Filmmaker Justin Price talks about his love of horror, his latest films The 13th Friday and The Elf, and the power of filmmaking.
Where does your love of filmmaking stem from?
I am from a small town and we were fortunate enough to be raised by good ole Southern values. I had to go next door and borrow sugar. I mean the concept of borrowing sugar is already odd, because would I really give it back later? So what made growing up and being raised by my mother the activists Faye Price, is I had to find the space between the leaves. Every waking moment being amplified by how I treated people and how I saw my day. There was only one grocery store and a video store. That was the extent of the places to go. So I had to create scenarios and games with what was around me. We played a game called “war” with pine cones as grenades and sticks as guns. I think just growing up and having to lean on my imagination has helped me love the film making entertaining process even more. I love that we are providing an hour and thirty minutes and even two hours of a visual painting. The idea behind the cinema is fascinating, it’s literally transporting your audience into a time, a place, and a feeling. That is what drew me in to film making! I think that can never be taken for granted! There is so much power in the visual medium. I did a film called “Almost Amazing” and it has a predominately African American cast. What was interesting is the idea that people who distribute films, wanted me to go back and make it more “urban”. I didn’t adhere to that mindset and we were screened at HBFF and those same distributors saw the film for what it was. It was just a great story for everyone to enjoy. It was an “Urban’ title. That is the power of film making. To be able to let people see certain sections of the population that they may not understand and to shine a different light on them. That is amazing and it forces people to think.
You obviously gravitate towards horror. Where’s the love of the spooky flicks come from?
My favorite genre is Sci-fi fantasy. I think my first sci-fi “Alien Reign of Man” was an exploration of what defines our place in the world. That is what makes horror so great. It forces the audiences to be vulnerable. In a film like “The Elf” for example, I wanted to go back to 90’s horror. I remember how terrifying it was to imagine creepy things happening to me. Realistic things. I used to be afraid of my closet because I thought something lived there. “The Elf” has a great villain. Melissa Vega crafted a truly terrifying villain. It looks like it belongs in the world and yet it is unique enough to be interesting and out of place. Whenever my company, Pikchure Zero Entertainment, crafts a story my producing partners Khu, Deanna Grace Congo, and David Cazares, we look for interesting stories. Things that scare us. I love the horror genre, it allows us to explore the inner workings of our soul. Whenever I go to a horror film I am drawn into the world the atmospheres and the characters. Jaws made people afraid to swim in the ocean. That’s how amazing the genre is when done right. It will force you to lower your walls and face the things we are most afraid of.
What do you consider your most accomplished film? Have a favorite?
I love “The Elf” because it was the most gratifying film to make. We had to write a script that dealt with a creepy Elf and also set it during Christmas time. I had to think up how we can make it all make sense and shoot it during the summer! The execution of the film is what makes me so proud. Khu did amazing cinematography and it feels like a modern spin on old horror. There is an opening scene with a toymaker that stands out to me. It is a dark scene that most films wouldn’t explore, and it sets the tone for the entire film. When “The Elf” comes out November 7, 2017 on Itunes and November 28, 2017 to redbox, I am so excited to see audiences curled up near the TV with hot chocolate, terrified at the film!
Is it fair to say The 13th Friday was made to capitalize on the ‘Jason’ movies? How does it differ from the ‘Friday’ series?
I think it is fair to say that the title of the film shares symmetry but the film “The 13th Friday” has no correlation to the famed franchise. The 13th Friday is centered on a demonic device that opens the gates of hell and follows the true story of a refugee woman who locked herself into a house. The church that is built on the property is real. Toluca Ranch is real! How amazing is that story?! So, because of the historical facts surrounding the story, it is easy to see the idea behind having films with similar titles. I think as with “Alien Reign of Man” it is important to point out that some things become a part of our lexicon and they sort of mold into regular conversation. If you call a film extra-terrestrial or Alien either name would spark a response because we grew up following films that were made popular. But those are scientific names for …aliens! Haha! If you do a film about gremlins, it can’t be called “gremlins”. Even though the original gremlin was this plane destroying creature. So as an artist it’s important to not get caught up into the deliverable part of a film. We can only put forth great stories and hope people enjoy our perspectives. Now if I do a film called the true story of Justin Price and claim it’s about world hunger, then we can revisit this question (smirk)!
And by the same token, ‘The Elf’ seems somewhat similar to the ‘Child’s Play’ movies. How much was ‘Chucky’ an influence on ‘The Elf’?
What is so great about art is that it’s cyclical and open to interpretation. There were films made in the early 1960’s and 1970’s and old Twilight Zone tales that help shape the feel of “The Elf”. I am hoping that the ELF character can become as known as Chucky because I believe it was that well-crafted as a villain. Most films dealing with killer dolls will be compared to phenomenal works such as Puppet Master and Chucky but “The Elf’ stands out on it’s on as our addition to the horror genre. I think the greatest influence drawn from films of the past is their ability to allow the audience to build up anticipation. To allow the film to not be bogged down by VFX scares. I love the idea that something lurking in our home can hold a secret. See “The Elf” and “The 13th Friday” on iTunes, Vudu, and Direct TV now!