Directed By: An Interview with Justin La Turno
Justin is visibly comfortable being interview and recorded. Before starting the interview, he receives a call from a mutual friend, inviting him over to sit with us. We begin the conversation talking about our journeys in school, and the routes our creative journeys will take us. La Turno expresses how much he likes to broaden his choices, of which artistic routes he can take. He explains that he started by creating photographs but loves to draw, and even tried taking music lessons when he was younger.
DIMAS: What content did you start creating?
LA TURNO: I think, like, if I want to bring it back, all the way back, to like my childhood. I was in 6th grade when my mom had a camcorder and I would play with it and a lot of kids I realized did this. They would play with their Legos or their action figures. I had Legos and I would like make little clips of them talking and shit like that. It was just fun. Her camcorder was basically my camcorder. I was just running around with it, and filming when the family was over. It wasn't? until, I want to say, like freshman year (high school) for sure I took a photography class, and that's when I got exposed to just the fundamentals.
Then, I want to say, my junior year is when I took video production at Upland, and I think I just took off from there really.
DIMAS: What about that class made you prefer films? Do you prefer making films over photography?
LA TURNO: I think yeah, I prefer videos and film over photography because I like scenes. I'd rather watch scenes play out than look at a moment. You can catch a beautiful moment in photography. There's so many beautiful photos out there, but you can read a lot more in a scene because that's what film and video is anyway. A series of photos anyway, playing in chronological order. So, you can read the energy a lot better and experience it a lot better as you view it. That's why I love filming shows because when I started doing it I didn't really know how to do it. I didn't really have my style developed, but I think one thing that stuck is when I'm filming I wanted to make it feel like whoever's watching it like they're there. So, I don't try and stay too far away, I'm right in the middle of it.
DIMAS: What type of shows did you start filming?
LA TURNO: So, like a year ago 2017 I bought my first DSLR that could record full HD video off my friend and prior to that I wasn't really making anything that was outside of school. So just looking around at the independent music scene here in the I.E., I see people who would try to make videos. Some of it inspired me and some of it made me think, like fuck what am I doing just sitting around? I know that I could contribute to this or I could make a mark in it. So, I got my first camera and then, I want to say, middle of July my friend was in a band and he was throwing a show. And so I thought it was a good opportunity to take my camera out there and just go film it. It’s on my YouTube channel one of my first videos "Lüs Ends" and I look back at that video and I just cringe.
"I didn't want to put anything out unless I thought it was better than the last thing I did before, and the improvement just kept going."
DIMAS: Do you prefer making short films or filming shows?
LA TURNO: I would want to combine the two of them. I love the process it takes to actually make a film because so much goes into it like preproduction. 95 percent of it is basically preproduction, planning for it. Then actually doing it and finishing it up and posting it. That whole process, every step of the way, I love that because I feel like I'm a very meticulous person in general, that's probably the Capricorn in me. I love filming shows and everything like that and events because those are just spontaneous things. You can't stage that. Watching a kid get kicked in the back of the head by someone who's crowd surfing you can't stage that, but I can capture it.
"I want to out do myself, that's the one person I'm constantly competing with, the one person I'm always trying to be better than me from yesterday."
DIMAS: When you make your films, are you doing everything from beginning to end?
LA TURNO: All of the Vertigo Volumes videos that I do are all me basically, visually. Of course, my friends from Vertigo Volumes that run it, Nick Ayala, Palmer Gamble, they get the shows together, and they all decorate the venues and the sets how they want to be. All I have to worry about is going there and pointing the camera at everything and it’s all me really. I film it and edit, aside from one video I sent to Nick to edit, it was an interview we did with one of the bands. Most of the video I do is all me. As someone who's a cinematographer as someone who is so used to filming their own things you get picky with your style and your eye. So, finding someone else who has a similar vision to you, it takes a while. You have to really trust that person.
DIMAS: What type of content would you like to create?
LA TURNO: Coming of age has always been a genre that really just grabbed me, and it does that for a lot of young people. I think that's something I would…. I would kind of want those stories to age with me. Yeah, I want to do a film based on a young adult's life or like in high school. With control is wasn't set in high school it was in college. It was a young adult trying to balance their life. That's the kind of stories I want to do, stuff that resonates with people by age and people who grow into that age will experience. People who were that age that will reflect. I do want to do Sci-Fi though, that's something else entirely.
DIMAS: Tell me about your short film Control.
LA TURNO: When I made "Control" my short film I made recently it was fun doing that. I came up with the idea at work. I thought of a theme first. I can picture ideas in my head, I want something to do with school I want something to do with relationships. I thought visualizing things won’t help me, but I need to know what I would want to make films about. The statement that came to my head was "doing something over and over again until you finally get things right." The thing that came to my head that I immediately associated that with was filmmaking, also skating. My friend Adam he skates, and I asked him "hey what do you think of that idea?"
He said "oh that's cool, what do you want to do with it" I told him I might want to make a little short. So that day I outlines the whole story then I went to my friends Seb to help authentic ate it. The day after that I wrote the first draft of the script which was six pages. After sending it out to a few friends to review it by the third day I had the final draft which was the fourth.
Matt finally arrives and is met with a high-five and the following intro from Justin himself:
"This is Matt Whiteside, assistant director of Control, say hi."
Justin is telling us about Damien Chazelle, the youngest to receive the academy award for Best Director at age 31. Damien has been a sort of competition for Justin. His goal is to beat Damien and receive an academy award for Best Director at the age of 30.
DIMAS: That is actually another question I have for you, what are some of your goals in the film industry?
LA TURNO: That's my end all, be all dream goal. As a consistent goal, is definitely to be a competent director. To have a steady filmography of movies under my belt.
DIMAS: How would you rate your success as of now, in your own eyes?
LA TURNO: I think in the course of a year and 4 months of actually putting out content for me being 19–20 right now, I've definitely established an audience I feel. I think if I just continue at the rate of wanting to make things better as I go, I think the audience is only going to grow. I have to thank Vertigo Volumes for that because last December is when Nick and I got in contact with one another over Instagram. He asked me if I wanted to film for them and be on their team. I was like "hell yeah!" this year with them has boosted my confidence so much. When was at shows filming, I was just a shy kid with a camera. I would get in people’s faces and film them, but I would be too afraid to talk to them and get to know them but now I can do that.
From the side Matt decides to interject with, "Justin's just going to keep being modest. He's like 'yeah I'm attributing all my success to Vertigo Volumes, I couldn't have done it without them, the scene community.' Let me say Justin is one of the hardest working people I know who wants to get into this industry. A lot of his success is because he's very good at what he does. I just wanted to put that out there."
Justin is noticeably blushing and expresses his gratitude for Matt and his comments.
DIMAS: Besides your goal of winning an academy award before 31 what is another milestone of success for you?
LA TURNO: I think one that I can see is getting my associates degree in film here. I’m almost done this is my last semester with film classes. I do plan on transferring to Cal State LA to get the bachelors all, all while making connections along the way.
DIMAS: What do you think some of your faults are?
LA TURNO: I have a struggle with balancing close relationships. People I love and what I love doing. I kind of let what I love doing get in the way of paying attention to the people I love. I kind of miss the little things.
DIMAS: Do you have any advice for any young creative?
LA TURNO: Don't get discouraged if you don't know how to do something. It isn't because you're dumb, it just because you weren't taught. In terms of what you want to do creatively you don't need to rely solely on school to get that experience or to get that knowledge. There's so many different resources out there that can teach you. Like YouTube! You can learn anything.
Have a firm routine give yourself time to be creative. You can find the time.
DIMAS: Do you have a backup plan?
LA TURNO: NO. I don't have a plan b, because if you have a plan b or a backup that just means you're expecting your plan a to fail. There's only one direction I'm headed.