Joe Lujan: Filmmaker, Director, Costume Designer, Master Juggler
Photo Courtesy of Joe Lujan
When he was a kid Joe Lujan was inspired by the two horror films he was allowed to see — I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream. But when he dreamed of his future, he always imagined that he would be a veterinarian. In a recent interview he explained, “I love all animals and was fascinated by them. Animal Planet was my everything [laughs].” Yet as much as he was focused on a medical profession, he still had a passion for movie-making. “I still did my little films here and there as a hobby with my siblings and relatives but didn't think anything more of it,” he recounted. “I would make little films and play video games as my fun time. We played nothing but Resident Evil video games for hours late into the night. My parents would constantly get mad [laughs]. When we saw that the film was being made and watched the trailer the excitement grew.” When he sat in the theater to watch that film, Lujan suddenly decided that he wasn’t going to be a vet after all. “[It] all changed when my older sister Michelle took me and my younger brother out of school for a ‘doctor appointment.’ She took us to go see Resident Evil. And when those roll credits began, everything changed. Filmmaking was what I was going to do.” After making many short films, Lujan set his sights on what he considers his “first true horror project,” Rust. He described his experience shooting the horror flick, “With rust I had an amazing set — a set that no one had been given the authority to film in. It was a haunted house attraction in Las Vegas called Hotel Fear. Las Vegas Haunts gave me the okay to film in there. The members of the cast were my close friends and I wanted to surprise them so I kept it a secret. They had no idea where we would be filming. I was under the impression that I only had four to six hours to film this short due to the attraction opening that night to the public. We shot the entire film in six hours. I was later told that If I wanted more time they could have given me another day.” Lujan found that the response to the project was so strong and the material was so rich, that he could continue the Rust story with a sequel. “The cast was amazing and I was excited for what we created,” Lujan noted. “The set itself was a character in the film. I submitted Rust into a few film festivals and received many compliments and requests to see more of the killer in the film. I then went back and wrote more to the story. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I couldn't stop. The ideas kept on coming. All of a sudden I had a sequel as well as a third script for Rust. We went back to film the extension to Rust and continued on to film the sequel in seven days.” In addition to the rust films, Lujan is the creative force behind Atelophobia. For the project, he took on not only the role of director but did the sets, props and costumes and created a set of trailers all by himself. “Atelophobia was a more personal story I wanted to tell. It was based off of real life experiences [laughs] — not the killing but the bullying. I wanted to share a story yet have somewhat of a revenge on those from my past,” Lujan conceded. He added, “I see it as my artistic revenge. So I went on to making Atelophobia more of an art piece. With no budget backing the film I had to do it myself. I had boxes of fabric and a fascination for fashion so I pulled out my glue gun and went to work. [LAUGHS] I wanted colors to represent the character and wanted the sets to represent my emotions at that period of my life. It sounds twisted being a horror/slasher film, But it was my way of expressing myself through my art. I grew connected to everything when I came to Atelophobia. The costumes lead to the sets that connected to the lights and camera.” The film spawned a project that went far beyond the silver screen. “After releasing the first teaser trailer to Atelophobia, Not many understood what is was. I mixed horror and fashion,” explained Lujan. “Some loved it and some hated it [laughs]. Then there were those who didn't get it but still were intrigued by it. That’s what caught the eye of the owner of an escape room in Las Vegas. He contacted me and we sat down and discussed the details of the film and how it would be adapted to a live action experience. I rebuilt a set from the film and brought in the cast of the film to shoot exclusive content for the room and basically created the world of Atelophobia — all based on that first teaser of the film three years ago.” Lujan next turned his visionary sites to conjure up yet another cinematic world. “The Immortal Wars is based off a comic I did when I was in college… After Atelophobia 1 and 2, I wanted to try something new but couldn't decide what that was. Then it came back to me, I created a universe with characters that once again represented people in my life as well as myself. I pitched the idea to my producer and he liked what he heard, then asked if there was more juice to the story?” There was, in fact, and Lujan dove in and wrote a trilogy of scripts in just two months. One year later, they had wrapped The Immortal Wars: Resurgence, the second film in the series. The trilogy has also been spun-off into other projects as well. The Dawning is a spin off mini-series to The Immortal Wars. It is a set of origin stories to some of the main characters from the film that also connect to the comic book series storyline. The Vanquishers is the comic book series the film The Immortal Wars is based on. The first issue actually picks up after all three of the films.” With all that on his plate, Lujan has become not only an experienced director but a master juggler, too. “It is exactly that, I juggle all projects at the same time. I’m shooting one week, then editing the next, then prepping for the next. It’s constant work but, I love it. I'm creating and doing what I love. When I have down time I feel like that’s a problem. I have to be creating something or else I'm bored and stressed [laughs],” revealed Lujan. With post production of The Immortal Wars 2 in full swing, summer releases expected for Atelophobia and The Immortal Wars, issues of Vanquishers coming later this year and production for the feature film My Little Nightmare in the works, it seems like Lujan won’t be bored anytime soon. To find out more about Joe Lujan and all his projects, visit his website.