It has been a little while since we've had a guest in The Green Room but we are back with a bang and Fusion royalty. It's my pleasure to welcome Joe Camareno who is an award winning, Director, Producer, Writer, Actor.... Possibly tea boy! The list goes on. Joe, thanks so much for joining us.
Such a pleasure to join you and our extended Fusion Family.
Now we know the entertainment industry has been impacted greatly over the last 18 months. Before we delve into your past, present and future projects tell me about your work as a Covid Compliance Officer across different films productions?
When the pandemic hit, I, like everyone else in the entertainment industry was left scratching my head thinking, “Now what?” After Los Angeles shut down that second week of March 2020, inevitably shuttering all of Hollywood film, television, commercial, and print production, I felt powerless. As an entertainment professional who makes a living as a producer, director, and sometimes actor, I needed to feel useful and in control of an uncontrollable situation. I started hearing of Covid Compliance Officers or as we call them for short, CCO’s. I did a quick Google search and then again on FB and found a group. I then found my way to a website offering a certificate of completion in being a CCO and the rest is history. I ended up answering a question in one of the CCO groups on FB and the producer sent me a private message and offered me a position. I had no idea what to even ask for as compensation, but he accepted what I asked for and I was able to find PPE in time for the shoot which was a week away. This was back in July of 2020. Since then, I have worked as a CCO on numerous commercials, print, short films, industrials, digital series, and mixed media productions. I was able to expand my business to include other CCO’s and sanitization and even rapid testing. For being a new position, it has really become a crucial step in keeping people safe and healthy, when the producer is open to following the rules. I’ve gotten to a point where I will turn down work with unscrupulous producers. I don’t have the patience for it, especially when they’re so openly negligent. That said, there are plenty of wonderful producers out there with the best intentions of keeping their cast and crew healthy.
I would have to say that my favorite jobs have been the smaller jobs with crew and casts of no more than 25 people. It is more manageable and easy to keep a tab on things versus the really big shoots that have over 50 people at any given time. On those productions, we would have a full crew of CCO’s and sanitization techs on hand to keep things clean and safe.
I guess you never imagined yourself in such a role but sometimes opportunities open themselves up in the strangest and most surreal ways. Have you still been able to balance creativity alongside your on set responsibilities?
It has been a challenge to stay creative during the pandemic, aside from the decreased amount of work, I think emotionally, it has taken a toll. For me, I know that I did sink into a bit of a funk that lasted from the summer of 2020 through January of 2021. I wasn’t;t until about mid-February that I started to feel like myself again. The creativity started to flow and I started writing again.
Now we met back at our last physical festival in London 2020. You joined us with the very funny Tin Holiday. I love the new artwork by the way. Tell me about this project and how the idea developed along the way?
Thank you for saying Tin Holiday is funny! The new artwork for the film came about because of a conversation with a sales rep for the film. They hated the artsy fartsy Saul Bass inspired artwork we originally had, and truth be told, it didn’t really say much about the film. It didn’t say comedy like the new artwork does. The new artwork was created just before our being featured at AFM, the American Film Market, in November 2019. We also screened and had a huge banner that was prominently displayed at AFM. The film was well received by audiences who caught the screening there for sales and then of course the world ended just about three or so months later so any traction we made was lost.
The film originally was conceived as a living room drama, but after speaking to a friend in London, who asked if there was a part for him, was when it turned into an international and slightly dark comedy. Kurt patino and I wrote the film in roughly six weeks, over lunch as we plotted out the next 15 to 20 pages. I did a quick polish and had an American group of actors read it out loud. I did another pass at writing all the while having auditions in London and then callbacks or recalls via Skype. Those were not so fun because I had to be up and ready for the “camera” at 5:00 am LA time. In all actuality, it was a lot fun. I’m so grateful to my London producers, Ajay Nayyar and Craig Connolly for their incredible support while we shot there.
You've been able to secure distribution for Tin Holiday across Amazon, how does it make you feel knowing your work is accessible by so many?!
Our distributor is Here Media and the deal covers the US and Canada. They will be placing the film on iTunes, VUDU GooglePlay, and of course on Amazon as you mentioned. It is also available on Here Media’s Here TV cable network, so we actually had our television premiere on May 14, 2021. The feeling I have in seeing my movie out there unavailable to a really large audience is just a bot overwhelming. I honestly cannot believe it. It has been an incredible trek to get to this place. Our original editor was let go after a year and a half. I had to wait another six months to work with the editor I originally wanted, then our sound took about a year and a half as well, and then we ran out of money! There were a few technical glitches which I won’t go into but they were expensive fixes. The costs contributed to more delays because I had to pay for them myself. The we got into our fist festival in Florida, OutShine Film Festival, the second largest LGBTQ film festival in the US. We were also up for several awards in that festival and won none! It was fine because just getting into the festival was redeeming in that all of the sacrifices and money paid was worth it. That first festival kinda set the ball rolling and contributed to our being picked up by Here Media.
As mentioned you wear a lot of hats in the industry. I love to find out about people's journeys. Where did it all start for you- what role came first and who inspired you?
I started as an actor and singer in musical theater first. I was in the 4th grade and played the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I ended up transferring to another school and continued exploring musical theater with the support of my favorite teacher, Ms. Stringos. She truly believed in me at a time when it was desperately needed. It served as an escape to life in general and being able to play on stage when I wasn’t so good at sports, made things easier for me growing up. That led to my getting accepted into the performing arts program at Hollywood High and then ending up in New York for a couple of years. So acting, singing and dance to start which naturally progressed to producing and writing for the stage then screen, and ultimately producing and directing film and episodic projects.
I expect in your thrill seeking mind there is many other projects being developed but I know most recently we showcased your short Patriots at one of our online events. What is the plan for this... Feature and this was a proof of concept?
Yes, and I am so very grateful! Thank you! Yes, Patriots it is a proof of concept in my mind, and will hopefully be a feature film. The short represents some of the highlights in that longer story, and I hope to revisit it one day and actually write it out. I would love to direct it of course.
Now let's get serious and find out your thoughts on some of the current content available to the masses. With the current pandemic and many being forced to stay at home- content on VOD and SVOD platforms is in high demand. Do you feel there is perhaps too much content for the sake of it and perhaps there's more substance over style?
I don’t think there could ever be too much content, but I do think there is a lot of bad content. I find myself scouring the streamers for anything interesting. There are a ton of copycat shows that are just awful. I have found myself not willing to watch more than one episode of something if it is terrible. I don’t need to because there is something else that could be and is better. I do admit that there are times when I find myself just watching documentary series because I can’t find anything interesting to my senses. There are plenty of stylized and high-concept shows and films but sometimes they’re just flat in the writing or acting. I think there was also a mad rush to acquire content that you end up seeing shows or series with dead pixels and weird glitches in them, specifically a lot of the lower budget and foreign market projects. That said, there are many wonderful shows from Spain, Norway, and Mexico that I have discovered and would have never been exposed to if it wasn’t for the streamers.
Where do you see the future of films going with so many big Hollywood Blockbusters being pushed back and back. Does this change the way the Hollywood game is played forever?
I think that there will always be a place for movie houses, yes, the landscape has changed and some people have upgraded their home entertainment systems, but there is nothing like going to a movie and sitting with a roomful of strangers and laughing out loud at something happening on the big screen or experiencing a jump scare in a horror film. I think that there are some people who probably will not come back to the cinema because they have found it easier to stay home with their families, but for the rest of us? I think that while the industry has changed, it has also adapted and has been forced to think outside the veritable theater box to find ways of luring people back to movies for the masses like with drive-ins. They have literally become a thing here in Los Angeles. The sound is also so much better since you are able to tune into the films sound via your car’s stereo.
A question I love to ask because it throws up lots of different responses. Budget is no issue, tell me what's the next film you're making. Who's the leading cast, brief synopsis and tagline if you have one that comes to mind?
My next film with no budget restrictions? That would have to be the musical film I am working on. I had the idea to write a movie musical back in 2004 or so and dusted it off and actually started writing. I am working with a lyricist who just graduated from Tisch School of the Arts with a Masters in Musical Theater. The show is very irreverent and a musical and features LGBTQ characters and it’s also a Christmas movie, so who would pass on that? My dream lead cast would have to be Idina Menzel, James Corden, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and John Gallagher and maybe Jonathan Groff.
The brief synopsis is a group of college friends meet up for Christmas six months after the death of Nick, one of their school mates. Nick was married to Eric. The reunion brings to the surface several unresolved issues of fidelity, love, and sexual identity. One of the women is trying to find her way through being a lesbian who is married to a man, while trying to be devout in her religious beliefs. Another couple of experimenting with being polyamorous, and then Eric, the widower who is is a New York Times Best Selling novelist, and suffering the worst writers block of his career. He doesn’t want to put himself out there despite the encouragement of his BFF, Sharon, the reason the group gets together for this long weekend int he first place. You know, light musical fair! Of course it is Christmas and not everything gets resolved, but it does leave a window of hope with a small bit of Christmas magic in the end.
You a pleasure as always and I hope you can get back to your full flow of Writer, Producer, Director & Actor very soon. You're now free to leave The Green Room.
Thank you so much for the opportunity! As always a pleasure to talk with you and I am so looking forward to seeing you and the res of the Fusion Family at an in-person festival soon. I do have a feature in post called Edith and Harvey, and it is my hope to have that feature finished by Spring of 2022.