One of the great things about this site is me finding more and more new things. And reviewing short films, I’ve met some awesome film makers trying to get their voice heard. One of those creators was Joe Avella, writer/director for Wheelchair Werewolf, a YouTube web series. I was lucky enough today to speak with Joe about his creation and what led him to it.
Thanks for being willing to take time out of your day for this interview.
My pleasure. Thanks for asking. I just moved to Brooklyn and my apartment is on a busy street. All I hear is construction and car horns. It is a typical first New York apartment where the outside in the street, the construction, is just comical. The other day, I was awoken by a guy literally jack-hammering the concrete in front of my place. Wow, this really happens. I just figured it was a dumb thing you’d see in movies.
Well, thanks again, as being in the middle of a move, or even the aftermath of one can be crazy.
Yeah, we moved into a furnished apartment, so it’s kind of nice. But our stuff isn’t here yet, not until next week, so it’s kind of like, I wouldn’t say camping, but like a vacation, but we don’t have plates, or forks and knives. We have clothes, couches and beds, but we have to go out to do everything.
What clued me into you was the Wheelchair Werewolf series and the overall comedy/horror vibe, which I’m a big fan of both genres. What got you started, was it the comedy or the overall film making aspect?
I think it was the film making side of it, but only by a couple of months. Like you said, I’m also a big fan of both genres, as well as other things my whole life. I started doing the film making thing with some friends, as a lark, back in 2004. We’ll just do something, we didn’t have anything else better to do, as we were just out of college. The first thing we made was a zombie short, that wasn’t a comedy, and it’s TERRIBLE! I even took it offline because it really sucks!
At the time, I hadn’t considered making any video stuff, thinking it would be really hard, you had to go to film school, all the standard reasons people think they have to do to make a movie. But I loved the process, just thinking about zombies, doing makeup effects, trying to extrapolate some sort of meaning from it all.
So I moved to Chicago around that time, and I was really into comedy, so I took a Second City class for writing and just got into the Chicago comedy scene. And comedy was easier to make as opposed to horror, dramas and all that, so that took up a lot of my time. But I still held onto my love for sci-fi, horror, and all that, so I tried to meld a little of all that into my shorts whenever I could.
That’s great, so overall, what are some of your biggest influences?
For me, the reasons why I stick with video, and why I create anything, I’m inspired by any artist that shows any sort of independence. I find myself gravitating towards the work of an Edgar Wright, a Kevin Smith, or even if you want to go towards horror, a George Romero or Kubrick. I’m not trying to say “Oh, I’ll do what they did!” but more of taking the idea that they are seen as masters of their own island. That, to me, is own of the biggest things for me. I chose this path of YouTube and trying to build an audience, with Wheelchair Werewolf and my work before. I can’t get excited about writing a spec script and getting an agent, or living in a tower, working as a PA for a TV show, but what I do get excited about is putting out something with my own voice. A lot of people rolled their eyes at that, but my influences are the people that pulled it off regardless of where they came from.
I’ve probably read and re-read Robert Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew a thousand times easily! Or Lloyd Kaufman’s Make Your Own Damn Movie. You read them now and you can say, well that doesn’t apply now for these reasons and those reasons, but every time I go through them, I try to get that essence, that attitude. Just make it yourself with what you have, you’ll find the right people to help. Like with Matt Stone and Trey Parker, they aren’t out doing stand up, or working on other people’s shows, or hosting awards shows. They have their show that they love doing, and they are able to keep working on it, with that attitude of we love it, if you don’t like it, don’t watch it, but its us. That has been my biggest influence.
You’ve touched on a lot of people that have influenced me as well, big fans of them all. Now, with Wheelchair Werewolf, we have just a couple more episodes to go, any surprises to look out for as that wraps up?
Nothing but surprises! I don’t want to blow any secrets with it. I hope people like it and I think the last 3 episodes are really funny. The original Wheelchair Werewolf trailer was put together back in 2009 just for fun with some friends. I always thought, “Boy, it would be great to make this movie!” And a lot of people would ask me about it, and it kept getting a lot of views and took on a life of its own. I came to it thinking I can’t make the full movie yet, I still want to feel it out, so that’s how this web series started out. So the hope is once I wrap it up and push it out there as a completed series, that it can drum up enough interest with fans online. Then we can try to make a full movie, something longer and more cohesive, but even then, that would be a big surprise.
I absolutely love where it’s going, especially your role as the mortician that is always eating. That is one of my favorite tropes from horror.
Yeah, and they are always perverts for some reason! They are always hitting on a female nurse or something. For some reason they always have a rapey vibe to them. I don’t know why. I don’t get what the point of that is. I guess people think, “oh, he deals with dead bodies all the time, so he must be desensitiized to it!” Which I’m sure he is, but that doesn’t mean he has to act like a crass guy.
A lot of the stuff with Wheelchair Werewolf is pretty trope heavy. With the werewolf, in movies, people say “we don’t know who it is?!” But we as the audience do. And there is a sheriff, and some werewolf hunter out to get him. It’s funny that that shit is in every werewolf movie so the original idea for Wheelchair Werewolf was that it’s clearly obvious as to who it is, the joke was setup in the trailer. For this series, I needed more to hang my hat on, so that’s why I packed it with those other tropes as well as a fan love letter to 80’s horror films.
Be on the lookout for the remaining episodes of Wheelchair Werewolf, and be sure to check out Joe’s other work at JoeAvella.com