Don't Breathe, it's Jimmy O!
Photo by Justin Hoffmeister
A couple of weeks ago I got the chance to talk with writer, actor, producer, James Oster aka Jimmy O of JoBlo, one of the coolest and nicest guys in entertainment. I’ve known him for over 10 years. We met when I lived in Los Angeles where my day job was as a kind of tutor and I was assigned to work with his son. We’d often talk about movies, especially horror movies. The 1980’s slasher franchise classic, Friday the 13th is now forever linked to my memories of that time. We also share a love of Halloween, the holiday and the films.
I'm super grateful he agreed to be my first interview for Crazed! During our hour long phone interview we talked about everything from social media to movies to supernatural phenomena. Below is the slightly condensed version.
Image New Line Cinema and yes I know this is the 2009 reboot.
JO: That’s weird. I just got a text. Apparently somebody quoted me about the whole Leslie Jones incident.
JO: Yeah, in one of the trades.
JO: I mean obviously I’m in support of her. I love Ghostbusters. I thought it was great.
AS: I did too. I thought it was a really funny movie.
JO: It was really funny and the fact that they went after those poor people, I find it inexcusable…I mean…
JO: It’s the same people who were like crap and bitch about Suicide Squad and Batman Vs Superman not getting great reviews. I mean, like, well, maybe because they’re crappy movies.
JO: That could be it?! (Laughter).
JO: Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of that going on right on. I don’t. I avoid getting political on Facebook or on Twitter generally even though I do think a lot of this kind of hate has surfaced from this election and I think that’s frightening. It’s funny. I have friends all across the board and I’m always respectful to them whatever their beliefs are. As long as you’re respectful to what I believe. I have a couple friends I’ve actually had to say something to who have been to me “well you need to read up because you don’t know.” And I’m like, “so do you because you don’t know either. None of us do.”
AS: But people are getting ugly about everything, politics,
AS: Or people are hearing when another celebrity puts another celebrity down on social media or it’s sort of like, they’re mad at this other person and maybe they did do something to slight them or maybe not. I don’t know. It’s none of my business. Why is it on social media? But then people get involved and they cheer on the person who’s being really hateful. It’s like a high school type of bully thing that’s going on.
JO: Totally, yeah totally. It’s been very ugly and it’s been with movies. I have a journalist friend. I think it’s under investigation right now. It was that serious where someone was saying literally, ‘if I see you in Burbank, I’m going to fucking kill you.”
JO: Because of her reaction to fucking Batman vs Superman or something like that…
Image DC Comics
AS: That is crazy!
JO: And they said actually, some of the quotes were like, “I hope the 2nd amendment people fucking kill you.” “I hope you get raped.” This is disgusting. Here’s the thing, if you say that from the privacy of your computer you’re scum. If you threaten to rape somebody; if you threaten to kill somebody online and it’s very, look we all love the freedom of going online and being able to talk about whatever we want to talk about and not facing any issues with that, but there also has to be some sense of decency. And that’s why I don’t believe in having arguments on Twitter because I just don’t think it really works.
AS: I think people just start to escalate. I’ve had to go through it... I’ve never been intentionally mean. But you go through this learning curve, like I remember when I first got MySpace and later Facebook...There were these things like the status update. At first I didn't know what to say, and then after awhile I just started saying whatever was on the top of my head. Lots of people did that and still do. And other times I made the mistake of posting when I was upset...I ended up with verbal vomit on social media that maybe nobody sees or maybe the wrong people see and it wasn't a good idea. It’s sort of like, for some people, and I’m guilty of this, I used to do this a lot, sometimes I still do it a little bit, of it’s almost like a stream of consciousness of thoughts that you would never just say them out loud, necessarily, except maybe to your closest friends. But now they’re on Facebook or Twitter or whatever and people get into arguments over it.
JO: Yeah, here’s the problem, you know back before social media, back then before Facebook and MySpace even, you would have people, you would have your circle of friends and you knew what they like, and you knew what they were into. But now, and this is good and bad I think in a way, now with Facebook, you really get to find out things about your friends you might not have, especially if they’re very vocal about politics or if something really gets on their nerves. It’s a weird thing where you kind of sometimes get to see the darker side of your friends. But the thing about it is, I think you have to take it, you have to realize that they have the right to feel the way that they do whether you agree with them or not, unless they say something absolutely personal like, “so and so is an idiot.” Ok maybe they’re a jerk or if they go on your page and start being an asshole about it, sure. But it is one of those things where of course no one wants to lose the freedom of going online but it does seem like some people need to have a few consequences.
Image Michael Myers doll EBay
AS: Yeah. I agree with you. I think if someone’s making threats or inviting people to kill somebody else, which is a threat, whatever it is, it’s not ok. In person, it’s illegal and it should also not be ok online. It should have the same weight. If you’re threatening somebody, you’re threatening somebody.
AS: I mean right now people sometimes go, “Oh, well you know, it was only on social media.”
JO: Or, “I was joking. I was joking. That I’m going to rape that person or kill that person.” Well, that’s not a funny joke, ironically enough.
AS: No. That’s not funny...It’s totally bullying and hurtful. At the least it’s bullying and at the worst it’s a serious threat. Sometimes people make threats on social media, and they are serious and they do find people...People get stalked online but also it spills over offline. I think social media is awesome. It’s amazing, but then, like you say, it sometimes brings out the darker side of human nature.
JO: Yeah. Well, unfortunately that is the way it is. You’re always going to have people that take advantage and you know, that’s with anything, whether it’s social media, whether it’s at the store, whatever. You’re always going to have bad people, but, you just, it’s a very, it’s a crazy and amazing time right now, and that’s in a good way and a bad way too because you never know if you’re gonna get some nasty…I’ve certainly gotten a lot of nasty comments in my 10 years at JoBlo, but you really do kind of have to…Nowadays you can attack anyone you want. My motto is like is if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t go out of your way to say something. I don’t if you read what Kevin Smith wrote about the guy that was going after his daughter.
AS: I did.
JO: That was wonderful. I thought was so amazing and so well written, and he has an amazing point. If you really hate somebody, if you really want to get back at somebody, you do something good. Make something positive out of it. I actually had one of my reviews posted and somebody commented, it was for Kubo, which again I loved, and somebody corrected it. They were, “Oh well it looks likes it’s such a good movie, but oh, the writer clearly doesn’t understand how to use the word ‘it’ as opposed to ‘it’ or whatever.” And I actually responded. I usually don’t, but I responded. I said, “Wow, dude! Way to turn something really positive into something negative. Good job!” And he, next thing I know almost immediately, I uploaded it again and I think he edited his comment. So he took that out. Because I’m like, look, if you see something, if you see anything, how about you just send me an email, “Hey dude, you missed a couple of its. You have a couple of typos?” Because I can fix them. I can easily fix them. But, no, you have to be a asshole and I see typos in articles all the time. The last thing I want to do is go and, “oh this person did this, and this person did.” Grow up! It’s over!.
AS: So, I did a little bit of research...and from stuff that I remember from talking to you...I think you started writing for JoBlo while I was still working with your son.
JO: Probably, I started writing for JoBlo 10 years ago.
AS: That’s amazing!
JO: Yeah, I know.
AS: I think I vaguely remember because you started writing a little bit for them, and it seems like pretty quickly you were writing more. It’s funny how time works.
JO: No it was fairly quickly because the first thing I started doing, I was hired as a DVD critic. They would send me DVDs or cool Blue Rays, actually it was DVDs back in the day, hardly any Blue Rays. And I would review those. I think within a few months, I think literally about 4-5 months, no maybe less than that, that I did my first junket where I went and did a press conference for You, Me, and Dupree. And that was the first thing I had done and being in L.A. it made sense that I could do all that sort of stuff because all that is here.
Image Universal Pictures
AS: So how cool is that to love movies and then get to go to junkets to talk to people who work on movies & also you got to go on set visits as well, right?
JO: Yeah, I did a lot of that last year. I went to two I think, three I can’t talk about yet, but one I can. I went to the set of Kubo and the Two Strings which was just absolutely stunning. I’m a huge LAIKA fan. I think it’s an amazing studio. They have these beautiful, amazing films that are just so full of life and they’re all stop motion, very little CG, and this new one, it’s just, it’s a miracle.
AS: I really have to see it. I haven’t seen it yet. It’s on my list. Money’s extra been tight lately, so my budget for going to movies in the theater regularly is negative.
JO: Yeah, if I didn’t do this job I probably wouldn’t be seeing as many movies as I do. I mean certainly, the thing about it this year is there’s been a resurgence of horror and it’s not just good horror, it’s really great horror, which is unusual. This has been the best year for horror since the ‘80’s. I can name at least 10 great horror movies or at least really good movies, one of them I can’t say yet because there’s an embargo which is just silly. But you have The Witch.
JO: You have Green Room.
JO: You have Don’t Breathe that’s phenomenal!
Image Don't Breathe
JO: You have Blair Witch which is great!
JO: You have Lights Out.
Image Lights Out
JO: You have, there’s a movie called Nina Forever.
Image Nina Forever
Jo; There’s a movie called The Invitation. I haven’t seen that one yet but I keep hearing raves about it. I really dug The Neon Demon, it’s a weird movie, but I dug that. I like Nicolas Winding Revn. I’m trying to think of what other…I’m missing something. It’s all been mostly smart horror and I think that makes it exciting.
Image The Neon Demon
JO: I’m really hoping to see Don’t Breathe make a lot of money because first of all, I love the director, Fede Alvarez is an amazingly nice guy. He is incredibly talented. I mean …anyone who can take a movie like Evil Dead and remake it like he did.
AS: I really liked his remake. It was his own take on it. He didn’t just redo it, update it, but keep it, I mean in a way it wasn’t the comedy-horror that the original one was. It was something else, but it was really good.
Image Evil Dead
JO: Yeah, and it still fit in that world. I like that. It still felt like an Evil Dead movie and not because of that silly tagged on thing with Bruce Campbell at the end. But the rest of it was just so superb, and a lot of the effects were practical effects and that really says a lot. It has, you know the really weird thing about this year is it’s been a really crappy year for movies in general as far as the big budgets.
AS: I noticed that.
JO: But the thing is it hasn’t been bad at all for Independent movies, Independent horror, this has been a great year. But the big movies, they’re kind of sucking.
AS: Yeah, that’s what I’ve noticed. Where I live there’s only one theater that gets Independent films, so it’s easy for me to feel like this year, living in Phoenix, there’s just not that many decent movies since most of the movies that come here are the big, blockbuster, Hollywood type films...so [to hear] that there’s a lot of great independent horror movies that are coming out or that have come out this year is encouraging, because most of what I’ve seen are making me think “oh my God, what’s going on with movies!” For the most part there’s not really that many big budget movies that are good.
Image Bleecker Street Media
Image Midnight Special
JO: It’s really for movie fans been the year where we needed to see movies like Captain Fantastic with Viggo Mortensen which was a lovely film, a really good movie. Midnight Special was phenomenal, one of my favorite movies of the year. Kubu and the Two Strings obviously and it literally upsets me that people aren’t going to see that because
AS: Yeah. I mean that actually has come out everywhere…
AS: that is sad people aren’t going to see that.
JO: It is. It’s horribly sad and it’s been an interesting year in the sense that. Oh! And another great horror movie is The Conjuring 2. I can’t believe I forgot about it because it’s one of the great ones that came out.
AS: I need to see that one.
Image The Conjuring 2
JO: You need to see it! Every one of the horror movies I named are worth seeing, every single one, and it’s amazing to me that there are a lot of horror movie directors that they just get it. You can make a horror movie smart and you can still make it fun and you can still make it entertaining. The beauty of most of these movies is, they’re not gory. They’re just scary. And that’s so refreshing.
AS: Yeah. Because really to me what makes a good horror movie is if it has a good story that’s intelligent, whatever genre, you know, whether it’s a comedy or it’s serious and it’s scary, it’s not gore that makes a movie scary. And sometimes there’s some great movies that have a lot of gore too, and the effects are impressive.
JO: Sure, sure. I mean we were talking about Evil Dead, and that was super gorey. That was probably one of the most gorey movies I’ve seen in quite awhile.
AS: I know. Me too.
JO: But it still worked. It still had characters that you cared about. It still felt like something more than, hey! let’s shock an audience by being gorey.
AS: Right, like let’s just see how gorey we could be in how many different ways and that’s only the point of our movie is just how many effects we can fit in.
JO: Yeah, and with the movie I’m producing it’s not…
AS: yeah, let’s talk about that.
Image The Harvesters
JO: The Harvesters is not gorey at all...we probably get a PG-13, but what it is kind of mysterious and cool. I’ve thankfully seen a work copy and I was so happy...because producing a film when I’m not even there on set. I never was on set. I’ve literally only met one of the people involved in person. I’ve never met Nick Sanford, the director in person but we talk all the time on the phone. We FaceTime. We know each other really well and that’s why I knew I really wanted to be involved with this film. First of all, I really love the script and when I got it [the rough cut], I hadn’t read the script in quite awhile when I saw it, but like I said, I was home. It was a really, really busy day. He sent me the print...and it was in 9 pieces...and so I was like well, this is in increments of like 10 minutes for each part. I figured I watch at least 10 minutes just to see it and kind of relieve my own fears. I watch the 10 minutes and I thought, “wow, I want to see what happens next.” I watched the next 10 minutes and the next thing you know I’d watched the entire film. And I felt just a kind of wave of happiness, I mean this is a really good movie and it didn’t have the sound. It didn’t have the music. It didn’t have the, it wasn’t color corrected, but there was something really special about it and I’m really proud of our leading lady. It’s a really good film and it’s very unusual. I can’t really think of a horror movie like it. I really think it’s more of a mystery horror.
Image Star Pulse
AS: Yeah. I went to the website and read what was there, all the press stuff that’s come through, all the recent stuff and it looks like a really cool movie.
JO: Yeah. I think people will like it. I think if you’re looking for blood and guts, it’s not going to satisfy you, but I do think it’s better, and it’s smart. What I’m most proud of is the fact that we made it on a shoestring budget and it looks amazing. He really shot the hell out of Oklahoma and it just looks gorgeous. There’s a ton of cool shots. It really is fantastic. I’m really excited about people seeing it. I’m ecstatic and it’s nice. I definitely feel like Nick Sanford, the director and I will be working together a lot.
AS: That’s cool. When’s the movie supposed to come out?
JO: Well, we may have an announcement very soon, very soon.
AS: Yay! You and I have talked a lot so you know I’ve worked in film, and all that stuff gets tricky…
JO: Yeah, and everything we’ve done, it feels like there’s no reason that this should work. There’s no reason that we should be able to raise the money. I mean how are we going to raise the money that we need to raise? Well, we did it.
AS: Because you guys did it on Kickstarter, right?
JO: Yeah. Yeah we did. And the day before we were not even close. We were over 10 Grand short and something happened, we just started getting hits and then suddenly it was like, ok, this is happening. It’s really going to happen and next thing you know we not only got our budget, we went over. So it was a wonderful thing..It was very terrifying because with Kickstarter if you don’t get it all, you don’t get any of it. You lose it.
JO: So there you go. We’re really excited. It’s cool to do, it’s nice to be part of something like that and to have people get excited about it. We kind of have a few people that are really looking forward to it and I think audiences will like it...Everything we do is very unusual and we’re not approaching this like your typical release, so that’s even more exciting to me. Yeah, so a lot of good stuff happening. It’s very exciting.
AS: Very cool. Yeah. You’re producing this movie. You’re working for JoBlo still. Is there anything else?
JO: I’ve kind of been doing the Ghost stuff so those are always fun.
AS: I know. I was going to ask you about the Paranormal shows that you’ve been involved with.
Image Destination America
JO: Well, the weird thing is I’m not the, I definitely believe in it obviously, but also I’m not, you know when you’re walking into a house and you suddenly hear a creak or something, I wouldn’t go, oh it’s probably a ghost, it’s probably not something else. But I’ve definitely had my fair share of experiences that it’s definitely unexplainable. I don’t know if you’ve gotten to watch some of the videos I’ve done with JoBlo where we’ve gone ghost hunting, whether I’ve been with Nick Groff from Paranormal Lockdown. I’ve gotten to do some stuff with him and it’s really exciting. He’s a great guy. I’ve done some stuff on my own and it’s fun. It’s kind of, you know when you’re at a house at 1 in the morning and you’re recording video and when you go and edit it and you hear a little girl answering a question that there was no little girl there, it’s fucking rad! It’s really cool.
AS: That is really cool!
JO: Have you ever done anything like that?
AS: I have been to a few places and I’ve lived in a couple houses that I definitely experienced some things, so I definitely believe in it. But in San Francisco I lived in a house and I saw something, like an apparition on the stairs...In the apartments in San Francisco, they’re like those flats and there’d be the front door and these stairs that go up to the apt which is basically like a house because you’re on this whole floor of this house thing that goes, that’s long, that goes back. I was talking with a housemate and we were just talking kind of like you and I are, “Oh so do you believe in ghosts?” and all that kind of stuff, and she was like, “so do you think this place is haunted?” And I said, “well, yeah.” Then she asked, “did you see anything or feel anything?’ And I said, “I saw something.” She asked, “Was it on the stairs?” I replied, “yes.” She asked, “Was it like this white figure, or figure in white?” And I said, “yes.” And she said, “other people have seen it.”
JO: Wow, yeah.
AS: That for me was the first time that I didn’t just feel there’s something here, but maybe it’s my imagination. It was sort of confirmation because other people had the same experience and a visual experience of something.
JO: I think the problem with doing that kind of thing is that it is so much based on your personal experience that’s it’s very hard to get people to believe that so when you have a shared thing, like “oh I saw this” and “that’s exactly what I saw,” it at least helps you kind of think in your mind that, “ok maybe I did see something, maybe I did experience some things.” I remember Nick and I did a thing at Washoe Club. We got to stay, and this is in Virginia City, Nevada. It’s an old tavern in a town that time forgot. Literally, it’s amazing. It is a tourist attraction because it’s supposedly haunted, and I have no doubt that it is because when we did the Washoe Club, it was Nick, me, my cameraman, Daniel and another gentleman, a friend of Nick, and there was a point where I just had this incredible need to go to this one place. I just was like, “I have to go here.” Even Nick was like, “Dude, I’ve never seen you like this.” I had this incredible, intense emotional reaction to something and I started walking to one area and he was like, ‘Do you know what that is?” And I was like, “Well, no.’ Nick was like, “I’ll tell you in a second.” So I kept going and I got this incredible sense of death and just horror, it was sad, something, this intense feeling and Nick said to me,” so do you want to know what it is?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Right beneath you is where they kept bodies for the winter.”
AS: Oh. Woah!
JO: Yeah. And I, it sent chills down my spine because I never felt like this. I’ve definitely had a couple of really intense emotional or physical experiences that I, you know, it’s a weird world that I would never have thought that I would have kind of drifted in there, and I’m so glad I did. I mean I really enjoy it. I really, there’s a lot of good people that I’ve met doing it. It’s very exciting. It’s strange. I’ve been able to do all these kind of weird things through JoBlo. I’ve been able to talk to rock stars. I talk to my favorite actors. I talk to all these people, do ghost hunting, all these strange things that it’s been really exciting.
AS: Yeah. I mean it’s just sort of like trying not to feel envy, but envy in a good way, as opposed to ‘Why does that guy get to do all that stuff?” It’s more like cool, this guy that I know, my friend, does all this cool stuff and that is really cool...So I guess it’s not really envy, it’s another kind of emotion…
JO: Yeah, happiness. It’s kind of excitement. I mean I think that’s a thing we need more of in society right now. I think we need to be more excited about other people’s happiness and not bring people down.
AS: yeah. That seems to be what’s going on.
JO: Yeah, no. I mean, it is what it is. Well unfortunately I do have go pretty soon. I mean are you getting stuff that you can use?
AS: Yeah, yeah, I mean because we talked about horror movies. We talked about JoBlo. We talked about Harvesters. We talked about social media.
JO: Yeah. We covered a lot of ground. I’m excited to read it. I’m very excited. Check this out. One of my friends tweeted, “as the end credits for Don’t Breathe, someone in the theater yelled, ‘THAT WAS DOPE AS HELL!’ Took the words right out of my mouth.” I’m telling you Don’t Breathe is one of best movies of the year.
AS: I’ll have to see it.
JO: It’s pretty scary. It has a moment. It has one of those, “Ah, shit,” moments that you will just…not gorey, just intense. Crazy intense, so highly recommend it. Yeah, I guess I have to go. It was fun talking to you though. It feels like forever. It does and it doesn’t.
AS: And that’s always cool I figured this would be a good interview to get back because it would be kind of like a conversation.
JO; That’s my, that’s the way I do my interviews. I always approach it like a conversation. And I’ll be honest, some people don’t like that, and that’s fine. My advice to them is, “well, then don’t watch my interviews, because if you don’t like the way I do it, then don’t watch it, move on.”
AS: I always like your interviews because when I watch interviews that you do, your questions, you tend to get a lot more out of the people you’re interviewing. And they probably feel very refreshed because they’re out there promoting a film or whatever and they usually have to answer basically the same identical questions all day long on a junket, from everybody and you you’re trying to get that information. And they have a job to do. They’re there to market the film, that’s a huge part of their job, but it is nice for them and it’s nice for you if you can ask some more interesting questions and just be more real. Because duh, you know, and I know that, but sometimes people forget that actors and director, they’re people like everybody else.
JO: Yeah. And look, you know, you have a…I’ve been accused on a couple of recent interviews of just kissing ass because I actually, God forbid, told the filmmaker how much I loved the movie, because (sarcastically) why would you do that?! I mean why would you be nice someone. I mean that doesn’t make sense. If you’re nice to people, strangely enough, they like you. They like being treated respectfully, weird. I mean maybe it would be better if I just go in and be an asshole, but you know what, not my thing. It never has been. Never will be.
AS: No. That wouldn’t fit your personality at all. But I mean, it’s gotta be, because a lot of people treat artists like they’re objects and not actual human beings with thoughts and feelings or that they’re been sitting in a chair answering the same questions, or maybe they’re tired.
JO: Yeah, it gets boring. And look, I don’t always ask things that are the most original questions, but I at least try to approach it from a human level and try to make it fun at least. I try to and I had a great interview this week with the cast of a movie I can’t talk about yet, but it was awesome. With every interview, I do something to make it a little more personal.
AS: And that’s cool.
Image Justin Hoffmeister