As a member of Elijah Wood’s production company SpectreVision, writer/producer/director Josh C. Waller has been behind some of the most intriguing genre titles of the last few years. He’s helped produce films like Toad Road (2012), Cooties (2014), A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (also 2014), The Boy (2015) and the upcoming The Greasy Strangler. He’s also written/directed films like Raze (2014) and his latest film, Camino. I managed to grab him for a few minutes and get him to talk about working with Zoe Bell (star of both Raze & Camino), and some of his cinematic influences.
Gruesome Magazine: First off, let me congratulate you for the critical success your latest film, Camino, has garnered so far.
Josh C. Waller: Oh! I dunno, is it critically successful [laughing]?
GM: Absolutely it is! I’ve read nothing but great reviews for it. And that’s including the one in Gruesome Magazine that I wrote.
JCW: Then in that case, thank you! That makes me feel damned good.
GM: Camino is such a tonally different film from your first feature, Raze (2013). I was wondering what gave you the idea for it?
JCW: Raze wasn’t necessarily something that I would’ve normally gravitated toward, mainly because I didn’t grow up watching exploitation films. And lets be honest, the sub genre that Raze functions in is the women in prison sub genre, which is a sub genre that fits squarely in the exploitation genre. But when my friend, (Raze story writer) Kenny Gage, approached me with it, I gave it my two cents which were basically the idea that if we were going to do a women in prison film. I want to treat it like a men in prison film. If it was a men in prison film, you wouldn’t see their dicks hanging out, and you wouldn’t have them all turn to homosexuals right away either. Think about it, if it were a film about men fighting for their lives underground, it would be fucking brutal! So let’s do this film the same way, and let’s get some heavy hitters like Zoe Bell & Tracy Thoms and push them! Let’s give them the opportunity to be bad asses! Quite honestly, women aren’t always given that opportunity.
I came up with the idea for Camino while we were in Colombia shooting The Boy (2015). And my original idea had the main role played by a man, not a woman. I wanted to make a film with the main character being chased through the jungle – kind of like Rambo. But then I thought it might be potentially more interesting if it was a woman being chased rather than a man. And it was an opportunity for me to work with Zoe again. In my mind, as a director, it was a chance to show off how much she’s grown as an actor, y’know what I mean? In Raze, we were able to show off her physicality, her bad ass persona. Daniel (Noah. Scriptwriter of Camino) and I have been friends with Zoe for so long, we knew what her emotion range was as a person, outside of being an actor. She’s also very in touch with her emotions and her feminine side, and that’s just not something that everyone capitalizes on when they work with her. So with Camino, we didn’t want her to be a super human bad ass. Rather, we wanted to focus on her emotional side, and just take this woman who’s seen some fairly gnarly shit because of her profession (Ms. Bell plays a photojournalist in Camino), and put her in an extraordinary situation to see how she’d try to survive through it – without any Kung Fu or any of that shit.
GM: So you don’t think Zoe Bell has been used to the full extent of her talent in films that she’s appeared in that aren’t yours?
JCW: Absolutely not!
GM: That’s very interesting…
JCW: I say that with 100% confidence.
GM: She really is quite a talented actress, and it shows in this film. She isn’t just a woman who fights on top of automobiles screaming down the highway. She really blossoms as an actress here in Camino.
JCW: I’m so happy to hear you say that about her! The stunt stuff she does has always been second nature to her because she’s been training for it her entire life, it’s ingrained in her. Many years ago when we first met, she had just done Death Proof (2007), that was the only thing she had ever actually acted in at that point (Note: Ms. Bell had appeared in Billy Elliot 7 years earlier). The reason why I was such a fan of hers was because of what she’d done in that film. As Daniel and I became friends with her we realized, and Zoe will admit this, that she wanted to bring the same level of dedication and training and professionalism to her emotional life that she had brought to her professional life. She wanted to get it to a place where the two would be more evenly balanced, she wanted to fine tune those muscles. And I honestly believe that she gets better & better with every opportunity she gets. In my opinion, it you’re solely relying on Zoe Bell for her physical prowess you’re making a foolish, foolish mistake.
GM: I agree wholeheartedly. Was it intimidating for her to be acting against someone like Nacho Vigalondo, who has something of a reputation?
JCW: She was absolutely fantastic, and she did exactly what a good actor is supposed to do, which is to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances. She was reacting honestly to the situations she was placed in. As for Nacho, he isn’t what you’d call an actor by trade. He’s better known as a world class filmmaker (Vigalondo has directed segments of V/H/S Viral (2014), The ABC’s Of Death (2012) & The Profane Exhibit (2013). His latest feature, Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway is due for release this year). His mind is extraordinary, absolutely extraordinary, and Daniel & I have known him for years. We didn’t really write a character for him, we sort of wrote around Nacho and asked what if the charismatic Nacho Vigalondo was basically the exact same way he is in real life, but everything he says has evil intent? He really didn’t have to stretch too much to do this, he asked me “So what do you want me to do?“,and I told him “Just Be Yourself“, to which he replied “Wait, that’s really fucked up!“. And I said “Exactly!” [laughing].
GM: He was really great in Camino. Very unpredictable.
JCW: Zoe really loved working with him. They had a good time together, and they had real chemistry on camera as well, they had a lot of fun.
GM: You were quoted in one of the reviews I read as saying “What would Michael Mann do?” in certain situations while making this film. Can you elaborate? Are you a fan of his work, or did you think that this was the kind of film that he might’ve made in the past?
JCW: I don’t know that Camino is the kind of film that he’d gravitate to, but I am a major fan of his work. I think Heat (1995) is one of the greatest crime films ever made. I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen that film. William Friedkin is also a big favorite of mine, and tonally I would refer to his film Sorcerer (1977) while we were shooting. And that’s because it’s such a fucking awesome film! But I don’t think that a film like Camino is one that they’d gravitate towards. I would hope that either of them would like what I did, what Daniel & I have put together here with this film. Ultimately I feel like they were on my shoulders, and I’m constantly influenced by the people I respect. I’m influenced by Daniel Noah, why wouldn’t I be? He’s my best friend, and he’s gifted. I’m influenced by Zoe Bell and the choices she makes. I’m influenced by Nacho Vigalondo’s movies as well. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for Daniel and I as filmmakers to support other filmmakers through SpectreVision (Actor Elijah Wood’s production company), and watch these amazing auteur filmmakers do their thing, and just say “Wow! I never would’ve thought of that”. Like with what Ana Lily Amirpour did with A Girl Walks Home At Night, or with what Craig Macneill did with The Boy. You watch these filmmakers, and you just go “My God! The vision they possess!“, that’s inspiring too. I try to find it wherever I can, and I find it in a lot of things, but I especially find it in my peers.
GM: So what’s up next for you? I see mention of a film called I’m From The Future with your name on it.
JCW: Well, that’s actually the project that introduced Daniel, Elijah and myself years ago. And while it didn’t come to pass when we first met, it led to the creation of our company SpectreVision. There are a few things that I’m working on as a director, but the thing for me is to keep a balance between the films that we’re producing and the films I’m directing because we have a responsibility to the directors who are making these films, and they look to us for support. Let’s just say that I’m working on a few things, but nothing that I can go into much detail about right now.
GM: Understood. We’re all looking forward to a film SpectreVision is producing called The Greasy Strangler…
JCW: Oh man…prepare yourselves for that one! It’s so amazing!