When New Alpha released the opus of a 16 year old Texan named Joshua Kennedy, the company found itself with a hot property. The back-yard spoof ATTACK OF THE OCTOPUS PEOPLE took off to become one of the company's best-selling independent contemporary releases. Almost overnight, the young writer-director-actor-etc became a noted name in the field of under-budget science fiction fun, and the film was immediately nominated for a Rondo Award. And it was obvious why. Despite his lack of budget, and a pool of locals for actors, ATTACK OF THE OCTOPUS PEOPLE displayed an understanding and affection for it's material almost completely absent from larger budget attempts to do the similar.
New Alpha eagerly took the chance to distribute subsequent Kennedy features, and the double feature of THE MENACE WITH FIVE ARMS and CURSE OF THE INSECT WOMAN was again nominated for a Rondo. Cranking out at least one new movie each year since ATTACK OF THE OCTOPUS PEOPLE, Josh continues to grow in his skills, and his films advance by leaps and bounds. What he has achieved with no budget, makes his friends like me anxious to see what he'll accomplish with a budget. Josh recently allowed me to interview him, shortly following the completion of his most recent opus, SLAVE GIRLS ON THE MOON. (At the time of this posting, Mr. Kennedy is found working on a second 2014 release, AIRLINE '79!) The result of that interview is seen below....
Thanks for sitting down for this interview, Josh(ua).
Sure thing; Thank YOU. To quote Peter Cushing in “Captain Clegg”: “There is nothing I like better than talking about myself…” Haha.
1)Let's start with your background. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got interested in making movies.
Well, my name is Joshua Kennedy, of the House of Kennedy: David and Ana, and sister Kathleen. I am 20 years old, born and raised in Edinburg, Texas and currently studying film in NYC.
I cant say there is a moment I can look back on and immediately think that was the Eureka moment where I wanted to do film but I do remember wanting to be a marine biologist for the longest time, but that slowly transformed into: Instead of researching cephalopods… why not make movies about them?!
2) What was your first complete film?
The first movie I ever made was IT CAME FROM THE BATHROOM when I was five-years old. It was about a man who fell into the world’s biggest toilet and through some radioactive-exposure-transformation turned into a giant rubber-bouncing ball that proceeded to destroy the nearby town. Of course, this was all done on the floor of my bathroom with my miniature plastic toy soldiers and my model Alamo toy…
3) ATTACK OF THE OCTOPUS PEOPLE (or, AOTOP, as it's affectionately known, was your first released feature. Reportedly, it's done very well for the distributor, New Alpha, and was even nominated for a Rondo Award. Tell us how you developed that project.
It was one Christmas where I just had a string of absolutely atrocious films that I watched back-to-back. Now, usually during my couch potato marathons there are a few bad ones interspersed with the good ones I watch… but this particular time it was just a sledgehammer to the head of really bad movies. I then dreamt up a film that I would LOVE to watch, and decided to make it myself so I COULD watch it! Luckily, I had so many friends who were absolutely willing to help with the project, and in the end, they and every family member available in Texas ended up being my cast!
4) I imagine you were pleased by the film's warm reception. What was it like to hear you'd been nominated for an award?
Oh, I was on top of the world and extremely honored.
5) You followed up AOTOP with the somewhat less spoofy CURSE OF THE INSECT WOMAN. What can you tell us about the development and production of that film?
I was “The Fly” from RETURN OF THE FLY for Halloween that previous year and was dying to do something with that mask. The script ended up being a lot darker than I wanted at the time, and I was never fully happy with the final product. It was also done very last minute, and I was up until 2am the night before the premiere editing it. Looking back now, though, I think it holds up the best out of everything that I’ve done.
6) For VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF TEENAGE CAVEWOMEN, you graduated to color and scope photography. What did you think of the change? And what can you tell us about this as-yet un-released wonder?
Well, it was the first major movie I shot with my new camera, so it was a welcome change from my $25 Target camera that shot AOTOP and COTIW. The final cut of the film (that has had about six different cuts) is a fun movie and I had one of the most cooperative casts ever: an entire bevy of beautiful cave-girls walking around in the desert barefoot, and two great co-stars wearing heavy army costumes in 115 degree weather. They were really swell.
7) What have you learned from the long journey in completing VTTPOTCW?
The amount of versions that film has had is insane (going from 45 minutes, to 65 minutes, to 55 minutes, to 35 minutes) but it has been an extremely eye-opening experience which has made me realize that the cliché “show don’t tell” is so true. No one goes to see a movie called “Voyage to the Planet of Teenage Cavewomen” and wants to see scenes about people talking about a voyage to a planet of teenage cavewomen.
8) You followed up VTTPOTCW with the fun comedy MIRANDA GRACIA MEETS FRANKENSTEIN. This one was a character-driven comedy piece, and so stood apart from the previous films (in which most of humor came from the limitations of budget). What was filming that one like?
MGMF had a smaller cast than my other films, and by some miracle everyone’s schedule lined up perfectly and we were able to shoot everything within two weeks so it was a welcome change from my other films where that seldom happened. That’s the thing that makes me stress out the most when making my films: Scheduling.
9) I must take the hit for suggesting a song for use in MGMF which turned out to be copyrighted, which is the main reason for the film's hold-up in getting released. When it does see release, how do you think people will react to it?
This is a good question. I feel it really captures the feel of a 1960’s made-for-TV “movie of the week”, but that is not everyone’s cup of tea… so we’ll just have to wait and see if it ever sees the light of day!
10) You did extensive location filming for VTTPOTCW. Did that have any impact on the construction of your next film, THE MENACE WITH FIVE ARMS? You again made use of the desert and included some location shooting in New York City. And what was the most enjoyable part of filming THE MENACE WITH FIVE ARMS?
Interestingly enough, the entire film was originally set in NYC. I hadn’t a complete script ready until the middle of that semester, so each draft included less and less location filming until the very end, giving me a chance to film back home during the summer.
Again, as with all of my films, I have been entirely blessed with absolutely wonderful friends and family that are so generous to donate their time to be in these films. It was a complete blast to work alongside my friend Ayssette Munoz who was extremely professional, and one of the best actresses that I’ve ever worked with.
11) For TMWFA, you shot in wide scope. What challenges/benefits did you find in going wide-screen?
It was mostly inspired by THE LAST MAN ON EARTH and RETURN OF THE FLY actually. I think the main benefit was that it looks so cool! Only drawback in the long run is that it doesn’t translate well to smaller screens… but that’s the problem with ANY super widescreen film.
12) You must have been pleased when Alpha released a double feature disk pairing THE MENACE WITH FIVE ARMS with your much earlier CURSE OF THE INSECT WOMAN. This presented an interesting contrast allowing one to see how your skills as a film-maker have grown. (Since the writing of this question, said release was honored with Mr. Kennedy's second Rondo nomination!)
Oh, yes. It’s also fun to see the actors that are in COTIW that return two years later to star in TMWFA and think back to the different experiences.
13) When you're not shooting a movie, you're mounting a stage production. Crowds have been increasingly impressed by your productions of shows like King Kong, The Ten Commandments, and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Do you intend to continue this annual tradition? And what films would you most like to adapt for the stage?
Oi, the great Summer Circuses, brain-child of my Dad which has been a tradition for 12 years. The basic premise is to bring students from all walks of life and put on a show with them in two weeks and perform it for the community. We’ve done Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, Man of La Mancha, Hamlet, Annie, and an adaptation of The Gorgon when I was eight! This summer we opted for an adaptation of the TV show The Gong Show with all sorts of Texas talent. As with all these circuses, it nearly killed me.
14) What's the creative process for starting a film? How do you decide what kind of a picture you want to make?
Haha, this is a great question that I really don’t have an answer for. I guess all I can say is that for the most part any movie that I want to make, is a movie that I want to see as an audience member.
15) Has your time in New York changed much to your approach?
I wouldn’t say so. If anything it has given me a sharper and keener eye on every aspect of film and theater. In that city, one is just thrown into this gigantic ocean of talent and culture and people that it is near-on impossible to not be affected by it.
16) Tell us about your most recent production, SLAVE GIRLS ON THE MOON (details must be kept in check for the time being).
A friend called it “A Stanley Kubrick-directed Quentin Tarantino science fiction script”. It is much more action-packed and modern than anything I’ve done. It’s the first film completed entirely outside of Texas, with another bunch of beautiful and absolutely angelic actresses. It’s a fun film, it was almost too fun to make, and I’m very proud of it.
17) What types of films do you eventually plan to make? Which genres are you looking forward to tackling?
I always say I want to make an adaptation of Richard III. For now, I am happy in the science-fiction, B-movie niche I have burrowed for myself but have been interested in doing a 1970’s disaster film. But if there’s a movie I’m dying to see that hasn’t been made, I’ll be looking for ways to make it.
18) Are there any Hollywood actors/producers/studios you would like to eventually work with?
Gene Wilder, if he ever decides to make movies again.
19) You're pretty much a one-man production crew. You write, act, direct, storyboard, edit, act as technician and stagehand, produce, compose, and we can only imagine what else. What job do you enjoy best?
I absolutely love editing. That’s the final stage where I can finally see what I wrote down so many months ago come to life. Ha, it’s a bit like being Doctor Frankenstein by sewing together these dead pieces of unrelated scenes and then creating a living thing and unleashing it onto the world.
20) What's next?
Only time will tell. If I can continue to keep making movies I would be entirely content!
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to announce an exclusive! First here, J.K. offers some details about his newest film....
AIRLINE '79 is a project done for class at Pace University and is basically my experiment film; I'm trying things I haven't done before, most notably using studio lights and returning to the 4:3 aspect ratio. It's an homage (of course) to the AIRPORT films of the 70's and will have its world premiere January 3rd at Cine El Rey in Texas!
I'm certainly looking forward to seeing that! Thanks so much for your time, J.K.!
UPDATE! Feast your eyes on the inspired poster for AIRLINE '79!