Joseph Sackett is an award-winning filmmaker who has written, directed, and produced projects that have screened in competition at the Festival de Cannes, Outfest, Slamdance, and the Rooftop Films Summer Series among others. He received his MFA in Screenwriting and Directing from NYU Tisch Graduate Film and was named as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film 2020. His first feature, “Homebody”, premiered at Outfest LA in August 2021 where he won the Emerging Talent Award. He is currently in pre-production on his second feature, “Pollinator”.
Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
The world in Dominant Species is our world just with aliens in it. Which sounds great to me!
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
Wall-E. He’s just looking for connection. Aren’t we all?
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
Friend! I have zero fear of artificial intelligence and can’t wait until I can include robots in my friend group (in humanoid or whatever other form). AI has already started making movies! Check out Sunspring.
In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?
OK I’m not much of a basketball player so my sci-fi squad is more all-purpose: Ripley for brawn, HAL for brains, and Yoda for spiritual guidance.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
I once had an idea for a short I never made that was a cannibal romance where two lovers eat each other alive. (Actually that doesn’t sound so bad; maybe I should dig back into that idea.) For me, writing is all about showing up consistently to do the work. If you spend enough time at your writing desk, the right ideas eventually find you. But you have to put in the time.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
We are living in a sci-fi future that would blow the minds of our ancestors. We fly in metal birds in the sky and carry tiny computers in our pockets!
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
So much of my life has to take place on computers/in a digital space that I go analog wherever possible. I do 80% of my writing with a pen and notebook, I only do crosswords on paper, and I read print books (although it’s very possible that one day I’ll succumb to the convenience of an e-reader).
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
For Dominant Species, my production designer gathered all of the human artifacts that you’d need to teach an alien about life on Earth: food, bed, pants, etc. I wanted as much human stuff as possible in every shot so a lot of her time on set was spent dragging big stuff into frame that would take up a lot of space and add color. The sofa was hard to move, but the shopping cart full of balloons was very easy.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Wars. Dick. A combination of practical and CGI! Utopia. Every generation thinks the apocalypse is coming but it never really comes (so far at least!). I think the idea of the apocalypse is just a poetic shorthand for the fear we all have of death, when our personal worlds come to an end. But I’ll say Post Apocalypse—let’s see what comes next!