“The Awful Kind” is a suspenseful new female-led western short by filmmaker Justin Taite about a band of train robbers who get double-crossed after a heist goes wrong. Justin is also the star of a film on Amazon Prime titled “Outlaw Don’t Get Funerals.”
Justin Taite moved to Los Angeles, California, from his hometown of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, in 2008. Initially trained as an actor, Justin dove into screenplay writing in 2012. “The Real McCoy” earned him recognition and acclaim, which resulted in him subsequently writing and producing a short film entitled “SCHISM” in 2016. That short became an official selection at the “Sherman Oaks Film Festival.” In 2016, Justin gained 17lbs for his role in the indie film “Outlaws Don’t Get Funerals,” directed by Greg Derasmo.
Now his most recent creation entitled “The Awful Kind” is making its run in the festival circuit. Justin was happy to discuss its progress—and his career—via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get into acting, and how did that lead to writing?
Justin Taite (JT): I’ve wanted to do this since I was a kid. My mother acted in church plays my whole life. It was fascinating to me. I grew up in Calgary, Alberta; as a teenager, I tried auditioning around town. I ended up being an extra in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” – I was working at Blockbuster at the time. That experience changed my life forever. Shortly afterward, I was scouted in Banff, Alberta at a Pro Scout invitational; that lead to my first agent, and, as the story goes, I moved to Los Angeles, and I’ve been on the grind ever since. I found an acting teacher, Arthur Mendoza, he was old school and everything I was looking for in a teacher. He worked one-on-one with Stella Adler and cared about “the work,” it was incredibly inspiring. He’d say, “I’m not here to teach you how to act; I’m here to teach you how to think.” I built my foundation training with Arthur and hit the ground running, one audition after the next. And then I started writing because I wasn’t booking! Auditioning is a beast of its own. I remember after my 5th or 6th consecutive read for the same show, casting told me that I just “didn’t look right for their network. Maybe if there was a drug dealer selling dope to one of the characters, I might fit better.” Well, needless to say, I’ve never read for them again. This town is brutal, but I love it.
MM: What sorts of roles do you most enjoy playing, and why do you write westerns more than any other genre?
JT: I’m attracted to what scares me or excites me, and then there are the parts that are just available. Some parts are easier than others, but I get restless and bored with “easy” really quickly. There’s so much to learn from each character you play if you dig deep enough. I don’t write westerns more than other genres, but I do love writing them. It’s a tremendous responsibility; you can’t just put a hat on someone, give them a gun and cigarette and call it a western. Audiences are NOT stupid. You’ve got to do your research, and when you do, you find so many beautiful colors and nuances you wouldn’t even know existed had you not done the work with the details. Things were very different before toothpaste was invented. There was even different poetry to the way people spoke back then; it’s incredibly fascinating. I just finished reading a book about prostitution in the 19th century. It was eye-opening. Women have come a long way in the last 150 years; it’s pretty amazing and incredibly inspiring. It’s something I want to explore as I move forward with, “The Awful Kind.”
MM: What inspires your films, and do you enjoy making shorts or features more? Why?
JT: Ideally, I’d like to be making features, but it’s a money game. Short films are where I’m at at the moment. Inspiration comes from anything and anywhere; video games, movies, art, life. I get inspired to make different kinds of movies all the time. It’s like fishing; you catch some, some getaway. This year, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” inspired me, “Joker” inspired me! “Breaking Bad” STILL inspires me; it’s perfect storytelling! I mean, what an exciting time to be a filmmaker!
What inspired “The Awful Kind” was the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements in 2017. My film before that, “Schism” mental health and mass shootings. Issues like this, along with wanting to shine a light on talented people that I know. I get frustrated when I hear someone I know who is REALLY GOOD, didn’t get a part in a movie because someone else had more followers than they did. It even happens to me. But that’s the game. My friend, Andy Pagana (@andypagana – go follow him), has been working REALLY hard, building his audience in the last two years. He just hit 100K subscribers on YouTube. That’s really inspiring! But, because YouTube changed their rules on children’s content, he’s out of work overnight! Stuff like this even makes me want to make more movies. I want to rise with my friends and give back to everyone still in the hustle. There’s a lot of “me, me, me” people in LA, and that’s fine. But, it’s really about support. Promote yourself AND your friends! How do you win the war? You build an army.
MM: What experiences related to moviemaking have been the most awesome and memorable so far?
JT: Definitely taking my mom on to the backlot of Universal Studios to get props for my film, literally ten years to the week from when she helped me settle into my new apartment in Studio City. We went on the Universal Studio Tour, and we were just in awe, looking at everyone working and waving at them! Now, we were the ones getting waved at. That was pretty damn special. Memorable? As an extra on “Assassination of Jesse James,” I slipped on a patch of ice and fell on Casey Affleck’s foot as he stood next to Zoey Deschanel in front of Andrew Dominik and Roger Deakins. That was neat. Everything is a lesson, and you’ve gotta pay to learn. Whatever CAN and WILL go wrong, DOES. That’s all part of the fun. I’m still waiting to experience Quentin Tarantino’s review of my film “The Awful Kind.” He doesn’t know I am, but I am! And for my sake, I hope it’s positive!
MM: What fan feedback has been most memorable, and why?
JT: After we premiered “The Awful Kind” at NoHo Cinefest, a woman came up to me in tears, telling me she’s never felt so inspired by a short film in her life. That rocked me. I think about her a lot. I was frozen at the time and didn’t really let what she said sink in. But, yeah, that really affected me. I was also told by an instructor at an acting conservatory in Hollywood that I should probably move back to Canada because this wasn’t the right career path for me. I think about that one a lot too.
MM: How do you want your career to evolve over the coming years, and what’s coming up next for you?
JT: I’m a fan of movies, it’s my favorite thing in the world. I want to make films that aren’t getting made, I want to hire people that aren’t getting paid, I want to inspire people and make them feel great, and shine lights on issues that live in the shade! I’m currently developing “The Awful Kind” into a series, the bidding war starts now! I’m craving shooting another western again. I’ve written a couple more shorts this year that I’d like to make or even expand on. But I’d really like to make one of the features I’ve written. In particular, a film I wrote with my friend Ryan Lovelock (@lvck) about drug running in Miami in the ’80s. I’ve been excited about making that for four years now!
MM: Would you like to mention anything else?
JT: I want to shout out some of the people that helped make “The Awful Kind” a reality. Lauren Telegdy (@laurentelegdy), my Executive Producer on “The Awful Kind.” She came through in a big way, and I’m excited to make more movies with her. I want to shout out Brick It Entertainment Ltd, who backed my journey as well! Alana Sweetwater (@alanasweetwater), who did an incredible original song which you can buy on iTunes, and recorded it with Tangelene Bolton (@tangelenebolton) who is a phenomenal composer. I want to shout out my Director of Photography Nick Mahar (@nickmahar), who, along with his team of wizards, are just beyond words at what they can do with a camera and some lights. Ryan Haynie (@theryanhaynie), who is singlehandedly the reason our film looks so damn good. Last, but certainly not least, go follow these talented people CM Schwartzy (@cm_schwartzy) Keith Stallworth (@keeeithhh) Charlie E. Schmidt (@vzion8) Alejandro Bravo (@iamalejandrobravo) and Chloe Carabasi (@chloecarabasi). All Instagram handles; all love.
* * * * *