Filmmaker, Joe Begos has made quite an impact. He is a director, writer, producer. He is a creator of unforgettable films. Almost Human, Bliss, The Mind’s Eye. Bliss starring Dora Madison who also appears in VFW. Joe Begos has a unique style and his filmmaking is one of a kind. He has an incredible team too. Joe Begos directed VFW and it was written by, Max Brallier and Matthew McArdle. Bliss is also playing on Shudder right now. VFW will be in theaters, VOD and Digital HD on February 14th. I can’t think of a better way to spend Valentine’s Day. Joe Begos took time to talk with Horrornews.net about VFW, directing this legendary ensemble cast and more.
Joe- How’s it going?
Its going good. How are you?
Joe- Pretty good.
I wanted to tell you I finally got to watch Bliss and it is just perfection. It’s a beautiful masterpiece.
Joe- Thank you so much.
VFW is insane! It is so amazing. Why did you decide to just direct and not write?
Joe- I had always been in interested in doing a script that I hadn’t written because some of my favorite directors have actually done that. John Carpenter has done that. My favorite John Carpenter movie is actually Christine, which he didn’t write. Michael Mann does that a lot. So, its something that I was interested in, its just that I had such a very specific type of thing that I want to do and kind of approach to things that no script I’ve ever been offered has been up my alley. I don’t want to do a standard ghost movie; I don’t want to do shit like that and based on where I am in the industry, I don’t necessarily get offered a lot of scripts so its just never worked out that I had something I wanted to direct.
How did you get involved?
Joe- Dallas and me go way back, he bought FANGORIA. He’s been wanting to get me to direct something for a long time, specifically a script that I didn’t write (laughter) so he sent me a lot over the years. Nothing, I really liked but he finally sent me VFW and it was a lot different than the movie you saw but a lot of the basic stuff was there. I saw enough room for me to do something with it that would make it mine. It was also up my alley with the type of white-knuckle stuff that I like to do. I’d never done an ensemble like this so there’s a lot of things that I liked about it that made me want to dig my fingers in it. It just so happens that Bliss came together at almost the same exact time so by chance I was able to go make them back to back and thankfully it was because I think I made Bliss, it informed how I approached VFW, if that makes sense. Which, I think is an interesting position when you look at them back to back, you know, they are kind of the same yet so different.
That is interesting. I love all the lighting and special effects. The special effects in your films are so raw. You get in there.
Joe- Thank you.
How did you prepare for the special effects with the actors and get everybody ready?
Joe – I always have crazy special effects that are way beyond what our budget capabilities are. We are always looking for interesting ways to do things or different ways to approach things. So, by now I kind of have a groove and I used the same effects people in VFW so I kind of have a groove of how to do it. With VFW, we we’re going to have a limited amount of time but we have a lot of effects so let’s figure out what the big ones are. You know, lets show the audience some really big ones right off the bat and get them kind of in the universe of what’s going on. Then we can have some offscreen stuff and some quicker stuff, stuff we don’t have time to shoot and its kind of like dictating where the audience is going to see the bigger effects. Also, something that I do is, I design them very heavily in pre-production. So, we’re able to get the most important shots with the actors and then I go and do little inserts of like, heads exploding or like things getting fake heads or things that are going to take a lot of time but we don’t need any actors or additional crew around and I will go and do that on a day six, a Saturday with me and just a couple crew members. We can spend like twelve hours doing these little effects inserts that would take forever with the actors there that don’t necessarily cost any money because we’re all there anyway.
Joe- So that’s a way that I approached the effects in Bliss and VFW. I kind of design it and I have little off-shoot days where I can go the heavy artillery inserts so to speak.
VFW felt so real. Walter telling Fred he’s got shitty cigarettes. I felt like I was listening to friends or my grandfather are veterans. You want to root for these guys. There is a lot of heart in this movie. The cast did such an incredible job. What was it like working with all these legends and how did you approach them directing-wise?
Joe- Well, that’s the thing I was most nervous about was directing all these guys. Thankfully we had some rehearsal time and we had three or four days of rehearsal where I just got to work with the actors and they just got to get into the shoes of these characters. It allowed us some time, me and all these guys in a room to really workshop the characters and figure out who they were and they were able to bounce off each other. We hung out a lot and went out and got food, fuckin’ just all hung out for four days and got to know each other. So, by the time we were onset they were able to take what they knew about these people as people and turn them into characters. So, it was kind of like a big collaboration between the writers, then me and the actors working together to make everything feel real. A lot of that does come from rehearsing and kind of reshaping things to once the actors figure out their groove. But if we didn’t have that rehearsal time, I don’t know. I don’t think the chemistry would have been there.
I agree. It feels like there’s no bullshit. I am glad it wasn’t a ghost story or whatever. This made sense. It relates to society and you kind of feel that.
I guess without giving away spoilers, did you have a favorite scene that you shot?
Joe- You know what I really like just shooting all the actors. I like shooting the dialogue scenes because its kind of great. I am sitting there watching it happen. Its not as stressful because normally when you’re doing takes, you are doing thirty to forty second takes and your kind of just trying to nail little pieces but, when they were working we did it like a stage play and we put all the big dialogue scenes together for speed purposes. There were points in time where we are running ten, twelve-minute takes and I’m just watching these guys shoot the shit and we’re able to go in there and work on those scenes and work on the big hang out scenes with all these great actors. I really loved that. It was great shooting like that. That was fun, that was one of the better experiences of my directorial career.
What do you want to say to everyone watching VFW and even BLISS, people are also watching on Shudder. I know I am so sexcited for people to see VFW, I know it’s in my top three, I’d say two right now!
Joe- Oh, fuck yeah!
What do you want to say to the audiences, the fans?
Joe- I don’t know. There isn’t much to say if they are already checking them out. I would just say that, crack open a beer, roll up a bomber if that’s your thing and enjoy the movie because they are definitely best enjoyed with groups of people possibly under the same influence the characters are.
Dora did such a kick ass job as Gutter. My mind went to Cyborg to Fender (played by Vincent Klyn) and Mad Max. She did a great job and so did everyone.
Joe- Yeah, it was very Mad Max, class of 1984 is where I was coming at with her.
Do you have a tradition or a plan that you play out before shooting? What is the process?
Joe- I don’t really have any traditions, there’s just no time for that. I always have a pretty solid plan but the plan usually… Unless you are doing complicated effects, you never stick to your plan because you get onset and somethings changing or you come up with another idea. It’s always good to have a plan because then if something fucks up you don’t have to sit there thinking about it, onset, you have a go-to. So, I do have things planned out but it kind of turns into a seed of a plan that then organically drifts more as the day goes on. Every movie I’ve made, I am making a different movie by week four than I thought I was making when I showed up the morning of day one. That’s a good thing you know. You find some aspects of the movie onset when your there with all the collaborators. Its all different when you are in your apartment thinking about it all yourself. You think you’ve got it all figured out but it changes big time when you’ve got twenty people around you. The movie organically evolves from there, there is always a plan, yes but we don’t stick to it exactly.
What are you working on next?
Joe- I have been doing a lot of writing. I am bouncing back and forth between a few scripts. I don’t know for sure what’s going to be next but hopefully I’ll be back behind the camera as soon as possible.
Awesome. And we can’t wait. I wanted to ask you about the truck at the end. That scene is wild.
Joe- The convoy.
How did that scene manifest with William Sadler’s character?
Joe- We were using that truck as a prop in the background, a part of the VFW. As the movie evolves it was supposed to be Fred’s pick-up truck that crashed into Boz. As the weeks went on while we were shooting, we said “do you think we can use that convoy over there?” We eventually got the okay from the owner so before you know it, William Sadler is hauling ass behind that thing.
You were going to use Fred’s pick-up truck? I wondered about that.
Was it an actual VFW post location that you filmed in?
Joe- The interior was a real VFW that we took our production design to. The exterior was another building, like it was an old doctor’s office or something because it was across from the abandoned movie theatre. The inside was definitely a real VFW that we did some design to.
I thank you so much for taking the time to talk to Horrornews.net. It was an honor to talk to you Joe. Bliss and VFW are incredible. They just kick ass. You kick ass. Thank you so much.
Joe- Awesome. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
These veterans are in for the fight of their lives.
Starring: Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Martin Kove, David Patrick Kelly, Sierra McCormick,
Tom Williamson, Travis Hammer, Dora Madison with George Wendt and Fred Williamson
Directed by: Joe Begos
Written by: Max Brallier & Matthew McArdle
In Theaters, VOD & Digital HD on February 14th, 2020
Follow Joe on Twitter and Instagram @joebegos