Tell us about your background and when did you decide to become a filmmaker?
I’ve been making movies ever since I was a young child. However, I wasn’t raised in a family that went to the theater or to the movies. But I always pursued my passion for art and continued my path as a visual artist. I originally began my professional career as a Graphic Designer at a creative firm but never lost my desire to tell stories through film. I continued to make movies as a hobby whenever I could, until my official transition to directing in 2006. I haven't looked back since. I directing my first first feature in 2012.
Films that inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Television was a pivotal influence for me growing up. I loved anthology series like "Twilight Zone" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." They were a variety of short, potent movies that challenged my brain at every viewing. Always different and darkly intriguing. I learned to gravitate to those types of stories. But in 1978, when I went to the iconic Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood and saw SUPERMAN (Christopher Reeve) take flight on the big screen...I knew, knew, knew at that moment that I wanted to make movies the rest of my life. I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a part of creating movie magic to entertain and affect audiences in an emotional way. Films like THE THING, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, THE MATRIX, ALIEN, TRUE ROMANCE, RESERVOIR DOGS are films that excited and inspired me as a developing filmmaker finding his own voice.
Who is your biggest influence?
Growing up as a “TV Kid,” Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock most influenced me. But John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, The Coen Brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, Ridley & Tony Scott and Tarantino are my current heroes. Yes, I'm all over the place.
What were some of the challenges you had to face in making your films?
Budget was (and is) continually a challenge. It many times dictates the types of movies you can make and at what level. As technology developed, it became much easier to produce the stories and ideas in my head.
Do you have a favorite genre to work in? Why is it your favorite?
I tend to gravitate toward darker tales. My favorite is working in the Action/Horror/Suspense/Thriller genre. Wow, that's a mouthful.
What’s your all-time favorite movie and why?
I hate this question, because it is so difficult to answer. But if I only had one movie to watch over and over again, it would be between John Carpenter's, THE THING and Tony Scott's, TRUE ROMANCE. These films are wildly different, but both contain unique visuals, tone and style mixed with incredible actors and exciting storylines.
If you could work with anyone in the world, who would that person be?
At the moment, that would be Jason Blum at Blumhouse Productions. He is a powerhouse in producing high-quality micro-budget genre films. This is a world that I am familiar with. He also supports the creative visions of his directors - A rare quality, difficult to find in this town. I am currently developing my franchise passion project, a unique genre story that I know would be a great fit for that studio and all involved. Partnering up with him would be a dream-come-true.
Tell us something most people don't know about you.
I am Filipino/American and love vintage toys and playing paintball. Now you know the truth. I truly am a kid-at-heart-adrenaline-junkie.
The one person who has truly believed in you throughout your career.
The one person who has been my strongest supporter of my hopes and dreams throughout my career has been my wife. Making movies is a very difficult business with much of it outside of your control. I am very lucky to have a support system that truly believes in me, even through the toughest and leanest of times.
What was the most important lesson you had to learn as filmmaker?
I learned that you can't please everyone. It is a painful lesson and one that I continue to learn on a daily basis.
Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?
It's definitely more difficult to keep going. Anyone can pick up a camera and be creative. I encourage that. But at some point, we are faced with the realities of life and business. We do what you have to do to keep our dreams alive and survive. Sometimes, those choices pull us away from the very dream we were working so hard to pursue. For me, I worked on as many different types of projects with as many different people as I could. This broadened my creative circle while always keeping me tethered to my dreams.
What keeps you motivated?
Motivation comes from so many places. But I think I've always had an internal motivational machine to create. This desire to fulfill that creative need and my "I can do that" attitude is what keeps me going.
How has your style evolved?
My style has only been limited by my budget and equipment. I have an eclectic body of work and visually approach each film individually. My directorial style hasn't changed. But through the evolution of technology, new tools are now available to tell my story in a dynamic way. When I first started, I kept things very simple. I didn't have much of a choice. Today, more is possible and I enjoy pushing those visual boundaries to tell a compelling story.
On set, the most important thing is:
Safety is #1. After that, remembering to keep things FUN. Indie filmmaking can be a harrowing grind, especially when you have a limited schedule and budget. But I strive to keep perspective and remember that I have been given the opportunity to do what I love. That is a gift. Having a good attitude trickles down to my cast and crew. Hopefully, they are there doing what they love as well. There is enough make-believe and manufactured drama on set, I don't need it behind-the-scenes. I enjoy having fun and working with other happy people.
The project(s) you’re most proud of:
I am very proud of D-RAILED (2019), because it is one of the first films that I had a hand in writing. Audiences that understand and appreciate the twists and turns of this unusual genre-mashing-creature story really enjoy the film. LONELY BOY (2012) is an early indie drama that I directed that I love and am still very proud of. Not many people have seen it. No car chases, exciting shoot-outs or explosions. Produced on a shoestring budget, it's a simple L.A. story with strong emotional drama and fantastic acting performances. If you enjoy indie dramas like "Lars and the Real Girl" or "The Good Girl," you may enjoy it. Both films have special flavors and stories that linger after the closing credits. Pop some popcorn and check them out.
The most challenging project you worked on. And why?
D-RAILED. Every low-budget movie shoot has its own set of challenges. However, this ambitious film had multiple period elements, a real vintage train, a water-filled “wet” set physically angled at 25°, a practical creature, and a demanding night shoot schedule. But thanks to the passionate commitment and extraordinary talented cast and crew, we overcame these challenges together. Some things we hit, some we missed, but in the end, it all came together.
What are your short term and long term career goals?
My plans are to eventually fulfill my directorial passion project and continue toward making higher quality, bigger budget films. I would also love a shot at directing an episodic series if that opportunity ever arises.
Your next projects?
As I mentioned earlier, my genre passion project, "LULLABY" is currently in development as well as "TRIANGLE," a historic period piece is also in the creative hopper of things to come.
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