From Chicago to Hollywood: A Conversation with Joseph Strickland

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Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce a multifaceted talent in the world of filmmaking, Joseph Strickland. With a successful career that boasts the critically acclaimed “Dual Mania,” an award-winning thriller available on Amazon Prime Video for audiences to discover for themselves, and co-authorship of the book “The Making of Dual Mania: Filmmaking Chicago Style,” which can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Mr. Strickland’s work has captivated audiences worldwide. Additionally, he is currently working on a promising upcoming project, “The Crimson Sun.” Today, we have the privilege of delving into the depths of his cinematic journey and gaining insights into his latest venture. Joseph Strickland, thank you for joining us.

1.- Joseph Strickland, you’ve had a successful career in filmmaking, including the acclaimed “Dual Mania.” Can you share a pivotal moment or experience from your journey that significantly shaped your passion for filmmaking?

I should share two moments that significantly impacted my life. While attending Columbia College of Chicago, I had been dabbling in drawing fantasy artwork. You know, studying the works of Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, etc. Their art was phenomenal! And I love the artwork on sight. I started working on an oil painting of a Navajo warrior on a large canvas, a full-scale work. But I felt an impulse to talk more about the character I created. So, I began to write a short story to give him a background and history of how he became this great, fierce tribal warrior. It then dawned on me that I would have to tell my stories visually through moving images, combining the image with the writing. Another significant moment in my life happened while watching a marathon of the many great films directed by Alfred Hitchcock. From North by Northwest, Psycho, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, and Vertigo. These films are masterpieces that any film student can learn from. My mother walked into the living room and said, JoJo, are you gonna go outside and enjoy the weather? It’s summertime, and you’ve been watching TV all day!

I heard her, but I was in the images. I felt there was something different about the films directed by Alfred Hitchcock. They were intense viewing. Although set in a familiar reality, the pictures had a dream-like quality.

2.- Many aspiring filmmakers look up to you as a role model. Who were some of your own filmmaking influences or idols when you were starting out, and how have they inspired your work?

There are too many great filmmakers whose works have strongly influenced me. Hitchcock, of course, but I must include Fritz Lang, Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Peter Weir, and Francis Ford Coppola, to name a few. Great artists inspire me because of their dedication to their vision and telling their stories in a way that sometimes goes against the norm or against what’s acceptable or commercial. I admire that. When I see a work that’s daring, truthful and has a unique individual voice, it inspires me to stay true to my vision, which can sometimes be challenging in the film industry.

3.- Joseph Strickland, congratulations on your upcoming project, “The Crimson Sun.” Could you share more about the inspiration behind the film’s exploration of institutional racism in America and how it will be portrayed within the diverse cityscape of Chicago?

Recent historical events, from the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to police brutality of Black men and women to the growing gap of financial inequality and the housing crisis in the United States, are all linked, to some extent, to how pervasive institutional racism has spread here, in America, and around the globe toward people of color, including Black people. The ugly result has been the infliction of decades of poverty, inequality in the workplace, unfair wages, etc. All of these systems have had a devastating impact on families for generations, and we are now seeing the brutal aftermath. In this film, I would like to explore the current events and consequences of institutional racism. Chicago, like many cities, has had a long and troublesome history of encouraging and enforcing institutional racism because those companies who participate in such actions, to this day, benefit from it financially. And that’s a crucial problem, like climate change, because it erodes hope for a better future.

4.- The lead character, Roger, is described as a normal guy facing life-altering decisions. Could you discuss Roger’s character development and the challenges he encounters throughout the story?

Guys don’t get any more normal than Roger. He’s a typical guy in a loving relationship with his wife, and the two have settled into family life. He has become comfortable in his life. He is restless, with many regrets, unfulfilled dreams, and desires. But circumstances can sometimes jolt people out of their comfort zone, forcing them to deal with unfulfilled longing for something else.

5.- “Dual Mania” received critical acclaim and numerous awards. How did your experience with “Dual Mania” influence your approach to “The Crimson Sun,” and are there any lessons or techniques you carried over from your previous success?

I salute anyone who makes an independent film with little or no money, a genuine independent film whose budget is under $5 million without a distributor. The process is tough as hell. Making an independent film is like constructing a multi-story building with only a handful of people to help and a pile of bricks. The work involved is incredibly challenging: obtaining funds, resources, access to equipment, etc. Independent filmmakers have to deal with limitations. But those limitations can make a person more creative in their approach. I went to the Roger Corman School of filmmaking to write, direct, and produce my directorial debut, “Dual Mania.” The lessons I learned afterward were to have a solid film team together, accessing ample sources of funds before the camera rolls, placing all the funds in a collective account manager (CAM) so you will have a proper account of funds for your production, and hiring an experienced line producer and unit production manager to help get the film production on track; and finally, having a backup plan if your distributor fails or goes out of business.

6.- The soundtrack for “Dual Mania” was well-received, with several award-winning songs. What can we expect from the soundtrack of “The Crimson Sun,” and how will it complement the film’s narrative?

We selected songs that reflect the theme of “Dual Mania,” several of its characters’ dreams, promises, hope, and heartache. But we also hope the soundtrack will reflect a collective mood the audience can relate to.

7.- Your wife, Cat Ellington, is a key creative collaborator. Can you describe how your personal and professional dynamics work together to create a harmonious filmmaking partnership?

I’m a visual person, and Cat is a musical person, so we come from different points of view. But we have this unique way of arriving at a moment where we can add a piece of a song that the other hadn’t thought about using. It’s almost like working in a restaurant kitchen. I may be the head chef, but Cat is an extraordinary sous chef or top cook. In that way, we complement each other creatively. Cat also has a tremendous eye for spotting talent. And I listen intently, understanding her observation of what a performer will bring to the table.

8.- As a filmmaker with strong ties to Chicago, how has the city’s cultural diversity and rich history influenced your storytelling and filmmaking style, particularly in “The Crimson Sun”?

Chicago is so immense and diverse in culture that the city can produce thousands of stories not yet told. Remember, there are over 30 ethnic communities in Chicago that spawned from immigration around the world! Chicago has grandeur and richness in its unique qualities that few great cities have. From the legendary skyline to cultural and historical people and events, some of which I have written into the screenplay for “The Crimson Sun.” We plan on covering the city from various neighborhoods and letting the story tell itself to audiences.

9.- “The Crimson Sun” promises to explore family dynamics and sudden tragedy among siblings. Can you provide some insights into how these family themes will be interwoven into the larger narrative of the film?

These days, I believe many people are feeling all kinds of anxieties, social pressures, and stress about the unpredictable goings-on in the world. I hope to show how this impacts people’s lives.

10.- Thanks for being with us today, Joseph. Your journey from Chicago to Hollywood is truly inspiring. it has been a great pleasure having you as a guest for this FilmmakerLife Interview. Would you like to dedicate these recent wins to someone in particular?

Yes, I dedicate those honors to the two foremost women in my life: my wife, Cat, who has been my biggest supporter, partner, and best friend, and my mother, Jamie, who nurtured me and encouraged me to follow my dreams.

Thank you, Joseph Strickland, for sharing your invaluable insights into your illustrious career and your upcoming project, “The Crimson Sun.” Your passion for filmmaking and dedication to storytelling are truly inspiring. We look forward to witnessing the profound exploration of themes in your new film and eagerly anticipate its release. On behalf of our audience, we wish you continued success in your artistic endeavors and eagerly await your next cinematic masterpiece. Thank you once again for your time and expertise.

Trailer Dual Mania

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