Q&A: Filmmaker Joe Clarke

BY DI STAFF | JULY 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Daily Iowan sat down with Joe Clarke, a 2010 University of Iowa alum, to discuss a film he produced that will be featured at the Landlocked Film Festival in August.

The Daily Iowan: Is this your first year being featured at the Landlocked Film Festival?

Joe Clarke: Yes, we submitted it a couple months ago, and we heard back about a month ago, so we're excited to be in the festival. It's right here at the Englert in downtown Iowa City, which is a great movie theater. We're looking forward to it.

DI: Can you give a summary of your movie without giving too much away?

Clarke: Kung Fu Graffiti is basically a spoof of an [1970s] old-school kung fu movie. It's set in Iowa so it's got a little home flavor and a little bit of action and a lot of comedy. It kind of blends a lot of things together.

DI: How did the idea originate?

Clarke: I grew up watching old-school martial-arts movies. Throughout my early movies, I do a bunch of fight scenes, so I thought, "Let's do something out of the gate that will be kind of easy to do." This is kind of where I felt comfortable starting — doing that genre.

DI: When did you start making the movie?

Clarke: I wrote it about two summers ago. We produced it last summer, filmed it and edited it over the next couple of months. It actually showed at the IMU last November and in Des Moines and a couple other places around Iowa. But it's the first time at the Englert — which we're really excited about. So it's been shown a couple places, but not a ton of people have seen it yet.

DI: Is this something you had to work on for class or something you did more on your own time?

Clarke: Actually, a fellow alum came up to me and was like, "Hey, I got a few extra bucks. Do you want to start up a little production company and make a movie?" Of course, as a wide-eyed 22-year-old I was like, "Yes, let's do this." He and I basically created Backrow Studios, which is a very low-budget production company. But we've made [Kung Fu Graffiti], and we're still going, so we're not out of business yet.

DI: Are you working on anything right now?

Clarke: Yeah, we're producing another movie in Iowa City this summer — we're actually wrapping up in a couple of weeks. We're filming at the Wedge on Riverside. It's about a pizza-delivery guy who gets caught up in a casino heist on the Fourth of July. It's a comedy [laughs].

DI: Do you hope that a film gets accepted to Landlocked next year?

Clarke: Yeah, hopefully, we can show it around like we did in Iowa, because it takes place in Iowa. We like to showcase the talent both in front and behind the camera. There's a lot of underexposed talent going on around the state, and that's what I really like to do is kind of highlight that.

DI: Have you had to do any prep work for the festival?

Clarke: The biggest thing is getting people to go there, and that just kind of depends on if the movie looks good or if anyone is interested in going. But I've heard the Landlocked gets pretty good numbers of people so, hopefully, we get a full house.

DI: Are you excited to be a part of the festival?

Clarke: Yeah, I've actually been out of town for the past five years or so that they've had it. I've actually never watched a movie in that particular theater, so I'm excited about that. There are going to be some people from Los Angeles in town, so it's a pretty big deal around Iowa City. I'm excited to be a part of it.

DI: Have you watched any other trailers for the festival?

Clarke: For this specific one I have not. I've been really busy, but I plan on attending a few of the screenings. I'm positive there's a lot of great stuff going on, and I think it's a pretty competitive pool of films that they chose from, so I'm sure there will be a lot of winners.

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