-Interview by Nic Brown-
Filmmaker J.A. Steel has been called a modern day Roger Corman. While some people in the industry might not like being compared to the king of B-cinema, Steel sees it as a great compliment. Not surprising for a filmmaker who likes to make movies that pack a lot of bang for the buck. Her experiences working with industry legends like Tobe Hooper and Sho Kosugi have helped Steel hone her filmmaking skills, and now her production company Warrior Entertainment, is hard at work on their next feature film: DENIZEN.
Before heading off to screen her film SALVATION at the Rejects Film Festival in Asheville North Carolina, this multi-talented filmmaker took some time to tell B Movie Man Nic Brown about some of her films, her experiences, and why you don’t want this expert marksperson to get you in her crosshairs!
Nic - J.A. you've
written and directed a number of features, can you tell us about
your most recently completed project: SALVATION?
SALVATION is the story of two of the members of the Knights
Templar, Gabriel and Malchezidek, whose souls have been locked
in combat since their murder by the
J.A.- Kinda like THE
THIRD SOCIETY - I had a really weird dream. I actually was
staying in Room 104 in the hotel many months before we shot the
film. I had a dream that there was a knock on the door. I opened
it and stepped into the realm of the Templars. I was running and
bloody - got shot in the back and fell face first into the water
- pretty much the exact scene where the Gabriel character is
shot in the back and goes headlong into the water.
Nic - So was your film THE THIRD SOCIETY inspired by a dream also?
J.A.- Yup. They pretty much all are. Every one of 'em. I dreamed the scene where I pull off my helmet and my hair comes cascading out all dark blonde. I remember thinking it was weird at the time because I was a really dark brunette. But, lo and behold two months later my hairdresser had a miscue with some bleaching agent and I was blonde. The only movies not inspired by dreams are the ones that people bring to me to write.
J.A.- I've studied Martial Arts in one form or another for a good many years: Shotokan Karate, Muay Thai, Bo Staff, Sai, and Katana training. I worked for Sho Kosugi. You learn a lot just being behind the scenes. On THE THIRD SOCIETY, Tim Trella was really supportive and did a lot of really good explaining. Tobe Hooper taught me where to place the camera when I was interning on TALES FROM THE CRYPT. And I had a couple of sword lessons from Anthony DeLongis of HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES fame.
Nic - That’s an impressive list of skills and an even more impressive list of people you’ve worked with to gain them. I’ve always been a fan of Sho Kosugi so I have to ask what it was like to work with him?
J.A.- It was
incredible. Everyone would always ask me, "Is he really that
good?" and the answer was always "yes". There's a difference
between movement for the camera and action in real life. I
started learning how to create the illusion that something was
real, but also learned there has to be a basis in reality for
the idea of the action scene you are trying to create.
Nic - In addition to your martial arts and related weapons proficiency, is it true that you are also quite the sharp shooter with an M-16 among other weapons?
J.A.- I was a
Distinguished Expert Marskman in 4 position .22 caliber rifle by
the time I was sixteen. I got to attend Junior Olympic Training
Camp a long time ago at
J.A.- It was one of
the best experiences of my life. I studied at the Lanna Muay
Thai camp in Chiang Mai (
Nic - JA, you’ve worn quite a few different hats in your filmmaking career: director, writer, producer, stunt coordinator, actor, you’ve even done music for your films. What is your favorite role to play in bringing a film to life?
J.A.- I never worked with him, but John Milius. USC always had these parties where they'd bring back the famous alumni to mingle with the students. One party had George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Bob Zemeckis, etc. John Milius was also there. I had just failed my practical filmmaking class and was in a quandary over WHAT to do... retake the class or switch majors. Spielberg's advice was stay in film school and retake the class,which I could really bring myself to accept - because I never wanted to direct. I lamented to John that film school was trying to take my philosophy of "I just want to make the best blow 'em up action movie ever, so people can forget about their problems for two hours of their life" to "you really need to write a deep heart felt story to win an academy award." Here's the guy that wrote "Conan" vs. "Mr. ET". Who did I listen to??? The guy that bet me $20 to go tell the Dean of Filmic Writing to "F*** Off". Well, I said what I needed to say to the Dean and shook John's hand as I left the party. He didn't have change and still owes me $20.
The next day I was
Nic - What's the next project for your production company, Warrior Entertainment?
Production on DENIZEN. Next year is up in the air right now. I
have two comedies I've just written. One is on spec for a TV
pilot (I.N.G.) and one is a collaborative effort. I really want
to shoot OPERATION: OVERLORD next, but with independent film,
you shoot when you get the financing. I'm in writing mode right
now, so for the next couple of months I'm stockpiling scripts.
J.A.- I think it's
making it easier for independent filmmakers to connect with
their fans. It's a
wonderful tool to communicate globally. I had an opportunity to
screen SALVATION in
J.A.- I'm honored
and flattered. I love Corman's films!!! I've had so many
J.A.- I sleep. I do laundry. I cook. I watch bad movies on the Sci-Fi Channel. If recreational sleeping was an Olympic sport - I'd have a gold medal.