Cross-Examining A Creative Mind



When I began writing this article, I had no idea how to describe myself or my story.  My self-deprecation was spiraling out of control.  To solve this problem, I enlisted my wife who immediately turned on her laptop and told me to sit at the end of the bed so she could interview me.  As an attorney and avid reader of Interview magazine, she employed a curious mix of cross-examination and prompting questions.  Below is a brief excerpt.

Amanda Montgomery: Can you state your full name for the record please?

Joe Childress: Joseph John Wayne Childress.

AM: Awesome, thank you.  I’m going to sidestep a discussion on how your name means you were born to work in film, but let’s pretend that we riffed on that for 15 minutes.

JC: [Laughs] Good call.

AM: Your latest endeavor was a Christmas-card-faux-trailer for a Christmas movie called “Out of the Frost,” can you tell me what inspired it?

JC: One of my employers told me he wanted to make a video for the company Christmas card with the only stipulation being that each employee had to be featured.  I always wanted to make a fake movie trailer, so I saw this as my opportunity.  I am a one-man video department, so I wrote, directed, shot, and edited the piece in a span of ten days.  I discovered it’s really hard to make a trailer based off a movie that doesn’t exist, especially when you are working with non-actors and no budget.  I had to piece together a narrative and then shoot random scenes that could make the trailer look as if it was based on a big production.   I wanted to portray Santa as a serious action hero because it’s not a common trope.  I wasn’t sure if it was going to work, so I made you watch a hundred different edits to give me notes.

AM: I’m your Pauline Kael.  Let’s switch gears and talk about obstacles you’ve faced in your field.

JC: Initially, I was not even able to use my skills as this field can be tough to break into.  Right out of college, you were in law school so I did odd jobs like selling furniture and leasing mineral interests.  Once you became a lawyer, I was able to take a pay cut and really get started.

Photo Credit Luiz Baptista
AM: Yeah, I really appreciate you taking that pay cut.  [Laughs]  Around this time, you would often say that you felt behind in your profession.

JC: Right, well “Boogie Nights” was (and is) my favorite film and I knew that P.T. Anderson directed it at age 27.  I was nowhere near that accomplishment at 25, and I would just obsess daily about it.  I know it is unrealistic and probably narcissistic, but I still to this day compare myself to great directors and their progression.  I always feel behind, but I’m starting to think this is what propels me to want more and try harder each time.

AM: Didn’t Ridley Scott make his first feature at age 40?

JC: Yes, and I told you that!

AM: When we first met twelve years ago, we bonded over music videos.  You’ve recently made two music videos for Tim Halperin.

Photo Credit Anton Seim
JC: Yeah, my good friend Jonathan Combs and I co-directed videos for “She Runs” and “The Last Song.”  Tim worked with us on “She Runs” in the summer of 2010.  We stretched the $500 budget to create a one-shot video that we hoped would be fun to watch and rewatch.  I think that’s a major lesson that I learned: when you are faced with a small budget, you are pushed to be more creative.

AM:  How did you promote “She Runs”?

JC: I wrote to blogs and used social media.  The video took off far greater than we expected, we just wanted a couple thousand people to see it.  After four weeks it surpassed 100,000 views on Youtube.  I always thought to promote something, I would need a marketing budget, but this experience taught me that so many promotional tools are freely available if you learn how to use them.

AM: How did the second video for Tim Halperin come about?

JC: This was after Tim was on American Idol.  Jonathan and I knew we wanted to do the opposite of the low-budget feel of “She Runs,” we wanted to make something bigger, more cinematic.  Once we had the idea for it, we used Kickstarter to raise money.  Tim’s fans funded the project, and we would not have been able undertake such a large-scale production without their support.

AM: Can this article be called “Small Budget, Big Dreams”?

JC: No.  No.  [Laughs]



Joe Childress is a director, writer and editor from Phoenix, Arizona.  After completing internships at Warner Brothers and Twentieth Century Fox, Joe graduated from Arizona State University in 2005 with a B.F.A. in Film Studies.  He currently creates broadcast commercials and web content as Media Director at a creative agency in Fort Worth, Texas.  His wife has requested that his first feature be a screen-adaptation of The Hollies’ song “Bus Stop.”