Today we´re speaking to L. Gustavo Cooper who wrote and directed Velvet Road (2011) and is currently busy working on Copiii: The 1st Entry (2013) which is in post-production.
J.L: How did you get into film making?
L.G.C: I started filmmaking when I was about 18. I used to make skate films with my friends and for sponsors. We would go out all day and skate and a friend taught me how to edit. That parlayed into working for 411 magazine and Fuel doing some freelance projects. I then decided to go to school and enrolled in the Art Institute of Jacksonville. From there I took some jobs working as an assistant editor for a guy named Mark Kohl and Tigerlily Media. After my second year of college I ended up working at a pizza place and that's when I met Jon Shepard. At that point I started directing bigger things i.e. Velvet Road. The rest is history.
J.L: What are some of your favorite films?
L.G.C: This might be a shock to some people but I really like a lot of cartoons. I watch them everyday. Hahah. I collect Futurama figures (kinda a nerd thing). I do enjoy many different films though, Children of Men, There Will Be Blood, The Fifth Element, and Old Boy to name a few.
J.L: Who are some of your influences?
L.G.C: Some of my influences are Guillermo del Toro, George Romero, Hitchcock...the list goes on.
J.L: Which films and what inspired you in the creation of Copiii: The First Entry? ?. What can you tell me about it?
L.G.C: The Blair Witch Project was a big influence at the beginning, I started writing the film on a plane coming back from New York. In the first draft of the film it was very "first person". Then it started to evolve and I wanted the film to be just as pretty as Velvet Road. The ideas started to turn in my head months later with the collaboration of Coe Douglas, Jon Bosworth, Jonathan Shepard, and Duane A. Sikes. We all agreed that the story could be richer and that we could really mess with the psychological aspect and with the viewer. The film is a mix of paranormal, occult, and psychological story telling.
J.L: What kind of budget were you working with on Copiii: The First Entry?
L.G.C: Not at liberty to discuss that.
J.L: How did you raise the funds?
L.G.C: We had some great supporters. Our executive producers really felt that we had something special and supplied the production funding.
J.L: How did the shooting go for Copiii: The First Entry?
L.G.C: It was crazy! We had everything from storms, drunken bystanders, a fight with the clock and much much more. Let's just say 97 pages in 13 days.
J.L: Even if I intend to focus on Copiii: The First Entry I can´t do this without bringing up Velvet Road which is one of the best short films I´ve seen and one of the best zombie flicks I´ve seen. What kind of reception has Velvet Road been getting?
L.G.C: Velvet Road is still getting lots of publicity. One of the things that was great about Copiii is that we brought back many of the big players that worked on Velvet Road to Copiii. We are still pushing hard to make the feature version of Velvet Road and have fleshed out the script, attached a cast and just need the funds! While we are at it I would like to thank our cast and crew! They are the reason why it became the story it is today... Andrew Paul Howell (DP), Tom Martin (Bobby), Heather Ricks (Carolyne), Walter Colson (miles), Penny dreadful and team and all the rest!
J.L: Which films and what inspired you in the creation of Velvet Road?
L.G.C: There Will Be Blood was a big inspiration along with the Walking Dead. Another was the Night Of The Living Dead. I love how Zombie films are a catatlitys of a bigger story. Mixing fiction with no-fiction, it's the only way i know how to tell stories.
J.L: What kind of budget were you working with on Velvet Road?
L.G.C: Again im not a liberty but i will say it was much a labor of love. We had much support form the community along with production houses here in Florida. Without Applebox productions and Andrew Paul Howell, our DP , DVA , Andrew Avitable, Tigerlily Media, Jonathan Shepard, Penny Dreadful (Atlanta), ZOE Creative (Nashville) and Duane A. Sikes. It would have never been made. Along with my screenwriting teacher Jennie Jarvis, and writers Bragi Schut and Alexandria Lewis.
J.L: How did you raise the funds?
L.G.C: Private investors.
J.L: How did the shooting go for Copiii: The First Entry and Velvet Road?
L.G.C: It was great! Both of them were much their own "monsters". Velvet Road was shot in a series of days where everything we had to do was shot outside, we had bugs, sun, wind anything Florida has to offer. On Copiii it was 13 days of grueling filmammking. Our DP, Ryan Dean, was my safety net along with the production staff. They literally had to deal with me and my constant obsessiveness and working on the fly.
J.L: How different are the final versions from earlier drafts?
L.G.C: Its much different. I often come up with stuff in the moment. The script is much like an outline. I look at that and go, " Well, I remember writing this down.... Let's do this instead". The actors have a lot to do with that also. When in the moment, the right actors are able to give you what they know how to do and that is bringing a character to life. Graci Carli, Emily Rogers, and Rod Luzzi did a great job of this on Copiii.
J.L: What lessons did you learn while making respective film?
L.G.C: Make sure you don't like sleep, and that you are able to think on your feet.
J.L: Were there any scenes that didn´t make it to the final films?
L.G.C: Yes. But that comes later in the Directors Cut!
J.L: What advice can you give someone looking to get into the industry?
L.G.C: Close your mouth and open your eyes. There is always someone better than you that you can learn from.
J.L: So where do you see yourself heading?
L.G.C: Making Velvet road!
J.L: Are there any more films in your future?
L.G.C: Velvet Road?
J.L: One final question, is there any date for the release of Copiii: The First Entry?
L.G.C: We are looking to release it this summer!
I´d like to thank L. Gustavo Cooper for taking the time off to answer my questions.