In the second week of February, we received a screener of the feature film debut by New York-based filmmaker Joshua Reale. Hopefully, you not only read our review for Necropath, but took a chance on Reale’s debut film and streamed it. It’s a stellar debut from a filmmaker to watch.
We recently sat down with Joshua Reale to discuss his journey as a budding filmmaker and seeing his first feature film receiving worldwide distribution on digital streaming platforms. You can also watch the short version of Necropath, as part of Empire State of the Dead, a 2014 anthology film.
B&S: Many of the indie-streaming filmmakers we review at B&S About Movies are born from one of two camps: The first, courtesy of the accessibility of digital filmmaking, they’ve eschewed a traditional, film school educational queue and are self-made filmmakers. In the second camp, they were able to convince their parents to pay to send them to film school. Which one is Joshua Reale?
J.R: For film school-wise, I went to a couple trade schools, but nothing fancy. A lot of my filmmaking I learned — I went to this place in Boston that lasted for a couple of weeks — but most of my filmmaking that I learned was, ironically, from watching (the AMC series) Breaking Bad. And also working with my friend, Geoff Orlowksi, who also produced Necropath, as well; he came to my Halloween attraction and asked to shoot a scene for his independent film, The Vampire (2013). I just stood on the sidelines watching him because that’s something I always wanted to get into. I wrote scripts but never knew how to approach filmmaking. Watching him do his thing, I asked if he’d would like to meet up. So we met at a cafe and starting discussing film stuff and we made Necropath.
B&S: We had a recent sit down with writer-director Eric Eichelberger of Ghoul Scout Zombie Massacre and we came to learn that he made his first movie at 8 years old, out in the cornfields of Indiana. How old were you when you made your first movie and what was that first movie? Did you take photography or film classes in high school or were your film endeavors strictly extracurricular outside of school?
J.R: The first film I made, obviously, we made stuff when we were little kids, but the first stuff that counted was after high school, since my high school didn’t really didn’t offer anything — I graduated in 1999 — to do with filmmaking. Plus, living somewhere where filmmaking isn’t a big deal, like upstate New York; if you lived more on the West Coast they would probably offer stuff [in high school]. So, after high school, I started doing it on my own and just bought a camera and did the most you can do as an 18 year old with a camera.
B&S: But no cornfields — or any country fields, since you were in upstate New York — in your past?
J.R: No, I was in a more of an urban-kind of setting. I created a horror-icon character (Scag) when I got out of high school that I wanted to develop and I’ve been focused on making these short scripts; so we shot one and then we did another one. They were so low-budget; we just kind of winged it to just get into filmmaking, as our kind of practice.
B&S: In an interview, music producer Steve Albini, most notable to mainstream audiences for his work with Nirvana, discussed the issues with digital vs. analog recording. He explained, as result of the ever-changing digital realms creating software incompatibilities, he feels it’s best to record in an analog format for archival purposes, and then transfer those reels into a digital editing suite to create the final product. However, it seems the new guard of indie-digital filmmakers can’t work within the constraints of the tight shoots, with days laid out beforehand, working with less coverage, and finding crews that possess the extremely different skill sets to work with film stock vs. digital. What are your impressions and opinions on working in a digital format vs. working in 16 or 35 mm stocks? 35mm is, of course, more difficult to scan, but what about in terms of depth of field and lighting issues? What cameras were used in the making of Necropath?
J.R: We used the DSLR, the Mark III on our shoot. I used 16mm in one of my week-long film courses in New York City that had a 16mm class — and it’s a total pain. There’s a lot of limitations: you didn’t have the view finder, for one. But I guess that’s the beauty of using [a] 16mm [camera]: you get a whole different product in the end and the overall quality of film, after. But with the technology now, you can, basically, shoot something extremely well on a DSLR camera. We shot Necropath [on a DSLR] and I think it came out fantastic.
B&S: For Necropath, you eschewed a tradition music soundtrack for what’s best described, more as a subjective sound pallet of perpetual, atmospheric hums, screeches, buzzes, and distorted, disembodied voices, which, I assume, are to put the viewer inside the head of your chief antagonist, Scag. Then there’s those wailing emergency alert clarions throughout the film. If it was your intention to induce nausea in the viewer, it certainly worked on me. The first thought I had: Joshua O.D’d on New French Extreme films or, at the very least, is a fan of Gaspar Noé’s Irréversible.
J.R: As a far as the style of filmmaking that I did: it’s my first film, making Necropath. I just wanted to make a film the way I felt a movie should be made. It just got put together the way it did, in a very nontraditional way of making a movie, with our shots and style of the audio. You hit it right on the head when you said you felt like you were in the mind of the antagonist and what he feels. We achieved that with the audio and the droning in various scenes and made it more of an entrancing kind of tone throughout the movie. So, with that, and the shots and everything, we made Necropath. It’s a unique kind of film that might catch a lot of people off guard; whether they like it or not like it: it’s just what we did. We wanted to do something different; a different approach on zombie films and I think [Joshua and Geoff] achieved it well.
B&S: Did you conceive Necropath prior to its entry in the 2014 Scare-a-con Film Festival or was your narrative born by the festival’s Empire State of Dead short film contest? What was the purpose of the contest and what were the rules contestants had to adhere to for submission?
J.R: The purpose and rules were that you had to make a zombie film and it has to be short and not over this-many-minutes and it has to be shot in New York, hence the Empire State of the Dead. So, my friend, Geoff, when he came to my Halloween attraction (learn more at Cayo Industrial) and shot [The Vampire] there, he mentioned the contest. We decided we can do the contest together; we met and got an idea for working together, you know, do a short film that’s nothing long and drawn out. And that was Empire State of the Dead. So we ended up working together on each other’s films: I made Necropath and I helped him with his film, Occupied. His won 2nd place and Necropath won 1st place.
B&S: While Necropath — the feature film — isn’t an anthology film, it’s actually three award-winning shorts edited together to create an hour and a half narrative. What were those other two films? Based on the seamless nature of the feature film version Necropath, I’m assuming they’re pseudo-sequels to each other. How much newer footage, if any, was shot as connective material to thread the shorts into a fluid narrative?
J.R: In 2014 we shot the first 15 minutes of the movie; the short that was in Empire State of the Dead. After that success, I couldn’t stop thinking of the idea and the Scag character, the main horror-icon character of the film, and just the different ideas I had. So I decided to make another one. So I wrote the next one, which was the next 30 minutes of the film (aka Necropath II). We shot that one a year later. We shot the third sequence, the third short, which starts when we see the man walking with his family [on a bombed-out city street], two years later. So the whole film was shot over the course of 2014 to 2018. We just complied it all together and the whole film is out of those shorts.
B&S: As I watched Necropath, aside from the New French Extreme, I saw the psychedelic, ambiguous influences of Bigas Luna, Alejandro Jodoroswky, and José Mojica Marins. I know those references are dated for some, but how far am I off the mark with that analysis? The directors of the Italian-zom ’80s in our post-George Romero world is a foregone conclusion. What filmmakers are behind your narrative vision?
J.R: My biggest influence, ironically, has nothing to do with, well, I don’t want to say nothing to do with horror, but James Cameron was a big influence, as I grew up with The Terminator and T2. It was how he emphasized all of his shots, and his action scenes, and the realism; in Terminator he used Stan Winston Studios. But [Cameron] was probably the biggest influence on me. And just growing up, watching random horror movies. I’m more of an ’80s kind of horror guy. I’m not really into new, new horror movies with the CGI ghosts and stuff like that. Those [horror films] also had an influence in my approach to filmmaking.
B&S: Where did you find all of your amazing actors? Moe Isaac and Natalie Colvin are absolutely outstanding in their zombie roles, as you feel Scag’s mental anguish and Crack Hag’s pre-zom longing for a child of her own. I, myself, have worked on a couple shorts where, the child was cast, and in need of an adult actor, the parent rose to the challenge to fill out the cast. Did you cast Lillian first, and then her mother, Natalie, came along, or you got them at the same time as a pair?
J.R: Pretty much the same time. Lillian was actually in a couple of videos that I made for my Halloween attraction. I think she was like 6 years old at time. When she did Necropath, she was 11 or 12. When I was doing the casting, I asked Geoff if we could cast Natalie, too, so they could work together. The other actors in the film: Moe Issac, who played Scag, the main character; he was a friend of Geoff’s when I was helping him out on [Occupied] for Empire State of the Dead. Moe was on set helping me string lights; as I put up a light, the ladder shook. I look down and Moe was holding the ladder. He grabs at his face and ends up pulling his teeth out: I didn’t realize that he had dentures! And I was like, ‘Oh, my god, you want to be Scag, the main character in my film?’ and we ended up casting him right on the spot.
B&S: How did you manage to get the most notable members of your cast, Nathan Faudree and Cassandra Hayes?
J.R: Yeah, I have to give Geoff Orlowski credit for casting those two actors who act professionally (Faudree has appeared in the Law and Order franchise; Hayes in the low-budget Amityville-verse). They both helped Geoff out with scenes in [The Vampire] that he was shooting. When I was writing Necropath III: I couldn’t help but picture Nathan Faudree as the father-figure. We were trying to cast it with other people [unsuccessfully] and Geoff was telling me that I wasn’t happy with anybody because I wrote this scene specifically for Nathan, which I did: 100%. I was so glad that Nathan came up from New York City to be in [Necropath].
B&S: Your newest film as a producer is Planewalker, which is written and directed by Geoffrey Orlowksi, your producer on Necropath. Can you share with our readers the plot of that sci-fi film?
J.R: Yeah, Planewalker is Geoff’s film. That is kind of hard to explain, the concept behind it. We did that shoot in 2017. I’m not entirely sure of [what inspired] the concept behind the film that Geoff wrote.
B&S: Science fiction is not an easy genre to create on an indie low-budget. And since that genre, in most cases, requires CGI work, it’s difficult for the indie guy to create convincing CGI. Since you’re on a budget, are you and Geoffrey eschewing CGI for more traditional, in-camera effects?
J.R: Well, you can do mapping now. Say, if you do a shoot in a warehouse district, you can add all of these different elements to it. I believe Geoff was going to go that route with the various scenes that he has.
B&S: Before we go, how is Necropath doing in the streaming-verse? Are horror fans discovering the film and what are their responses?
J.R: We’ve get a lot of personable people who say they love the film. I know it’s new to a lot of people, for the style of what Necropath is. I know people are looking to see a more traditional kind of movie. We made Necropath, not to pave the way to a new kind of horror style; we just wanted to do to our own thing. Obviously, there’s people who appreciate it and people that don’t appreciate it. And people that are caught of guard and people who are in love with the new look of it.
B&S: Joshua, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. And I really enjoyed your film. A lot. It was a real pleasure to review. I wish you the best with Planewalker. Please keep us posted on the film so we can review it at B&S About Movies.
J.R: At the moment, I am not sure if Geoff is on hiatus with that particular film. We set it aside to [concentrate] on Necropath, but we will let you know.
Necropath is currently available on all digital platforms from Gravitas Ventures and Kamikaze Dogfight. You also can learn more about the career of Joshua Reale at Cayo Industrial Horror Realm’s official Facebook page and website. You can also visit the film’s official Facebook and Instagram pages for more photo stills.
You can read our full review of Necropath at B&S About Movies.
Our thanks to Gravitas Ventures and October Coast for their coordination of this interview.
* All images courtesy of Joshua Real/Cayo Industrial.