Quiroz, Jr., David (The Lonely Ones)
Have you ever watched a movie and felt like the filmmaker just got you, as a fan? Well, when I watched David Quiroz, Jr.'s The Lonely Ones, it was almost like a Choose Your Own Adventure. I would go, "Oh, it would be so cool if this happened now," and it would happen seconds later. I literally clapped at some points I was so pleased with certain events.
It was obvious to me, and I think you'll agree, that despite budget limitations the guy is a real horror fan, a talented writer, and a filmmaker to keep an eye on.
Recently David took some time to answer a few questions for us. Given how much I enjoyed the film, I hope you'll all forgive me while I geek out a little…
Morgan Ploutz: David, first off, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for us!
David Quiroz, Jr.: Thank you for interviewing me!
MP: I always like to start with basics. Tell our members a little about you. The 30-second life story of David Quiroz up to this point, if you will.
DQJ: 30 seconds, huh? Let's see. I was born in Tucson, Arizona, but grew up in Phoenix. I went to Purdue University as a film studies major and after graduation in 2001 moved to L.A. and worked for a few years as a production assistant on some forgettable studio films. Then in 2004 I moved back to Arizona to try independent filmmaking and met my soon-to-be wife – I'm getting married next month!
MP: That's great! Congratulations. Can you tell us about the first horror movie you remember seeing?
DQJ: When I was about six, my uncle let me watch Dawn of the Dead with him. I still vividly remember being horrified by all the carnage after the zombies storm the mall at the end. I think that experience has a lot to do with my sick imagination and everything nowadays.
DQJ: I just showed my fiancée my all-time favorite movie, Audition. I don't think she likes it as much as me, but she didn't get up and leave either. Some of my other faves that I have to show her are Candyman and Night of the Living Dead. We don't get too many rainy nights in Phoenix, unfortunately!
MP: Seven years old was my seminal horror year. My father let me stay up and watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre (my mom probably still hasn't forgiven him), and I began reading my first Stephen King book. How old were you when you really became a fan? How did it happen?
DQJ: Like I said earlier, I watched Dawn of the Dead when I was six so there was pretty much no going back from there. I started reading Stephen King right around then, too – I think the first one I read was Salem's Lot so I had a vampire kick there for a while. I remember when I was a kid I'd sneak into the living room and watch USA's Up All Night with Rhonda Shear – that was the first time I saw Night of the Creeps.
MP: As a filmmaker, what draws you to the horror genre? As a fan?
DQJ: As a filmmaker in the horror genre, there is absolutely nothing more satisfying than watching someone jump at a scary moment in your movie. When I was younger, I did a lot of writing and used to let my friends read my stories. My favorite thing then was watching their faces during the scary or gory moments, and that still applies as a filmmaker. As a fan, I will admit to being a little demented and enjoying horror movies because I like to see the antagonists. Even as a kid I always related more to Jason Voorhees than I did to any of the idiots he was hunting down. I don't think there are enough properly constructed villains nowadays, though, which is a shame.
MP: In the world of mainstream horror, who are some people that you think are doing good things? What about on the independent side, can you name some names?
DQJ: In mainstream horror I am a big Neil Marshall fan – both Dog Soldiers and The Descent were impressive features given their budgets. As far as I'm concerned though, Alexandre Aja is the best director working in the genre right now. William Malone's visuals are incredible – I hope he gets a strong script to work with next time. I'm still a big fan of Don Coscarelli, too. Did you see his Masters of Horror episode? I can't wait for Bubba Nosferatu!
In the independent filmmaking world, I still think one of the better no-budget movies I've seen in the last few years was The Collingswood Story by Michael Costanza – I recommend it to anyone who digs independent horror! I really liked Joshua by Travis Betz, too – I'll be checking out his next feature. Jon Keeyes has put out some real quality independent films, too.
MP: Horror is huge right now. Why do you think there's been this recent EXPLOSION of popularity?
DQJ: Horror is popular right now because it's profitable. It doesn't take a lot of money to put together a competent horror film so while the film industry is facing a lot of competition from the DVD market, they're not gonna take any unnecessary risks. I think after Hostel grossed $20 million its opening weekend off of its $5 million budget some studio exec was quoted as saying, "I don't see why every studio isn't focusing their production on the horror genre".
MP: It seems we're in the middle of the Age of the Remake, either of classics films or of Asian films. As a filmmaker, how do you feel about that?
DQJ: It makes sense for studio execs just because they're focused on the bottom line – money – and we're living in a time of very short attention spans so remakes are incredibly lucrative. As a filmmaker I wouldn't necessarily want to remake anything, but that's me. As a horror fan, though, I think that ultimately it's good for the genre. I dug the shit out of The Hills Have Eyes remake. I also thought the Dawn of the Dead remake was a good horror movie even if it wasn't as good as the original. All these remakes are adding money to the genre and allowing re-releases of the old DVDs so hopefully some of these kids that are seeing these for the first time will go check out the original as well. That said, I think some of the all-time classics should be immune to remakes … but then again they redid The Texas Chainsaw Massacre so there goes that idea.
MP: People always ask filmmakers who their influences are, so I always try and make it interesting … So here goes: If everyone but you was dead and you could reanimate only three people to write and direct new films just for your pleasure, who would you pick?
DQJ: That's a good one! My favorite director is Steven Soderbergh so he'd be first. My 2nd favorite director is Takashi Miike, but if I brought him back, I'd have to bring back a translator, too, so there's my three I guess. Can you imagine if Takashi Miike and Steven Soderbergh did a movie together? They have pretty different directing and visual styles, but I think it'd be interesting to say the least. Actually, scratch Miike's translator and put Don Coscarelli there because I fucking LOVE the Phantasm franchise and he is a super cool guy. And I'd like to learn Japanese anyway.
MP: Your first project is entitled Night of the Chihuahuas, which I have to admit sounds utterly delightful. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
DQJ: Night of the Chihuahuas is utterly something – delightful isn't the word I'd use, though. Basically, I had been a production assistant in Hollywood and was sick of Los Angeles and the whole scene there so I said, "Fuck it, I'm gonna go make my own damn movie!" and moved back to Arizona. I was working on a script that I could do on a low budget, and since I had access to some Chihuahuas I wrote a script that was pretty much my love letter to the cheesy horror movies I grew up on. The movie was supposed to be this comedic horror movie with gore and laughs and some spoofs of both horror and action film clichés, but since we didn't have a budget and it was my first film as a director, it came out pretty much like a student film. That'd be fine except that we had ambitions of releasing it, but since it turned out so awful I decided not to release it so it's shelved. But it was a fun experience, and I learned a lot from it and applied those lessons to filming The Lonely Ones, which still has its flaws but is a thousand times better than Night of the Chihuahuas.
DQJ: After doing a movie with animals, I knew I had to have creatures that accepted direction in my next movie. I didn't want to do a vampire or zombie movie, though, so I created my own take on ghouls. In the first draft they were just ghouls – the lead ghoul is named Luc because ghouls have their origins in North Africa and I thought it'd be cool if a French Legionnaire had become one or something. Starting with the second draft, I really embraced the setting of the film (which is the mountains of northern Arizona) and made them indigenous to the American Southwest. The backstory is all mine – I basically sat down and gave these creatures a history and a culture and their own language and stuff. We didn't get to go into that in this first movie (mostly due to the budget), but if we get to do the sequel I have written, we'll get to see a lot more about them.
MP: I mentioned in my review that in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer the wannabe kids refer to the vampires as "the lonely ones" … and compared your style to that of Buffy writer Joss Whedon. Have you ever seen the episode or any of Whedon's work?
DQJ: I never had a chance to watch any of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, unfortunately. I heard after we had filmed that there were creatures called "the lonely ones" but they were vampires so we were okay as far as originality went. I keep meaning to sit down and watch the first season on DVD, but I haven't had time yet. Everyone I know who is familiar with his work recommends it and says that your comparing me to him is definitely a compliment!
MP: Recently I signed on to work as a script supervisor for an indie flick in my "free time" away from Dread Central and have already gotten to experience some of the trials and hardships of fundraising in the independent world. Do you have any tips, tricks, or stories about raising money for other filmmakers out there? What were your experiences raising money for The Lonely Ones?
DQJ: I lucked into my budget for The Lonely Ones and have had a very hard time raising money for my next feature, so maybe you should tell me! Seriously, though, persistence is definitely the most important thing. I tell everyone I know and meet about my work and mention future projects. For everyone that rolls their eyes there's someone that wants to help out in some way. If you network long enough, you will get what you were looking for. Actually, John Sayles had a great quote about fundraising, comparing it to hitchhiking – something like you can't think that the first car is going to stop for you, but you have to know that as soon as one does you'll get to where you want to go. And just because a car stops doesn't mean it's the one you should get a ride with!
MP: The synopsis for The Lonely Ones reads like an 80's slasher. It starts off like an 80's slasher. It's obviously heavily influenced by the 80's slasher flicks. What made you decide to pick that particular sub-genre?
DQJ: I grew up on 80's slashers! I loved the Friday the 13th films growing up, and when I first started writing in junior high, I would work on these slasher films that were pretty much emulations of the Friday the 13th films. As I matured as a writer, I started to deviate from the format and add my own things, and now I think the influence is definitely there without me being a ripoff artist or anything.
MP: Most low budget films have to cut corners and usually end up suffering in the acting department. You had some really great talent. How'd you get so lucky?
DQJ: I'm not sure, but I'm glad we did! We didn't have a lot of people show up to our auditions in L.A. or Phoenix, but the ones who did were pretty awesome. Some of them I had deliberately written their roles for them – Jose Rosete as Blake and Ron Berg as Luc were both written specifically for them because I'd worked with them and they're both hard-working guys that do a great job. Mike De La Torre and Matt Robinson are both Phoenix-based actors that exceeded the limitations of their supporting characters and really stood out on screen, I think.
MP: Like I said, the acting was overall above par. But my favorites were, without a doubt, Ron Berg (I love him, he reminds me of my high school boyfriend) and Heather Rae. In one of your commentaries (available for download on the film's MySpace page) you mention that there was some issue on-set with Heather's character, Rinoa, not doing much for a good part of the film but guarding one of the doors with a shotgun. Interestingly, I perceived that as her character being the one female taking decisive action and not running around scared. You seemed to take Rinoa on a more serious arc than the other characters from that first sad shot of her alone in her room to that final shot of her walking alone. When you started off, was it your intention to make this Rinoa's story, or did that happen by accident?
DQJ: I'm glad you liked the character so much. I was definitely making it her story from the first draft of the script all the way to the shooting draft, but I wanted her to start off as just one of the characters and then evolve into the role of being the heroine, sort of like Ash did in the first The Evil Dead. I'm glad that you picked out that once she grabbed the shotgun, it was her asserting her role in the film 'cause that's exactly what I was going for!
MP: Speaking of the other characters, I have to mention Cid. What the hell, man?!?! Without giving anything away to those who haven't seen the movie (and if you haven't seen the movie, do it!), I was not expecting him to do what he did at the end. I really believed in him. Maybe that's why I identify with Rinoa's character so much. Were you trying to completely throw the audience, or I am just hopelessly naïve?
DQJ: This would probably be a good time to tell everyone reading this to quit reading, go watch the movie, then come back and finish up 'cause I'm gonna go into some heavy spoilers here. Anyway, Cid's betrayal is one of my favorite parts of the film because it embodies the whole motif of the film, which is that we as people are not who we appear to be. Cid was written as your prototypical jock pretty boy that puts himself first and wins at all costs. He's the lead guy, the one with the gun, and the one the audience is gonna count on to save the day. However, his cheating on Rinoa shows that he puts himself first, so his second betrayal of her and of everyone else is just another instance of him looking out for #1. It's also a nice homage to another of my all-time faves, Night of the Living Dead, and how their inability to work together destroys them all.
MP: You mention a lot of things that you wanted to do but couldn't because of budget constraints. If you had the opportunity, would you remake The Lonely Ones with a larger budget, or would you leave it as it is, flaws and all?
DQJ: As unhappy as I am with parts of the film, the thing is done, and I think I'd rather move on to another project than remake this one. I would still like to make a sequel and do a better job with that one and continue to progress as a filmmaker and storyteller, but this one, while flawed, is still pretty great and I think it'd be a disservice to everyone who worked their asses off for it to remake it now.
MP: I was very glad to hear in your commentary that you had originally conceived of the creatures as sort of a franchise of films. Does this mean we'll perhaps see a "Rinoa the Lonely One Hunter" series?
DQJ: I'm not sure. I have two different sequels ready to go, and it depends on how this one is received. If we have a market for a bigger movie, Rinoa is gonna have a lot of ass to kick in a sequel. If we go with a smaller sequel, I have a more intimate story that could be done on a low budget without a lot of the sacrifices I made for the first one. I want to concentrate more on the creatures themselves and those "trials of a Gatherer" that Tifa references in the film.
MP: One of the things I liked most about the film was the creatures themselves. They're something different then we've ever seen, but you don't give away all the information as so many movies like to do these days. Still, what information you did give was intriguing. When Luc urges Tifa to go on vacation, he mentions another Gather (which I'm guessing is sort of like a pack?) they can join in Montana. Tifa also utters the line (one of my favorites) "I'm a Gatherer, not a Breeder," and Luc refers to one of their group, Crash, as a "whelp." Do you have their mythology and hierarchy all planned out already, or are you going to kind of flesh it out as you go along?
DQJ: I'm so glad you liked that line – that's one of my favorites too! I sat down and figured out these creatures from their inception hundreds of years ago in the Arizona desert and how they've gone undetected even as the American Southwest becomes the fastest growing part of the country. Let's just say that we haven't seen all of the creatures yet by a long shot. There are different social classes and breeds and mutations as a result of inbreeding and mishaps. Like I said earlier, they were supposed to have their own language, but it wasn't feasible with our budget and shooting schedule to have the actors learn their dialogue in that fashion. The goal is to reveal more about the creatures with each film without ever showing everything there is to know about them – you gotta steal my notebooks to know that!
MP: The argument could be made that you took too long developing characters in the beginning of the film before getting to the action. I'd disagree, but I know a lot of people would say so, especially with this type of horror movie. What do you say to them?
DQJ: I guess I'd just say that this movie either is your thing or it isn't. I know there are lots of people out there that want a movie that's fast and to the point and delivers the blood and the boobs and that's it. If that's your type of movie, then you will hate The Lonely Ones, and I'm not gonna defend it to you. I have always hated that people in horror movies are never fleshed out, so I decided from the get-go that I was going to give inspiration to each of my characters, and I knew that some people wouldn't go for that, but I think it's more tragic when a character that you got to know is killed. Also, the film is really a love story, so that deliberate pace was necessary.
MP: Speaking of the characters, why did you decide to have so many? Independent horror film, not a lot of money to spare, it's cheaper with less speaking roles, right? Why not cut some?
DQJ: I was hoping that if we introduced all of these characters, it would be more difficult for the audience to figure out who was gonna die and in which order they'd get killed. I'm not sure if we succeeded or not. I think that now that I've gone through this, I would avoid this many characters again and focus more on a smaller number, but hey, you live and learn, right?
MP: Okay, I have to ask. I'm not a gamer, but my fiancé is and we watched it together and he picked up on it … Tell me about the Final Fantasy names … What made you decide to do that?
DQJ: I think I had just beat Final Fantasy VIII and I loved it and wanted to pay homage to both Final Fantasy VII and VIII in some way, so I named the main females Rinoa and Tifa. After I did that, I figured "why stop there?" and kept going with Cid and Vincent and Selphie, and then it just kept going from there. Jimmy (James), Mary, and Thessaly were related to Silent Hill 1&2, and Dante is from Devil May Cry. It didn't distract from the script so I left it in. I play way too many video games, but I think there's a lot of great stuff happening in video game stories and cinematics that's worth a look from any aspiring filmmaker.
MP: You had a couple of different subplots going on involving the love triangle, an old relationship possibly rekindling, a budding relationship, Blake trying to save them, and things going on between Tifa and Luc. It was so refreshing not to have everything over-explained. Were you worried people would get confused?
DQJ: Not really because we took our time at the beginning of the film to establish everything so that by the time the shit hit the fan, the audience would know what was up. I'm glad that you appreciated this.
MP: You shot The Lonely Ones on a small budget over 16 days in some pretty harsh conditions and had to contend with several things not working out the way you wanted them to, and you still managed to turn out a pretty good product that getting some great reviews (like ours). That's got to be pretty gratifying?
DQJ: It was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life, but it seems like there's enough feedback now to know that it was worth it. I feel very flattered with the reviews because personally I'm still unhappy with it, but I guess that goes with any artist and his work. Getting a 4.5 out of 5 from Dread Central took a lot of sting out of that, let me tell you!
MP: Many people, non-horror fans, think horror objectifies women by portraying them as victims or sex objects. Despite the distinct sexual overtones of the subplot, your female characters were strong and independent. Was that something you thought about purposely?
DQJ: I was raised by a single mom, and I think that has a lot to do with the female characters in my films. She was definitely not weak or frail or someone to back down to anything, so that's probably why the women in my scripts respond just as ably – if not more so – than their male counterparts. Even in Night of the Chihuahuas, it was the female police officer that saves the day.
MP: Horror carries a lot of negative connotations for non-fans. A lot of people think it's a bad influence on children, for example. What would you say to them?
DQJ: I think people really need to take more accountability for themselves rather than blame entertainment. I really don't believe that any form of entertainment can have a bad influence on any kid that is being brought up in a strong household by people that are teaching them right from wrong. Unfortunately, we live in a society that loves to pass the blame on to everything besides themselves, and horror has always been a pretty visible and easy scapegoat. So be it.
MP: What's next for David Quiroz, Jr.?
DQJ: I've got a few different projects that I'm trying to get investment for. I would love to do another The Lonely Ones, but I also have a project called Promise that I'm really excited about. It's basically an allegorical love story set against a survival horror backdrop. It's tough to explain without giving too much away, but I think it's the best script I've written. I'm trying to figure out how to pitch a script I have for the next Friday the 13th to New Line, too, but they may be jumping on the remake wagon, too, so who knows.
MP: In a hundred years what is the world saying about David Quiroz, Jr.?
DQJ: "Hey, at least he tried!"
MP: What do you want carved on your tombstone?
DQJ: Here lies David Quiroz, Jr. Don't cry – he probably thought about killing you at least once in his life.
MP: And now, the all-important question! You mentioned him a couple of times in your commentaries … He's a bit of an enigma around here, but we love him … So you have to tell us everything you know about The Foywonder.
DQJ: He was kind enough to lend me a Schlocktoberfest T-shirt for use in The Lonely Ones, but the character that was supposed to wear it was too small for it, so we used it as a prop in the background – it's draped over the TV for most of the film. I know that he survived Hurricane Katrina in a secret bunker filled with crawdads and the Nu Image video catalog. Oh, and he's a Saints fan. I plan on attending the next Schlocktoberfest so hopefully I have more to say about him afterwards.
MP: Thank you again for taking the time to talk with us. We wish you much luck with your future projects. Keep us posted!
DQJ: Thank you again for the interview! Hopefully I have something to report here sooner rather than later. Go Cardinals!!!!
If you'd like to keep The Lonely Ones company on the Net, you can visit their MySpace page (run by their producer/director of photography/editor extraordinaire Aaron Rottinghaus). And while you're online, why not order The Lonely Ones from Evilshop?