Published on July 19th, 2017 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Joel Ashton McCarthy
Vancouver writer-director Joel Ashton McCarthy is on a roll with a recent Leo Award for his short film, I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them and the recent Vancouver screening and iTunes release of his feature film, Shooting The Musical.
With I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them being featured this week as part of The Celluloid Social Club on July 19th, we spoke to Joel Ashton McCarthy about his current projects, his inspiration, and the Canadian film industry.
Can you start by telling us a little bit more about you and what projects you are working on these days?
I just released my newest feature project on iTunes called Shooting The Musical. It is a comedically offensive musical comedy about a high school shooting. You can watch it here.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
A mixture of the things I find funny or tragic in life, and indulging the worst parts of my imagination. Then I try to take those ideas and turn them into something an audience might enjoy.
You recently won a Leo Award for Best Director for your short film, I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them. How important has this short film been in developing your career?
It is incredibly difficult to break through the noise as a filmmaker. I try to stick my finger in as many pies as possible and try to make every project truly unique hoping that they will move my career forward. This short has been huge for that, it has won a lot of awards abroad and after winning the Leo Award it has started to turn heads at home. This short is the gift that keeps on giving, I’ve been fortunate enough to already lose track of how many awards it has won. It has been a huge honour to be a part of this project.
You have worked on short films, web series, and features. What do you find rewarding about each one?
I love short films because I love the challenge of telling a complete story in a short period of screen time. This Mark Twain quote really hits the hammer on the nail: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” It’s so incredibly challenging to get all of the ideas, themes, characters into a short piece and I love that challenge.
I love the Web-series I’ve worked on because I got to release them right away without having a year or two of festivals and all that needing to please critics bullshit. They got to be delivered right to an audience hot and fresh and they were made for an audience. Also I got to obsessively check out the analytics and as a math nerd that excites me.
For features the big thing I love is any opportunity to do public screenings. There is nothing more exhilarating than hiding in a back of a theatre waiting to see if people are going to react to your project. I just love all forms of filmmaking and I keep wanting to try new avenues. I’m still dying to try making some episodic TV and VR content.
From your perspective, what is the current state of the Canadian film industry?
I’m a little cynical to be honest. Look, we are obviously a great industry for the service work – I just saw the new Planet of the Apes and I know our film industry is full of insanely talented people. That being said, I feel lots of the home grown projects I’ve seen get big financial support have been a little on the safe side, or perhaps a little too experimental. I feel like real non-film industry audiences haven’t been given compelling reasons to watch Canadian films. It’s up to all of us to find a way to fix that problem.
What is your biggest challenge as a director and how do you handle it?
Fighting to keep relevant. I handle it by being paranoid and forcing myself to always be working on something creative. I’ve seen too many people I’ve looked up to growing up hang up their directors hats because it’s too difficult of a business, and I don’t want to be one of them. Even if it is just a little short for YouTube, I want to always be making something.
“I want to be the guy who made big commercial films in Vancouver and stayed in Vancouver.”
What are the most effective ways to communicate your artistic vision to actors on set?
Be passionate and really know what you want. I decisiveness is key. Try your best not to be a dick about it though, especially if they are volunteer actors.
What books should be must-reads for aspiring directors?
–The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.
–Story by Robert McKee
–Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (solid intro book)
–The Visual Story by Bruce Block
-Watch good movies and bad movies (you will learn from both).
What would you want your artistic legacy to be?
I want to be the guy who made big commercial films in Vancouver and stayed in Vancouver. I think young filmmakers in this city need that person and I didn’t have a person to look up to who made it here growing up. Even Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg had to get out of this town to make it and it sucks because the talent to make big exciting things happen clearly exists already here in Vancouver.
Where can people find out more about you?
I have a Facebook page for my work I try to update here and there
Also my company website, ThisIsASpoon.com.
Thanks to Joel Ashton McCarthy for speaking with us!
You can see I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them at The Celluloid Social Club on July 19th, 2017 at 8PM. Shooting The Musical is now available on iTunes.