Aspiring Medical Professional Uncovers Passion For Filmmaking And Rights Course by Joe Morreale of THEY WATCHED US KILL



FC: Where did you grow up?

Joe Morreale:  I grew up in Ridgewood, New Jersey, an affluent and all white (boring) suburb. I don’t remember it much because we moved to Kinnelon, NJ when I was in 5th grade. It was very different, working class and an entirely rural town. I liked it but it took some warming up to since our move was during the height of my parent’s divorce and an understandably traumatic time for an eleven year old. I think I would have liked to grow up around more diverse groups of people. One of my favorite things is to learn about other cultures, oh and try their food.

FC:  Were your parents supportive of your creativity?  Were they artists themselves?

Joe Morreale:  Actually my parents were always supportive of my creativity, I however was not. Mom always fostered it, she was an artist and interior designer. My Dad is also really creative but doesn’t categorize himself as such. He develops commercial real estate, his bigger projects are a lot like running a big budget film if you think about it. I learned a lot from my dad who’s a leader and always stressed organizing a dream into a realistic set of goals, problem solving all the way to the finish line. My parents just always told me to believe in myself. It took almost twenty three years for me to take their advice but now I finally do.

FC:  What were your plans after high school?

Joe Morreale:  After high school my plans were to go to Villanova University and graduate with a good degree and hopefully go on to medical school. The eventual goal at the time was to be a trauma surgeon. That didn’t end up happening but I can say that I’m on a very rewarding path right now and loving ever minute of it.

FC:  Your bio says you’re a recent graduate from Villanova University.  What was the college experience like for you?

Joe Morreale:  Honestly college life was a very love hate experience. It’s this amazing time in a person’s life when you’re suddenly your own man or woman and start building your real life. You mature and grow to understand who you are and who you want to be. At Villanova this all happened and the environment itself was very enriching and ultimately a rewarding experience but If I had to do it again I would have gone to a highly selective art school or film school not a highly selective business school with other colleges tangentially attached. I also suffered from dyslexia and was very hard on myself, always comparing my weaknesses to my peers strengths. At times I felt very alone and misunderstood surrounded by academic types.

FC:  Did you initially go for a creative major?

Joe Morreale:  No. Unfortunately,  my university did not offer any real art outlets for me and Art History was not interesting to me. I majored in Humanities with a minor in Psychology and almost a second minor in Italian. I would have liked to learn a lot more about clay, ceramics, and modeling. My first ever medium was Silly Putty or Playdough if I remember correctly. I was always really visual and learned by playing and doing. I think the first time I made a realistic sculpture was second grade, and showed it off it in the hallway display case. It was a bumble bee but scaled up to tissue box size. The teacher was so astounded that she called my Mom to tell her that I should do more at home. The sudden attention from peers and adults left me feeling embarrassed so I think I shied away from really trying in art class again after that. I was embarrassed that I was different, I guess. Fine arts is something that I should have majored in but couldn’t at Villanova. Hopefully, someday they will have better offerings for students like myself.

FC:  What was the first film you saw in the theaters?


Joe Morreale:  Ha! Wow that’s a really good question. It had to be Beauty And The Beast or Alladin. I must have been 2 years old.

FC:  What was is exact budget?  How many days is your shoot?

Joe Morreale:  My project goes into principle photography May of 2015. We haven’t locked down a dates just yet but it will likely be a four day shoot. We are currently crowd funding on Kickstarter during the remainder of December and ending on the first Sunday of the new year. Our goal is set at 15,000 dollars but that’s a bit low and were hoping to attract more.

FC:  Where did you post your casting notice?  Did you have a table read?

Joe Morreale:  I’m casting with the help of friends and through actors that I already have relationships with. We will be using a casting director for the leads. I have already begun test shoots and dialect coaching myself so I can be informed when I sit down with my talent.

FC:  What book has provided immense inspiration for you?

Joe Morreale:  I used to read a lot. There were of course the classics like 1984 and Brave New World, I also was the only kid in my high school English class that enjoyed The Odyssey which isn’t sci-fi but I loved it. Oh and Lord Of The Rings, I feel like two hundred years from now we’ll hold Tolkien’s work in the same light as Homer. Some of what I read was not suitable for a junior high school kid like E.E. Knight’s Way Of The Wolf and the series of really cool books that came after it. I’m fairly certain this E.E. Knight taught me about good world building even though I didn’t know it at the time. My more recent inspirations are Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself and Margret Atwood’s series of books, but Orx and Crake was my favorite by her. I could go on but probably shouldn’t.

FC:  Do you envision being a filmmaker 10 years from now?

Joe Morreale:  I do, hopefully in some professional capacity.

FC:  Do you hope to make a living from filmmaking?

Joe Morreale:  I’m working on it. I feel confident I could do the professional screenwriting thing in time. Directing my own stuff would be awesome but only the greats can hack both. Only time will tell.

FC:  Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Joe Morreale:  Just be yourself and always do your best.

FC:  How did you learn aerial cinematography?  What advice can you provide to others on setting up an aerial shot?

Joe Morreale: 
I learned simply because I saw the technology was there and wanted to be apart of pioneering it. I started out with a 50 dollar “toy” and graduated from there. My rig is not considered professional but I have an embarrassing amount of money invested in it and pilot it like a pro. Honestly when you fly with GPS active anyone who’s every played a video game could learn to do it. It took me about 50-80 hours of practice before I was comfortable flying for clients. My favorite shot thus far was of a beaver dam in the middle of a lake it’s up on Instagram @morrealfilm. Not a hard shot, not even a hard flight pattern but you have to have guts to take that expensive hardware over water and then fly inches from that water, knowing full well that none of it’s water proof should something go wrong. It’s a rush I guess, if your a nerd and into that sort of thing.

FC:  Is this your first time crowdfunding?

Joe Morreale:  Yes.

FC:  What is the story of They Watched Us Kill?

Joe Morreale:  It evolved from a simple five minute short to a 15 pager and now is the pilot for a web-series. 37,000 years ago the so called “Star Parents” revisit their experiment on planet Earth and observe the first human to invent agriculture. They watch from afar as a tribal war breaks out, ultimately choosing not to intervene.

FC:  Where did you get the knives for the Kickstarter rewards for They Watched Us Kill?

Joe Morreale:  Those were actually made by the awesome Steve Saffold. He and I believe, it or not met over Instagram. He’s a really great guy who’s very passionate about experimental anthropology. Steve’s a self taught flint knapper and has been at it for ten years now. It’s safe to say that he’s as skilled as our ancient ancestors would have been thousands of years ago. This is a technology that’s been in the human animals tool box since before we had complex language. Flint knapping is the extremely technical art/skill of flaking off tinny bits of glass away from a larger piece of sedimentary rock. Eventually until it resembles a blade, spear point, or a broad head. I can easily say that Steve’s willingness to help us allowed me to believe this project was possible. I want a 100% authentic feel to this project and we literally could not have done it without him.


FC:  What is your position at Think Reel Films?

Joe Morreale:  I do office work and assistant edit on FCP 10 most days. We do a lot of corporate videos and commercials. I also shoot on my Canon 6D when we’re out on shoots or doing events for clients that don’t require nicer cameras. I’m the steadiest cameraman that we have in house and it feels good to fill a role and have your work appreciated. I wish they had more writing work for me. For now I just handle all the treatments/scripts for commercials that come our way. But I’m not complaining because I’m getting paid to practice my lesser post skills and flex my writing muscles from time to time too. I also work with some really great people that are great at what they do and enjoy teaching me what they know.

FC:  From your website, we see your excellent paintings.  How do your fine art skills help with filmmaking?

Joe Morreale:  Ha ha, it’s funny you asked the paintings. Those are by far the worst things on my website. It’s also the first time I tried water colors. I prefer photography and clay but these mediums absolutely inform my filmmaking. I love textures and colors that are interesting and unique. I want to create an environment that allows those elements to have some breathing room on screen.


FC:  Any parting words to fellow indie filmmakers on making a short film?

Joe Morreale:  Make sure the script is good. The look and feel of a film is getting easier and easier to do with inexpensive gear. It’s just a numbers game at this point, more content is being created and that means more bad stuff. Remember that before you go shoot show your script to as many people as you can, especially people who are better than you and have done it before. The story has to be there. But if you’re just learning then forget all that. Simply go out and shoot something and concentrate on getting just one thing right whether it be lighting or camera movement, etc. But just remember if it’s just you by yourself, writing is the easiest way to tell a story. Also watch your favorite movies with the sound off. You can really learn a lot.

FC:  If embarking on a second short film, what quick tips will you remind yourself of the second time around?

Joe Morreale:  I’ll be approaching this like its a feature. It’s my biggest project to date. Everything will be planed out, prepped, and fully understood. I may even pre shoot some of the harder action scenes to finalize choreography then show that raw footage to the actors (I’m pretty sure I learned this from a Film Courage video interview). I want everyone to be on the same page. My biggest challenge as a director is communicating my vision, my minds eye of the scene or idea is unique to me. It actually frustrates me that I can’t just transport my exact visual thought process into another person’s head.

FC:  What’s the biggest misconception about making a short film?

Joe Morreale:  That just because it’s short that means you can cut corners with character development.

FC:  What’s on board for your next venture?

Joe Morreale:  I’m currently writing my first feature, 40 pages in but work and now this project are getting in the way. I have three different ideas for other features too but first I have to finish this one. My second feature will be this comedy that takes place at Medieval Times.  For me it’s exciting because it’s my first non sci-fi story that has popped into my head and suddenly become relevant in my writer’s brain. But it could take me a while to get to that one.


About Joe Morreale (Writer/Director):

Originally Joe was set on practicing medicine but discovered his passion for story telling during his junior year at Villanova University. After taking a free elective in film studies it was apparent to him and his professors that he possessed a talent for writing stories for visual mediums. He soon began to study and hone his skills with additional classes and strict independent study outside of school.

After graduating in May of 2014 Joe Morreale has began working at Think Reel Films as well as writing, directing, and producing content of his own intended for new media outlets as well as traditional TV and Film. Joe’s interests lie in developing what he calls “Worth while pieces of entertainment that, hopefully, challenge the audience to prefer substance over spectacle.”

Joe also enjoys piloting small multi-rotor aircraft platforms designed for aerial cinematography.   Check out Joe’s latest project ‘They Watched us Kill’ Now on Kickstarter!