Recently I caught up with writer/director/producer Justin Price who we interviewed last year just before he had four films released in a three months span, including Elf, Alien: Reign of Man, The 13th Friday, Forsaken, and Almost Amazing. Justin filled us in on his new films and his upcoming series “Kush” which will be airing on CBS.
Horror Fuel: “What have you been up to this year?”
Justin Price: “The most exciting thing to me in the last year since we spoke and I was talking about doing the four films, from Alien: Reign of Man and Elf, to Forsaken. From that point forward we had a grander plan in which to start a narrative where we can create a lot of quality content. We have so many opportunities now. I don’t think I’ve slowed down since the last time we talked.
We have a series coming out now, Kush, created by Shaun Cairo with Danny Rose executive producing. I’m going to produce the show.
There’s Elves with Jaamal Burden. It’s gotten so big that I literally had to hire a director to make Elves just because it was getting to the point where I didn’t want the sequel to seem one noted. He’s from the minority community as well. Any time we can reach out to people that are under-represented in the entertainment industry it’s really good. I’m trying to do that with the platform that I have as much as I can. He was excited, excited to the point where I don’t think he wrapped. I was like, “Hey Jaamal, people have to go home [laughter].” It is exciting.
So, yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to. And of course, Dawn Seeker, a sci-fi film shot in Oklahoma. Have you been to Oklahoma?”
Horror Fuel: “That sounds amazing! Yeah, I’ve been through Oklahoma.”
Justin Price: “I hear that a lot. I don’t know why people go through it, like “Yeah, I passed by it on my way to some other place.” [laughter] Oklahoma City is phenomenal. They helped not only expedite certain aspects of my shooting schedule but helped me find talent, helped me find locations, there were so many people that really had their hands in it. They really want you to flourish there in Oklahoma City, so shouts out to them.
Dawn Seeker is coming out this year right around August. I always try to make sure the cast gets a copy. I know times have changed but there’s always that moment when everyone gathers around the TV and is like ‘I saw your arm on CSI or whatever [laughter]. You’re still excited.”
Horror Fuel: “I imagine.”
Justin Price: “It’s always great. It never gets old. I don’t think people really recognize what you do in this field unless it’s on Netflix, because everyone has it. If you’re on Netflix, you’ve made it, technically speaking. If you’re not on those platforms people think either one of two things, either it’s not real or it’s small. I can tell people I’m filming and they’re like ‘Okay.’ But when it comes out they’re like ‘Oh, you shot a movie!’ I’m like, “That’s all I do, did you not see the last Horror Fuel interview? [laughter]”
Horror Fuel: “I see all your posts about filming on Facebook. I keep up with what you’re doing.”
Justin Price: “Rock on. I need to post more. I’ve come to terms with that I need to. I’m just so busy making stuff. I need to post more on work and less on basketball. I want people to see what I’m working on, but I don’t want them to see the creatures until the movie comes out. I try. It’s odd. It’s like trying to show Star Wars without showing the outfits. But we’re not at that level.”
Horror Fuel: “I get it. And I’m glad that you don’t give out spoilers. What are you working on now?”
Justin Price: “What we’re working on right now is Elves. We just finished it. Jaamal directed it and we’re now in post. It’s coming out in November right in time for the holidays. You’ve seen the first one. It’s about this magical chest. This time around we were able to write around a wild hunt going on. Instead of one elf, we go more. The way I explain that is instead of Christmas being about three wise men bringing gifts, they actually brought seven gifts and they were not all good. We made Christmas a survival day instead of a holiday. We use that as our subtext to create the basis of the seven deadly sins which each of these gifts represents. Now, the elves are out and are based on the sins they represent. You have a really fun guy in this called the Holiday Reaper. It’s these hilarious things.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s awesome. It’s always refreshing to see a new twist on the holidays.”
Justin Price: “Yeah. Then we have The Dawn Seeker. There’s a great plot on this one, the sun is dying and there are seven soldiers that are hired, well mercenaries, that go to another planet to mine stardust so they can replenish the sun. They brought a creature with them to help find places with stardust. But the creature gets free and now it’s like ‘Oh, shit!’ Now it’s a race to save the planet and fight off the creature. It’s really cool. We were able to do a lot of things I wanted to see in that film as far as to go to after earth. It’s more of a horror/sci-fi/action thing. What we did was focus on the characters and why they were on the planet. When the creature shows up it’s an added bonus.
I’m also doing a mummy movie called Pharaoah at the moment.”
Horror Fuel: “I remember you telling me about that last time we talked.”
Justin Price: “It’s in post now. We’ve finished that. It’s going to have giant creatures in it. It’s going to be cool.
My producing partners, Shaun Cairo, Danny Rose, Khu, all these guys are never sleeping, we are always working and with show Kush coming up it’s been crazy.
I’m going to start on Reapers, which we talked about last time. I finally got time. July twenty-first I think is our post-production date.
I think that’s it in a nutshell. I may have missed a movie. We’re doing so many. We’re also doing something about priests coming to life on another planet and people being eaten by giant ants. Maybe I’ll even throw in with Gorilla Shark for a Syfy movie, I don’t know [laughter]. It’s gonna be a hit [laughter]!”
Horror Fuel: “I love Syfy movies [laughter]. I would watch it. Move over Sharktopus.”
Justin Price: “I’m down. I’m not joking, seriously. I’m down with pitching Gorilla Shark. It would be amazing, you know? I’d shoot it in Africa. We could mix gorillas and sharks to stop child soldiers or something. There goes the plot right there. He’ll save lives, protect everyone. [In deep voice] Gorilla Shark…He goes from land to sea [laughter]. It would be the dopest movie. Nah, I’m playin’. All that people who read this interview will remember is Gorilla Shark [laughter].”
Horror Fuel: “That’s hilarious, but honestly, I’d watch it [laughter]. With the Sharknado franchise ending they’ll be looking for something new.”
Horror Fuel: “Seriously though, tell me about Kush.”
Justin Price: “It’s a coming of age music drama, set in New York. It follows the character “Chi”. He’s trying to change the narrative and get out of the streets. His dad is killed in a freak accident and his life is changed. He had just come out to his father and told him that he wanted to be a rapper, but the LBGTQ community is not equally represented in the hip-hop community. He sees all the people in the entertainment industry emasculating gay rappers. It seems that you can be a singer, but to be a rapper you have to be a certain way. He wants to change the ideology, the stereotypes. I think, for the most part, the most important aspect of these other characters that we’ll run into for the most part in this show and cannabis being legalized is going to play a major role. We’re going to go into a lot of people who were affected by this in communities that were torn apart by cannabis and the selling of marijuana, and etc… Now, we’ve sort of flipped and the government industries and agencies have come on board now to capitalize on our acceptance that this is something that could be helpful to some people. We’ve seen how in the 70’s and 80’s crack cocaine was introduced to the community and how that changed a lot of the minority community, not only health wise but how it affects intelligence, education, etc. You know? It essentially brought down a generation. There’s a lot of theories about how that happened, how that was introduced, where it came from.
Shaun Cairo brought forth the idea. He really wanted to represent something on television that we haven’t seen before.
Danny Rose, who has done Scorpion and Scrubs, Cougar Town, he immediately was on board. That gave us all the energy we needed. For him to come on board means that we must have hit on something that he’s seen in his twenty years of experience that is worthy of having his name on.
We get started on production of the first episode in August. We’ll be in New York. We’re casting right now. It’s going to be the biggest thing I’ve done so far.
I’m also working on a project now that will be a South By South West kind of thing. I’ll give you the details when I can. That’s going to be huge!
Of course, I’m always working with Uncork’d Entertainment, the largest independent film distributor on the planet. I’ve been working with them for the past seven or eight years and it’s crazy. It’s amazing to have companies that you can trust that is going to do the best thing for your project.”
Horror Fuel: “I’m happy to hear that you will be giving love to the LGBTQ community in Kush. As far as marijuana goes, I’m all for legalization. Not only would make a huge difference in the lives of patients but there are so many people are in jail for minor possession. They shouldn’t be there alongside murders and rapists.”
Justin Price: “That’s what’s so great about Kush, we’re going to put a light on how there’s this misleading information and how for years it’s misleading what Cannabis is, the difference between that and these man-made drugs. How all of it affected people and the stigmatization of it. It’s going to be great. Not only are we talking about it, we’ll be showing the effects of where we go now. I always thought about it this way, you have people and families told twenty years ago that this was bad, this was terrible, that you are the worst type of person if you use this. There are people who went away for years over cannabis, now, that could be part of your resume. ‘Oh, hi Tyrone, I see here you sold a lot of weed in your early years, you’re overqualified for this position.’ It’s so weird [laughter]. Now, all of a sudden, that’s okay. We’re only a few years from walking into a 7-11 and saying ‘Let me get ten on pump seven and a dime bag,’ hopefully [laughter].”
Horror Fuel: “I hope it does happen like that, not just for recreational use, but for people like me. I have Fibromyalgia and I’m allergic to the only medication they make for it. I’ve heard that cannabis is the best treatment for it, but it’s illegal here in Georgia. Well, it’s legal to have a prescription for it here, but it’s illegal to buy or grow. Ain’t that some shit?”
Justin Price: “Wow, yeah. I guess you could stumble across it, ‘Oh, look at this there is weed in my car. How did this get here? I guess I should just smoke it.”
Horror Fuel: ‘The weed fairy [laughter]!”
Justin Price: “It’s weird.”
Horror Fuel: “I can’t risk it though, I’m too cute and too small to go to jail. I don’t want to be big Bertha’s plaything [laughter].”
Justin Price: ” [laughter] I can’t be told what to do. I can’t, no, you can’t put me somewhere and tell me I’m going to eat at 5:00. I eat all night. I’m hungry now. I might eat during this interview. I can’t go to jail. I can’t go to the bathroom in front of people [laughter]. I’m not comfortable with that at all. I couldn’t handle jail [laughter]. I really wish that [going to jail] could be handled in its own way until things are figured out.”
Horror Fuel: “Police have the reputation for doing some harsh stuff, so I try not to do anything to get their attention.”
Justin Price: “What’s I’ve learned is that there are a few things we always leave out when putting things into categories, the situations people have been put through, that the training or how to handle things has never been addressed – I got pulled over in Georgia, the guy asked me a bunch of question. You could tell he was kind of teetering on that line between he pulled me over for no reason, but he’s also trying to de-escalate the situation just in case I was hostile. He wanted to make it seem like he didn’t pull me over for no reason like he’s not racist, but he pulled me over because I happened to be a black guy driving a nice car. My history has proven that if you’re in the area, you’re dealing, black guy in a nice car means drugs. Now, you can’t outright say that’s the reason they’re pulling you over, that’s stereotyping. The problem with that is that no one has gotten to the point where they say ‘Hey guys, let’s educate ourselves to why it is you assume. We need to get to why we think this way.’ There’s got to be a better way. I’m not saying that there aren’t just bad cops, but I think education is important. It’s so weird to have conversations about things that are so large without being able to pinpoint the frustration. These are things that need to be engrained in all of us as a community. People need to speak up. You can either sit there and see things and do nothing or you can speak up, do something. Like the guy at the Waffle House that stopped the shooter, you can sit there and think ‘Well, he’s not shooting at me.’ Or you can get up and do something. I know it’s an extreme example but the idea is still the same. If we see someone in a situation it’s not just about that one person, it’s going to affect everyone. I tell kids that when I speak in schools, but if your neighbor is being harassed, you’re going to be harassed next. If you’re not outraged when your next door neighbor is pulled over and harassed, then he’s not going to upset when your son gets pulled over and harassed. That doesn’t breed confidence in us. People have to hold people accountable.”
Horror Fuel: “I agree completely. And I’m sorry that happened to you.”
Justin Price: “I have to say it’s hard and there’s no way to explain it. It’s just so hard. It’s hard to be a cop, it’s something you don’t take very lightly. It’s like the military. But you notice in the military we don’t have all of these issues. I don’t see a lot of reports on white on black firefights in squads in the military overseas in Iraq, this friendly fire kind of thing going on. My point is, they are told that they fight for the flag in one unit. If you don’t have his 6 he won’t have yours. They teach that this is your brother or sister. There is no black, white, straight, gay, it’s one unit.”
Horror Fuel: “You make a great point. It should be that way. How did we get here in this conversation?”
Justin Price: “I don’t know [laughter]. It must have been Gorilla Shark [laughter].
Horror Fuel: “Damn Gorilla Shark [laughter]! You really should at least do a short film about Gorilla Shark.”
Justin Price: “I should [laughter]. No, at this point in my career, I can only do things I’m passionate about. At first when you start doing films, and this goes out to all those wanting to know how to get into filmmaking, it was best said by Denzel, ‘You do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.” You have to understand where you are in your career. When you first start out you only have limited supplies. If I want to paint, you can’t just go out and paint the Mona Lisa. It’s not if I want to paint the Mona Lisa, it’s I can’t afford the paint. It has nothing to do with skill, but if I’m using crayons from Wal-Mart, it ain’t gonna be the Mona Lisa. I don’t care how good you are. You need the budget.
Now, for me, we’ve built up enough where I only want to do stuff that moves me, like Kush. I want to speak to the LBGT community. I want to represent them. I have people on board from the community in the writer’s room, phenomenal people who can speak on things I may not be familiar with. I want to say you don’t have to be a certain way to be considered something.”
Horror Fuel: “One of the many reasons I like you is because of your determination and passion to get a message across with whatever it is you’re doing, not just entertain.”
Justin Price: “Thank you. I think we agree that’s the best type of entertainment. When you’re watching something and a message is there it means more, I think. Oh, my god, Zootopia – I took my friend’s kids, I don’t have any and didn’t want to look weird there – I was watching and loved how the message is presented. It’s amazing. It touched on the stereotypes of people and how we perceive them and where they come from. It was beautiful. I’m not even going to talk about Coco because I might cry [laughter]. Like Avengers: Infinity War, he was saying he wasn’t a bad guy with this mission to make a point about resources and taking care of the planet. As for me as an artist, that’s important to me. I’m drawn to that. But I would love to do a fun family movie.”
Horror Fuel: “Like Gorilla Shark [laughter]?”
Justin Price: Yes [laughter]! But my ultimate goal is that I want to make a point with my films. I have a great fear of the message and point getting lost.
Horror Fuel: “Tell me about making the choice of how to distribute your projects. Do you have to choose between outlets like Netflix versus Hulu?”
Justin Price: “Netflix is a great company, but as a business that’s well run, they have their own rules and regulations. They may say ‘Hey, we want your movie, but you can’t put it on that platform.” For people like me who are trying to get their movie seen you have to make a decision. Every time you make a movie it’s about what is the best route to get it seen. You pour your heart into this so that you can make more. For me, it’s not about buying a yacht, I’m just trying to buy food. I might want a sandwich or something [laughter]. I put my own money into Dawn Seeker, it ran over budget. People that were involved, all the actresses and actors, never knew. They didn’t know we were like ten minutes away from ‘Guys, we can’t finish this film. Thanks for coming out.’ Luckily, we were able to complete the film, but even then there are more production costs, like post-production. There is so much to do before it gets to that IMDb critic who gets out of the shower, pops his knuckles and critiques your film as if he’s been watching movies for thirty years. Oh, the IMDb rating guy, that’s always fun [laughter]. That guy or girl, from whomever it may be, it’s always the worst movie they’ve ever seen, every time. You’ll never see that in an art museum. I don’t just get a camera and jackass around in the woods. I’m not trying to be condescending, but it’s the truth, there’s a real science to it, lighting, filming, it’s a whole language being spoken with just lights. My point is, they’re disrespecting all these positions by just saying ‘Oh, that movie’s shit.’ The amount of work that goes into filmmaking is so disrespected. You’d never do that to any other profession. It’s awful. It just rides my left nerve, the miseducation of what we do. It kills me. I’m not knocking real critics, I’m talking about those people who just come through.”
Horror Fuel: “I get it. I’m sure it can be frustrating dealing with things like that. But you can always count on us to be really looking forward to seeing your projects, including Kush, Dawn Keeper, Elves, and whatever comes up next.”
Justin Price: “I appreciate that.”
Be sure to check out our first interview with Justin Price and follow him on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date on all of his projects and to see behind-the-scenes extras. You won’t regret it, he’s an entertaining (and funny) guy. We’ll keep you up to date on when and where you can see his projects in meantime, be sure to check out his previous releases.