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Filmmaker Spotlight: Joe Talbot Hall of DAMASCUS ROAD


Name/Position: Joe Talbot Hall (Writer, Director, Producer)
Film: Damascus Road

With help from Kickstarter, Writer/Director/Producer Joe Talbot Hall set out to make a film, which has been chosen by NewFilmmakers Los Angeles for a screening at Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood. Get to know Hall and his latest project: 
Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you've been working on it. 
At first, I had set out to make a film that would showcase my skills as a director.  To me, it seemed the best way to help jumpstart my career.  But, as I began to imagine what story I wanted to tell, it became much more than an exercise in directing.  “Damascus Road” soon became a story that I believed was important to tell – a story that explored the fragile nature of our rights and freedoms in the United States.
Set in a dystopian Washington, D.C., “Damascus Road” tells the story of a shadowy agency that is enlisting young soldiers to carry out “mercy killings” of the incurable. When Finch, a recent recruit, is called up, he is given strict orders to murder a “religious dissenter” named Petra. Over the short span of the manhunt, Finch becomes less and less sure of his orders. At the edge of execution, it is his very target that turns the tables on him. In the end, Finch himself becomes a dissenter of the State. What lies ahead for him is a mystery.
I finished the first draft of “Damascus Road” back in March 2010.  After a successful Kickstarter campaign, we geared up for two months of pre-production and then began shooting in March 2011. The film was finally completed this past April.
Is there anyone you'd like to thank for helping out with this film?
Firstly, I’d like to thank my talented wife Grace, whose efforts as producer were essential to getting the film made.  I’d also like to thank my Kickstarter investors who believed in the film and in me, especially my parents Steve and Peggy and my siblings, Steve, Jessie and Dave.


How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at Sunset Gower Studios?
I was so excited when I got the call from NewFilmmakers.  I had already gotten several rejections from other festivals by that point and disappointment was setting in.  Thank God NewFilmmakers Los Angeles took notice of the film and chose to screen it at their distinguished festival.  I believe they see the potential that I see in “Damascus Road.”

Writer/Director/Producer Joe Talbot Hall
What inspires you?
Ultimately, it is God that inspires me and moves me to create.  But, it is also other artists who inspire me in my work – from painters, to novelist, to filmmakers.  I believe all works of art are in some way derivative of the great art that has come before them.  I try to learn as much as I can from past and present artists and in turn create my own art that is personal and unique.
Who are your influences and who do you admire?
Terrence Malick has been very influential in my filmmaking style.  His lyrical and philosophical vision and attention to detail are sensibilities that I connect with and try to achieve in my own art.  Other filmmakers such as Disney, Capra, Kubrick, Lynch, Tarantino and Fincher have also been influential in helping shape my style and vision.  Since my childhood, my admiration has gone to Disney for his unwavering dedication and uncompromising imagination.
What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?
I’ve learned that this industry is for the hardnosed.  If you’re not willing to spend long hours working toward success in this industry, chances are you will fail.  I’ve learned that my success is mostly dependent on my attitude, my work ethic and my skills.  Hard work pays off and there’s still more hard work to do.
If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?
It’s tough to pick one.  But, I’ve always wanted to work with Gene Hackman.  He’s an extremely talented actor who carries such strong presence on camera.  His performances in “Mississippi Burning” and “The French Connection” are two of the best ever to be captured on film.  I think he’d work well within the stories I enjoy telling.
What is the toughest experience you've ever had to overcome?
I can’t say I’ve led a very tough life – Thank God.  If I had to pick an experience that was the toughest, I would have to say it was moving to Los Angeles.  Right after film school, I moved to Los Angeles from the small farm town of Damascus.  Without family or friends, I had to set up a new life.  It took about a year to get used to the idea that LA was my new home and I wasn’t leaving.


What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?
The best piece of advice came from my Mom.  Since I was a kid she has been a champion of my dream to be a filmmaker.  What she always tried to instill in me was that no one but myself was going to make that dream come true.  I had to put in the hard work before anyone was going to take a chance on me.
What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?
My advice to new filmmakers is to keep creating.  It’s important to always be shaping your vision and practicing the craft.  For people to take notice, you need to prove yourself.  Also, be vocal about what your end goal is.  No one can help you achieve your goal unless they know what it is.
Where can we expect to see you next?
Hopefully you’ll be seeing me at other screenings of “Damascus Road.”  I’m also currently working with a producer friend of mine, Vincent Ueber, to get my first feature, “Black and White,” into production.  It is the true story of an incredible event that my father experienced as a rookie cop in DC.  In the spring of 1975, his life’s path changed dramatically when he was faced with a young Army vet’s killing spree.  It’s a gritty tale that involves multiple individuals from all walks of life—and which culminates in an intense chase/gunfight.  This event shaped my father’s life and altered the fates of many.  The story explores the conflict between the haze of our daily routine and the fragility of our humanity.  The initial response to this story has been incredibly positive.  We're hoping “Damascus Road” will help instill confidence in potential investors.  
Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects: 
My website is: www.joehallfilms.com
Want more info?
Visit the NewFilmmakers LA Official Website at www.NFMLA.org for more information on screenings, tickets and more. 



About the Author

Formerly an editor at Demand Media, writer at Citysearch, The Examiner, LA Youth Newspaper and proofreader at The Los Angeles Daily News, Christy Buena decided to start Disarray Magazine because she missed writing what she wanted. From hiring writers, to contacting publicists and making assignments, Christy is responsible for the editorial strategy of Disarray Magazine. Get to know the team of talented contributors.
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