Joe Lujan is the writer and director of the upcoming movie The Immortal Wars starring Eric Roberts, Tom Sizemore,Bill Oberst Jr and Shaun Gerardo.
It tells the story of war between humans and a race known as Deviants.
The Immortal Wars is a live televised event that the government shows to the world where the Deviants are forced to fight to the death.
Joe Lujan sits down with The Action Elite and discusses the project.
First of all tell us about The Immortal Wars and how you came up with the concept?
Well, I initially started out focusing on one character called Trikalypse; I drew a small online comic of her while I was in college and as it grew I started adding more characters and creating this whole world that ended up being about these people I called Deviants who have all these powers and stuff. After that I kind of started on some other films; I worked on Rust and Atelophobia which were hardcore horror films but once I finished the production of those I wanted to try something different. I started thinking that I could start bringing this Trikalypse character to life. What if I can create something off of that? So that’s when The Immortal Wars started coming into play; I started writing a script for the short film then it kept growing bigger and ended up becoming a full length feature. That’s how the whole first film came about; soon after I talked to one of my producers and we had some meetings then ended up coming to a decision to make the film. It’s now going to be the first part of a trilogy; we keep coming up with more technical ideas as to how we can create this world. I finally said “hey, let’s do it! Let’s go!” and that’s when it came to life; we finished production in about 26 days.
I like the visual aesthetic of the world just from the trailer; how would you describe the world you’ve created for it?
It’s set in the future but it also has a lot to do with things that are going on in today’s society with acceptance and equality which all comes to play in the film but I’ve taken it to an extreme. People (Deviants) are actually hiding from humans in this film so it’s a very hi-tech world but very dark at the same time.
You came up with the story and wrote the script; tell us about your writing process?
When I write I usually watch films; I’m constantly watching different types of films to kind of get my creative mind going. With The Immortal Wars it was a completely different process; I didn’t watch one thing and was mainly listening to scores to certain films like Son of God, The Hunger Games and Interstellar. I would listen to them to try and get into the mindset; I had no TV or computers on. I was literally in my studio writing and listening to this music and literally the whole story came to life then and it ended up being something bigger and greater than I was expecting it to be.
I loved the score to Interstellar; maybe one of the best of recent years…
Yeah, listening to that score I envisioned the world of The Immortal Wars; I envisioned how it was going to look and how the characters were going to be and how they would react to different emotions and to their fighting skills. Everything came to life when I was listening to this music which was at the same time therapeutic and it put me in the zone of creating that I had never experienced before. Usually my creating is nuts with lots of blood and gore but this was more of an emotional zone that I was in when writing the script and listening to this music.
What made you want to direct as well as write?
The Immortal Wars will be my fifth full length feature; I’ve been directed for over 9 years now. My comfort zone is horror films; you know I love the blood, the gore and the screams (laughs) so I wanted to try something different. It was a huge challenge but I think that’s what got me into wanting to direct it even more. I was like if I’m going to challenge myself then I’m going to go full-blown action film and see how it goes (laughs).
What stage is the movie at now?
The film right now is in post-production. We’ve already done our film lock so it’s like CGI, sound and music is currently being scored. The gentleman who is scoring this has scored all of my feature films. He is creating original music for the film which is being worked on right now. In post I begin the writing process for the sequel that we start in January.
You’ve got a great cast that includes Tom Sizemore and Eric Roberts; talk a little about them and did you have any particular actors in mind when writing?
I did have some particular actors I wanted to go for; in the independent industry you want certain actors but the chances of you getting them are real slim solely because we’re independent filmmakers. The way I think is the worst thing that can happen is they say no so I just go for it. When I was talking to my producer about certain actors we could see that we were getting responses back and the price was really high and I was on a tight budget so I had to stick with that. When we signed on Eric Roberts, Tom Sizemore and Bill Oberst Jr. I got to assemble this really cool cast. Their characters are all different from each other; Eric Roberts plays Dominion Harvey who is the main villain that runs The Immortal Wars.
The Immortal Wars is a live televised event that the government shows to the world and they make these Deviants fight to the death. So Dominion is the head guy; he’s the sector leader of the US and he obviously has a second objective. He’s a very lively yet dark character. He was a very fun character and everyone loved him; we were all having a good time and he was talking to everyone so it was honestly just an honour working with him. He was just good to work with and brought something completely different to the character. When it comes to Dominion Harvey I was not expecting that role to end up turning out that way but Eric Roberts made it his own and it was great to see that.
Tom Sizemore blew me away; his performance was out of this world. He plays the character Bloodshed which is a Deviant that does not obey Eric Roberts character Dominion so they give him a very hard time. His character was initially going to be a very scared, terrified kind of Deviant but Tom Sizemore ended up being this nuts, crazy Deviant that is not obeying any rules and is breaking all the rules, so that is why he is being punished by Dominion Harvey. He’s another great guy who was on-set talking to everyone and joking around all the time.
Bill Oberst Jr. plays the character of Seth; word on the street is that Seth and his sister are Gods but no one really knows. So his sister is a very strong, powerful character but although he cares about her he is also fighting her throughout the film. His sister is ruthless but he is caring so he holds back; he doesn’t want to hurt his own family. Bill Oberst Jr. was constantly open to everything we were doing and worked so well with everyone. It was really cool to see these actors who are on a bigger scale as far as the industry goes; they are so humble and good to work with. Bill was real cool and I as a director and from actors who worked in the film said it was real nice to see them working with us and helping us to create the story and bring it to life.
One of the other actors who is on board is Shaun Gerardo; how did you guys meet and how did he get involved?
I actually met him through my producer; he had worked on other films with him. When Shaun came on board I wanted to give him a role; because I’ve seen some of the stuff he’s done, I wanted to do something different and a role that no one has seen him in before so I gave him the role of Chris Fresno. Once again I was blown away by his performance; he created this character who is a very flamboyant and fashionable type of character and Shaun really did bring this whole new level to it and made Christopher seem very fashionable yet caring. He’s a very high, happy and chipper person who is actually the host of The Immortal Wars so his character is being seen all over the world by millions of people. He’s the one who is literally saying who wins or dies and what ranking the Deviants are getting. Seeing Shaun on-set (who was also amazing) was a lot of fun and we were constantly laughing and joking around. His character started off on the human side (Dominion’s side) but he will soon be changing as his emotions and objectives develop in the coming sequels so I wanted to introduce this character as a more happy yet good person but everything changes soon after that…
Do you already have an idea of how the story will play out in the sequels?
Yes, the script is about 80% completed and the sequel does end up going very dark; I want to be showing more of the dark side of The Immortal Wars, how the world ended and how it was separated into these sectors. In the first one I put the actors through a lot of physical and mental emotions because their fights are real brutal. The actors really become those characters and in the sequel I’m going to push them even further. Right now we are setting up as the actual fighters will be going through boot camp for the sequel to prep them for the fight scenes. Shaun’s character does go through a lot in the sequel physically as well so I’ll be putting him into some situations as well. The sequel is a step up from the first one; it was big but the sequel is going to be even bigger.
How do you envision the fights? Are we getting different martial arts styles?
In the first Immortal Wars all the fights are different; the fight choreographers who came in and created these insane fights with flips and all this craziness going on. A few are quite brawly and more like street fighting and others are very martial arts based. Some are very coordinated and particular fights. When I was doing my casting process I was looking for people who had fight experience; not fighting physically like hurting people but coordinated fighting experience. My lead Trikalypse (Jackie Gerhardy) actually has a background in fighting so when I was casting for my lead it was very hard to find someone like that. When I came across her I was like right away I want to see what she can do; her fights blew me away. She literally is flipping and jumping and creating all this nuts stuff that I was not expecting. When you’re working on independent films you’re thinking what you can create on the budget you’re on so you tend to hold back a little bit. Luckily I’ve been blessed with an amazing executive producer who gave me the opportunity to not hold back and to think big. So I asked my coordinators to create these fights; I did mention not to worry what the pay will be and that I would take care of them and just to create something that no one’s seen and they did. Each fight was different and even adjusted to where their sets were. One of our fights took place up in a forest; we were literally having the fight in 20 degree weather which I’ve been told can affect the process of fighting as well. Also they are fighting and freezing at the same time; their costumes are very revealing some of them so these poor girls were freezing. So any time we say “Cut” they go next to the fire and warm down. Some fights we were shooting up in the desert so it was like 110 degrees outside; the fights were amazing but I know I put the actors through a lot. They all came through 100% and what people are going to see as far as fighting in this film, they are going to be pretty amazed as the actors really did bring it to life.
I love the character names like Blackout and Bloodshed; would you ever be interested in trying spin-off comics or a web-series focusing on individual characters?
Right now each of the characters have their own story but in the film I don’t really say much about the backstories. Characters that I do talk about more are Trikalypse and Decay who are the main fighters in the film; we do show a little more of their background but in the story in this trilogy, I am leaving it open for spin-offs for specific characters. If we do get a good response then we’ll do a spin-off just on Trikalypse or Blackout. As far as creating a comic, we are looking for artists right now; we do want a comic put out for each story. I really want to go as far as creating a whole new world that audiences can enjoy. Like I said, the story focuses on a lot of what is going on right now so I’m kind of expressing how I feel and making my comments on everything that’s going on in my art. I’m incorporating a lot of that into the story so yeah we’re totally looking for animators and artists and we want to put the film into a published book.
When is the film coming out, 2017?
Yes, we are taking it to AFM to show it to everyone and approach distributors to see what the response is. I will be doing a screening locally in Vegas since I incorporated everyone in the film from the Vegas community so I wanted to give them something back. I want family, friends and press to come and see it but soon after we’ll start approaching sales and distribution. Hopefully everything will be released next year; I’m ready for it to come then as we start the sequel in January and the third installment starts in July 2017 as we’re back to back in production.