Joel Watts

works as an independent filmmaker, both on his own personal projects an in collaboration with ACS member Tyra Clark on a series of Anti-Drug PSAs for the Austin Metro Drug-Free Coalition! Learn more about his creative life!

What initially made you want to work in the film industry? Any influences?

Joel Watts: Ever since I was a child I wanted to be a writer/storyteller. For a long time I thought that would be as a novelist, but as I got older I realized that I thought more in pictures than in words and I started to look at comics as an outlet for my stories. It was the early days of "Graphic Novels" being taken seriously and I fell into Allen Moore's The Watchmen and Frank Miller's Sin City. Around this time, I started college and met my good friend Daniel Ayoub. He was in school to pursue a degree in filmmaking and started to share his passion and influences with me. Before this, the most influential films I had seen were Pulp Fiction, Fight Club, and Clerks. Danny and I started to watch movies together and plot how to make our own which made me start to think like a filmmaker. This is when I was introduced to Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and Coppola to name a few. Today, when I think of movies that make me pause, that I would watch before going into production, I think of Evil Dead 2 first and foremost. I am no horror expert, but I when I first watched that movie, I couldn't help but think that everything a crew could do with a camera was done in that film.

You’ve written, directed, edited and even acted in some projects. Do you like working in multiple aspects or is there a particular job you prefer? Any jobs you’d like to try?

Joel (center) directing two of the actors for the Anti-Drug PSA  Wizard of Truth

Joel (center) directing two of the actors for the Anti-Drug PSA Wizard of Truth

JW: It is satisfying to be able to see a project through all the iterations of production, but at the end of the day, I am most satisfied when I have Premiere open and I am editing the footage together to tell the story. Editing is where you find the little moments that add texture to the story that you are telling, even if those moments come from the moments before action is called and the actors are just being themselves.

A lot of your projects include comedy or you incorporate comedy into a situation. Is that a creative direction you plan on continuing?

JW: I like to say that every drama should have a sense of humor and every comedy should have some dramatic moments. I imagine that I will start to tell some more serious stories, but I will always take the opportunity to make an audience laugh. Basically, if every project I made was confused for a comedy, I wouldn't be offended.

How did you and Austin Cinemaker Space member Tyra Clark meet?

JW: We met at a City of Austin Small Business Price Strategy class 2 years ago. Tyra was asking a lot of questions in our class, and that sort of engagement told me she must have a solid head on her shoulders. This collaboration was a godsend of sorts to me as I felt like I was in a creative slump at the time. Many of my filmmaking partners were making many life changes and moving away. Collaborating with her has opened up new social connections for us.

Joel (right) on the set of  Wizard of Truth  with ACS member Tyra Clark (left)

Joel (right) on the set of Wizard of Truth with ACS member Tyra Clark (left)

In creating the Anti-Drug PSAs, what role(s) do you take on in collaboration with Tyra?

JW: The hats I have been wearing are taking the lead on writing out our PSA scenarios, directing, editing, color grading and sound design/mixing. Those jobs have drawn me in because I got into filmmaking to tell stories, and the best PSA’s are just tiny, well told stories. It has been great to collaborate with Tyra because everything she is good at I am poor at doing, and she still has the mental space to weigh in on what footage we are getting on set and bounce ideas around in the editing room. Basically, whatever I am doing, Tyra is right next to me making it even better.

How did you get involved with the Austin Cinemaker Space? What’s kept you here?

Joel operating a boom microphone outside of Motion Media Arts Center

Joel operating a boom microphone outside of Motion Media Arts Center

JW: Early in our first production Tyra wanted to check out Austin Cinemaker Space as a potential shooting location. Once we saw the computer lab and little kitchen we were all in as our home base for post-production. It sure beats cramming ourselves into my tiny bedroom/office. Besides, no one wants to see how I live.

Why do you think it’s important to create anti-drug PSA videos specifically for the youth?

JW: Kids are very receptive to new information, and the challenge of speaking to them directly without speaking down to them is a fun challenge that we are still cracking away at. I believe that if we get the information in their heads about the dangers and drawbacks to these dangerous drugs, then they will make the decisions that are best for them.

INTERVIEW BY: Alek Peschansky 

MEMBER MONDAYS is a weekly interview series highlighting current members & alumni of the Austin School of Film + Austin Cinemaker Space community! Each week, we’ll be featuring one of our incredibly eclectic community members and take a deep dive into their work. Gaining an insight into what makes them, them.