Joe Clarke talks Iowa, Filmmaking, and his thriller film, “Spiral”

" comes down to the filmmakers themselves taking an initiative and finding any means necessary to get their vision off the ground..."

A Midwesterner through and through, Joe Clarke was born in Springfield, Illinois and went to college at the University of Iowa. Clarke has also been making films since he was ten and has continued to do so in The Hawkeye State. In addition to writing and directing The Formula (2014) and Up on the Wooftop (2015), he is now creating a thriller film called Spiral. This film has been descried as the story of six college buddies reuniting for a bachelor party only to find that their friends have dramatically changed, and the horrific roller-coaster the party takes them on.

Wanting to learn more about him and his upcoming film, Clarke allowed me to interview him for ScifiPulse.

Nicholas Yanes: You went to the University of Iowa. How do you think your education there helped you become a filmmaker?

Joe Clarke: Just learning how to balance school, relationships, multiple jobs, and filming is what sticks out the most. My best strategy was to combine all of them together into one crazy bubble, to varying results.

Yanes: Though the state of Iowa has tried to develop its own film production industry before, it hasn’t quite worked. What would you like to see done in Iowa to encourage more film production in the state?

Clarke: I think it comes down to the filmmakers themselves taking an initiative and finding any means necessary to get their vision off the ground, regardless of the budget at hand.

Yanes: Iowa has a rich array of interesting buildings and small towns. Are there any specific buildings or areas that you’d love to film in one day?

Clarke: There’s a ton of cool locations on the Produce Iowa website that would be a blast to film in.

Yanes: Your latest movie is Spiral. What was the inspiration for this story?

Clarke: A lot of the inspiration was just based on wanting to break away from a daily routine. I’ve been making movies for 18 years now, which is a long time to do one thing. While some people may argue that making movies at age 10 doesn’t really count, I haven’t really changed how I approach filmmaking.  I look around and see myself doing the same things over and over, whether that is making the same mistakes, or eating at the same places (Noodles and Comp., what up!). A lot of that stagnant stuff was leaking into my creativity, so I had to find a way to make it exciting again. I think most people can relate to that cycle.

Yanes: When designing the villain for Spiral, what did you want the villain’s look to communicate? Were there any classic slasher/horror characters you wanted to pay homage to with this character?

Clarke: We wanted to challenge the audience’s perception of who the villain in the movie was.

Yanes: The brilliance of horror movies is that they often address a deeper issue. With Spiral centering on old friends reuniting for a bachelor party, what is the thematic backbone of this film?

Clarke: The film explores the different choices we make, while also looking at twenty-something friendships in the years following college, and how people change.

Yanes: How do you think you’ve improved as a creator from making Spiral?

Clarke: I’ve seen a lot of lows in the film industry, and so it was just nice to be able to make a movie for the sake of making a movie. It felt really comfortable collaborating with the cast and crew and trying out new ideas. I was definitely a lot more confident in directing the actors and actresses in this film. The last movie we made had a lot of kids and dogs in front of the camera, so this was a lot different working with people closer to my age range.  I think both situations helped improve me big time.

Yanes: When people finish watching Spiral, what do you hope that they take away from the movie?

Clarke: I really hope people enjoy the film for what it is. It’s got some laughs, it’s got some genuine creepy moments, and it’s got some interesting twists and turns in the plot. Ben Handler, the film’s cinematographer, gives the film a really cool look. The original soundtrack by Alexander has been getting a lot of praise.  And although it doesn’t have the big names of Hollywood, it does have some really unique characters, who are played by an array of impressive actors and actresses.

Yanes: Finally, what are some other projects you are working on that people can look forward to?

Clarke: We are in post production on a documentary with WWE wrestler Rob Van Dam. And then on to the next one.

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