Chicago Comedian and Filmmaker Joe Avella On What Goes into His Projects

Chicago Comedian and Filmmaker Joe Avella On What Goes into His Projects
Joe Avella. A Chicago Filmmaker and Comedian.

Recently CinemaJaw was lucky enough to have Joe Avella on the podcast. Joe, a prolific creator, does lots of film stuff in Chicago. Most notably I releasing a feature film last summer called Master of Inventions. A no-budget comedy that he wrote, directed, co-stared, produced, edited, and almost lost his mind over….

He was kind enough to add this extended interview as a ChicgoNow exclusive:

Joe Avella. A Chicago Filmmaker and Comedian.

Joe Avella. A Chicago Filmmaker and Comedian.

CinemaJaw: How long have you been creating content?

Joe Avella: 8 years I think? Depends on what you'd consider 'content'.


CJ: What got you started?

JA: Boredom. Had some time on my hands back in '04 and a friend suggested we try and make a zombie short. This was before the YouTube, so making a short and getting people to see it seemed really exciting. I got lucky my first time because this friend worked at a production company, so we got to use their equipment and all their fancy stuff for free. The short turned out pretty terrible, but I loved the process, which was weird because usually I hated doing work of any kind. This felt great so I knew I stumbled upon something important.


CJ: Your first feature film Master Of Inventions is available for free online. Can you tell us about your thinking behind that distribution model? Will you follow that same model again?

JA:Well, after 5 years of making shorts and throwing them online, I felt ready to do something bigger, like a feature. Unfortunately the general attitude was: if you want to make a movie you need a huge budget, and dedicate your life to getting it made and sold, or you'd be a giant failure and drown in debt forever.

I was seeing people like myself making shorts and putting them on the web for free. I had never seen someone take the no budget model for making web shorts and apply it to a feature length, so I thought why not? And if I succeed in getting it made for no money, I won't need to sell it. Therefore I could give it away generously to the world and use the film and any positive attention it would get as leverage for the next projects. I took me 3 years but the process was amazing and I'm very proud of the finished product.

I'll continue to put things out for free to entertain my audience. For sure. It's been a really great experience and I would recommend it to anyone interested in making longer content.


CJ: What kind of budget did you have and how did you raise it?

JA: I used kickstarter to raise $2,000. That money was to cover a few minor costs like tapes and food, but everything else had to be free. I wrote a script that took place in locations I could use for free and props I already had. Basically with all the resources I had acquired from years of making shorts.


CJ: My favorite thing in Master of Inventions besides the writing, is the amazing cast. Where did you find them? Did you have to pay them?

JA: The cast was comprised of actors and comedians I had worked with making shorts or performing in Chicago. I didn't have money to pay them, so except for a few main actors everyone else is in the film for only 1 or 2 scenes. This way I would only need them for a few hours on a weekend. I was upfront at the beginning about having no budget, and scheduled the shoots to accommodate everyone's schedule. It's the main reason it took me 3 years to make it. I would have to sometimes go months without shooting waiting for actors to be free.


CJ: Now that your first feature is complete are you done with the long form? What's next?

JA: Right now I'm about to release a web series called Delivery Dudes. It's a series of comedic shorts centered on delivery drivers and their interactions with customers. I'm also currently shooting the Delivery Dudes pilot, which should be finished in June. Online release of the pilot TBD!


CJ: Tell us about Delivery Dudes and what you learned from your experience making MoI that youve applied here. (If you have any links to DD that would be cool)

JA: Series comes out on 4/20. Here's 2 promos:  

It started off as an excuse to work with new people and try something different. This city is bursting with talented actors and I wanted to get back to work on something. After Master of Inventions I got a lot of interest from people wanting to work together, I got access to better equipment. Everything kind of fell into place. It went so well I wanted to extend the concept into a pilot.

Master of Inventions was my film school. Everything from that experience applies to my work today. Especially the production. Scheduling, working with actors, budget, everything. First time filmmakers have no idea the logistics of actually making a movie, short or full, getting it completed and getting it out into the world. Master of Inventions taught me all of that.


CJ: What filmmaker do you most admire and why?

JA: John Carpenter from 1978-1988. Those 10 years he had an amazing run and made some of my favorite films. He did horror, sci-fi, drama, comedy… you name it, and almost all were blockbusters AND truly great films. You don’t get that these days. Not from the same filmmaker, and not for 10 years straight. Well, maybe Tarintino.


CJ: If planet earth was being invaded by aliens and you only had time to grab 3 films from library of Congress to take on the escape pod, which 3 would you grab and why?

JA: The Thing (1982), Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Dumb and Dumber (1994). What do you mean 'why'?


CJ: Any practical advice for budding filmmakers out there?

JA: You have a phone in your pocket that shoots at a higher definition than the camera I made my feature on. Go shoot something. Start a project you know you can finish. See it to completion. Put it out into the world. Take in the feedback. Repeat.

You're probably smarter than me (I can't even read) and I managed to make this: Right now I'm the king of Chicago filmmaking. TRY AND TAKE MY CROWN. TRY IT!


Click HERE to listen to our full episode with Joe Avella in which we discuss Cyber Movies, Disconnect, 42, American Grindhouse, Foxy Brown, War Witch, No, Gi Joe: Retaliation, Olympus Has Fallen, This is 40, and debate the question: Which is the better baseball film: Major League or Field of Dreams? and battle on Harrison Ford Movie Trivia. IT'S EPIC!


Joe Avella on CinemaJaw

Thanks Joe!

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