box. One of those projects was “Venom: Truth In Journalism.” Adi Shankar was the producer on that fan film and he made waves again recently with his “POWER/RANGERS” fan film. Have you been following the story and the copyright issues he has been running into along the way?
I have been reading all about it, of course! That was something we were really concerned about as well. When Adi and I first met, it was a general meeting and we ended up talking about how much we loved the movie “Man Bites Dog.” This was after he had done the first “The Punisher: Dirty Laundry” bootleg, which was something I really liked. I am a big fan of Phil Joanou. So, the fact that you had Thomas Jane playing The Punisher again and Phil Joanou together — I was in heaven! When Adi and I decided to do something with Venom, immediately I said, “How do you get away with this?” It is a matter of using fair-use as a guide but also not exploiting it. If you are careful you can do it. We never really say “Eddie Brock” in the film. We say “Eddie B.” Spoiler alert! When Venom shows his ugly fangs at the end, we don’t have the Spider-Man logo on him. We tried to steer clear from anything that was, from an iconography standpoint, way too close to the Marvel canon. Also, we found out later that another “Punisher” short someone had made, a fan film, had been taken down. The reason why was that those filmmakers directly used one of the storylines from the Marvel Universe, something that was published. We made our story completely unique and just happened to pop in a few characters and little nods to something that if you didn’t know who Venom was you might not even still know by the end. You might just say, “Holy Shit! Ryan Kwanten just turned into a huge black creature! What is going on here!”
It was a very slick and sly way to be able to get away with it. From what I heard, Kevin Spivey saw the movie and loved it. He apparently thought it was really cool. Like I said, we knew we were on a very precarious balance. I love Joseph Kahn and think he is one of the best visualists out there. I have been a fan of his since Korn’s “A.D.I.D.A.S” video he did for them in 1995. I have always been a fan of his! The fact that those two guys were doing a bootleg together had me so stoked! When I saw it, I wasn’t disappointed! It’s fuckin’ rad! I’m not the biggest Power Rangers fan because I didn’t grow up with it like a lot of people did but I saw it enough. Fun Fact! We actually had the Pink Ranger on “Everly.” The guy who played the Pink Ranger, the stunt performer, was our stunt coordinator on “Everly.” It’s kinda funny because on our call sheet, every day it said Pink Ranger, which I am sure he got a kick out of! [laughs] I thought “POWER/RANGERS” was really cool. Visually, it is an amazing piece of work. In terms of the whole copyright thing, yeah, it sucks. However, when you are dealing with properties like that which are very coveted by fans and an IP that a company owns, you have to be careful. I have seen the short twice. There are definitely things in it that from an IP standpoint that I can definitely see people getting pissed off about, especially since you are taking something that is beloved by kids and is still out there now. I have a 6 year old son who watches “Power Rangers.” Somehow, he found out about this short. I was like, “Great! What do you have a Twitter feed now?” [laughs] He found out about it and said, “I want to see that!” I said, “Yeah, there is no way you can see that.” There are a lot of parents who have to field showing this to their kids. You have to be responsible like that. Thankfully with “Venom,” that is a character that both young and old have loved. We made a movie that is so wildly divergent from the Marvel Universe and Remy Belvaux’s “Man Bites Dog” — two things that should have never come together but yet we did it. It is also a period piece, which should have never happened but somehow we made it work! With “POWER/RANGERS,” and this is just my personal opinion, but maybe there needed to be more divergence from the IP. Still, I watch it and I get such a kick out of it because Joseph Kahn just knows how to shoot it! Plus, you have James Van Der Beek and Katee Sackhoff playing the parts. It is exactly what it needs to be! It is fan film! It does everything that it needs to do! It just comes down to the fact if you piss off the wrong people, they piss right back on you! [laughs]
Thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to talk to us today, Joe. It is very much appreciated. We wish you continued success!
Thanks so much, Jason! I am glad we could make it happen! I appreciate the support! Talk to you soon.