*The following interview was carried out by Stacey Lannigan*
I had the amazing opportunity to ask director Justin Zagri of Broad Stroke Productions a couple of questions regarding his interest in directing and his works, both available and yet-to-come!
Once you’ve checked out Justin’s answers below, why not have a look at the Official Website, YouTube Channel or his IMDB page?
Q1) What was it that first attracted you to film / directing?
I learned how to use a tape-based editing deck in high school and really enjoyed it. I was one of the early AMV (anime music video) creators and when I showed what I created to friends, they were really impressed! That was enough to keep doing it and try new things.
When my dad got our first DVD player, he rented a movie called Fight Club. I remember seeing commercials and it seemed interesting, so I popped it in. From the opening sequence, I was hooked. The big twist at the end blew me away on such a deep level, it changed me fundamentally. I immediately told myself: I want to make movies.
Q2) Do you have a particular favourite of your works that you’ve created of yours and why is it so?
I am extremely proud of Severus Snape and the Marauders. It’s the highest quality film I’ve made up to this point. The only way I could go higher is with a feature film. It was also the best experience I’ve ever had making a film. I’m still very close to this day with that entire cast. I go into why on this video 🙂
Q3) What do you enjoy most about the directing experience?
I love the entire creative process. It’s a rush for every little moment, from coming up with ideas, visualizing them in your head, and drawing them out, to watching the actor perform what you visualized, watching the camera get the angle you always thought about. Often times it turns out different than you visualized but it’s still good, or things surprise you and turn out better than you imagined. You live for those moments in every aspect of making the film. It’s what makes the painful, tedious, frustrating moments worth it. And of course when it’s finished, it’s always an amazing feeling of pride and relief that you finished it.
Q4) What do you find the most challenging about the directing experience? Also how do you deal with the challenges presented to you?
There are so many aspects of being a director that don’t seemingly have anything to do with directing. Like raising money, pitching your idea to investors, negotiating fees with cast and crew, locations and equipment costs. Normally producers would handle tasks like these, but in the independent filmmaking world, the director wears all the hats. So I’d say right now the toughest aspect is putting together a good proposal packet for my next film, which is feature-length. There’s so much I’m learning and have yet to learn. It’s intimidating and takes grit to keep pushing.
Q5) With regards to your fan-films: ‘The Greater Good’ and ‘Severus Snape and The
Marauders’, what was it that inspired you to direct these particular films?
I made my college thesis which was an original work and it went to several film festivals, but it never really created any kind of attention on me that I needed to get producers interested in making my films. I saw fan films were getting a lot of attention on the internet, and I noticed that Harry Potter had very few fan films out there. So I decided to go down that route.
Grindelwald always interested me. He seemed so elusive, and Dumbledore is my favorite character. I wanted to explore their relationship and have an excuse to make a magical fight scene. Snape and the Marauders was the fans’ call. I put up a survey with options on different stories to explore, and it was overwhelmingly Marauders. Which is great because Snape is my second favorite character 😛
Q6) Do you have a particular ‘casting’ process when it comes to the characters of
your fan-films, or your own short films, or is it simply whoever wants the part?
These days, I think about a pool of actors I have worked with or a colleague has worked with that we both know are really good at what they do. Then when I have characters that my group doesn’t fit, I do an audition process that is pretty standard. I see people’s headshots to see if they look like the character, ask them to read a few lines in an audition space, then bring them in for a callback to interact with other potential cast members to see if they have chemistry: Do they really seem like brother and sister, or boyfriend and girlfriend.
Q7) ‘Powerless’, your short horror film lasts just short of four minutes and yet is,
quite frankly, successfully terrifying – with regard to any future original films, is horror your go-to genre?
Horror is a late addition to my interests! A very good friend of mine encouraged me to give it a try, and it was strangely liberating. You have a lot of freedom to try all kinds of things, and the only major requirement for the film is to do one thing: scare you. So I’m glad it worked!
The feature film I’m currently pitching is a horror, but it has a lot of layers to it, including a family drama. I want the audience to care as much as possible about the characters on screen. But I also want to make them squirm in their seats 🙂
And the feature film after that is a horror, but it’s also a fantasy with a lot of worldbuilding. It might be influenced by our mutual favorite franchise 😉
Q8) As a director of your fan-films and original works, you must be a fan of films: do
you have a favourite film? If yes, what is it about that one that makes it your
My favorite film is still Fight Club. It changed me forever and its messages still resonate with me today. It’s also masterful filmmaking, as director David Fincher is known for.
Q9) If there was one movie that’s already released which you would have loved to
have directed, which one would it be and would you have made any changes to how
the movie is?
DUNE. It’s one of my favorite books of all time and I would have loved to have tackled that epic. But if there is one director I’d trust and be excited to see make it, it’s Denis Villeneuve. He’s another masterful filmmaker who has balanced sci-fi and relatable drama perfectly. I can’t wait to see what he does with it!
Q10) I’m a fan and I’m sure other fans would be interested in knowing as well: is there anything you’re working on at the moment or are planning on creating, whether it be a fan-film or another original piece?
We’re still in the middle of The Great Wizarding War! Episode 9 is approved on sound design and has been sent to music. I’m editing episode 10 and hoping that we can record what’s left of the series soon!
I’ve been making little shorts during this quarantine. They’re just experiments. People might see them, they might not.
And I’m building my financing proposal for my feature, which the short POWERLESS is based on. It has a feature-length script ready to go and hopefully I’ll be pitching to executives soon!