John V. Soto - Western Australian Invasion


John V. Soto is an Australian script writer and Director that is rapidly coming to the attention of even non-dark genre movie fans. While Prey, which make a mockery of an excellent Soto script, is held in contempt by fans Downunder, John's Crush is gaining ever increasing nods of approval. With his third movie, the award winning Needle, opening in his native Western Australia ScaryMinds felt it was time to have a chat with John and get his views on a sometimes rocky road of a career.

ScaryMinds - Prey the movie opened to pretty much universal critical condemnation. What were your thoughts on what the original Director did to your above average script?

John V. Soto - Well, the original Director took my script and did a complete rewrite which turned it from a suspenseful horror-thriller into an uneven, cheesy horror comedy. He introduced chainsaws, snakes and flaming zombies which just didn't work - he really had no idea what he was doing. So it was a kind of sad experience because the original Prey script had so much potential. What's even more frustrating is that I didn't agree with the choice of Director (as he had never done a horror film before) but the Producers completely ignored my pleas - I think they were starstruck by the "name" Director.

ScaryMinds - After the well documented problems with "Prey" should the Distributors have canned the whole project?

John V. Soto - Well, if you "can" the project, there is no hope for investors to recoup their monies. In any event Distributors felt they could make some money out of the film, which I'm sure they did as the film managed to get a small release in the US, Australia and the UK.

ScaryMinds - Do you believe a movie could still be made from your original script, with a Director who knows what he/she is doing in the dark genre?

John V. Soto - Yes, but to be honest, I think everyone should move on as Outback horror films have been done to death.

ScaryMinds - Moving on, did your experience with Prey lead you to take the Director's chair for Crush or where there additional reasons ?

John V. Soto - Yes, it certainly led me to believe that the best person to direct a writers script, is the writer himself. After all, the writer is the person who originally visualized the story and has turned that vision into a script. I think the best Directors in the world are screenwriters and there are many good examples of this. Of course, I didn't realize how big a task directing a film really is, which is why I co-directed Crush with Jeffrey Gerritsen, who had a lot more filmmaking experience than I did.

ScaryMinds - You have stated that you made Crush for your daughter, were you surprised by the success of the movie in limited release?

John V. Soto - Crush is primarily a romantic thriller that twists into something a lot darker in the third act. I wanted to make a film for teenagers that was a break from the flood of torture-porn films that were being made at the time (ie, Hostel, Saw etc). Unfortunately a lot of underage kids, despite the MA or R ratings, were watching some very bloody, violent material so I wanted to make something for them. I have been surprised with Crush's success, particularly on DVD in Australia where we sold over 10,000 units. I didn't realize what a big deal that was until I was told that most US horror films are lucky to ship 5000 units within our country. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that the film is doing well in North America and that Lionsgate is releasing the film in the UK around Halloween 2011.

ScaryMinds - What was the genesis of Crush, what lead you to write one of the great urban ghost scripts for young adults?

John V. Soto - I love Ghost stories and I'm actually working on another ghost story at the moment, which I hope to pitch to US studios later this year. The genesis of Crush was a strange event that occurred a few years ago. I was asleep at my house in Manning (a suburb in Perth) with my wife and kids when at 4am I heard someone whispering my name. I slowly sat up and moonlight through my curtains revealed a rather good looking woman wearing a black dress sitting in the red chair opposite my bed. Naturally I was stunned and I just stared in disbelief at her for a short time. Then she raised her arm and pointed at the door to our room. She said "they're in the house" and vanished into thin air. At that moment I heard the sound of something falling onto the floor in the family room, so I jump up, and walked cautiously to the family room. I switched on the lights and could see that the back door had been forced open, ie, a burglar had broken into the house, but then had changed his mind and left. I turned on the patio lights and saw a figure disappearing into the darkness over our back fence. So I think I got a friendly warning from a ghost - the woman. The next night the thought hit me - what if you meet some sexy woman who seduces you and later you find she is a ghost! So that was the genesis.

ScaryMinds - With your latest movie Needle you have taken sole Directing duties as well as scripting. Do you see yourself moving away from writing and into Directing future projects?

John V. Soto - If someone gave me the perfect script to direct, then I would jump at the opportunity. However at the moment I'm purely focused on cool genre projects that I'm writing.

ScaryMinds - Needle shows a John V Soto moving more into the bloody elements of horror, was this a script requirement or did you make a conscious decision to head in that direction?

John V. Soto - After Crush, which I see as a film for young teenagers, I wanted to make a genre film for my mates, who all love a good "old school" horror film like Urban Legend or I Know What You Did Last Summer. So yes, it was a conscious decision to head in that direction!

ScaryMinds - Needle is receiving a lot of favourable reviews and awards, do you have an issue with perhaps being viewed as a "horror" Director rather than a "movie" Director due to the exposure Needle is giving you?

John V. Soto - A very good point! I really don't mind be labelled a horror Director, because that's a genre I really love. However I'm also a big fan of Sci-Fi and Action films, so hopefully one day I'll get to make one of those!

ScaryMinds - Western Australia is becoming a real hotbed for the dark genre currently, what's that about, something in the drinking water?

John V. Soto - Not sure, but WA filmmakers are pretty good at jumping onto a good thing and if they see that genre films are becoming more popular then they too want to make them. Filmscope Entertainment pretty much is leading the charge here!

ScaryMinds - What is your working day like, do you have set times to work on scripts/movies or is there some other factor involved?

John V. Soto - I spend 50% of my time in a "real job" ie, as a business advisor and then the remaining 50% I focus on my scripts and films. I guess I work 60 to 80 hours a week and have kept this pace going for the last 5 years!

ScaryMinds - What can we expect from John V Soto in the future? Any projections on the drawing board?

John V. Soto - I do have another project on the horizon called Vengeance, which I hope to get up next year. It's an innovative thriller which unfolds in a non-linear function, so I guess its best described as Memento meets Kalifornia.

ScaryMinds would like to once again thank John V. Soto for taking time out of a heavy current schedule promoting Needle to talk to us. We look forward to future movies from the talented Writer/Director and will have a review of Needle goind down just as soon as it hit's DVD, the tyranny of regional life in Australia yo.

Internet References for John V. Soto

Needle Official Movie Site - For those wanting to check out John's latest, at time of writing, movie.
Needle Facebook Page