Billy Garberina, Director #  5

      Billy Garbina is a bit of a wildcard at filmaking, and was one of the few Movie Makers I was able to interview who leans more to the comedic side of independant filmaking, which was a bit refreshing  considering most of these guys are pumping out mostly Horror films, Billy Garbina is not one to be harshly judgemental and is seemingly straight forward and openly ready to talk films I was pretty impressed with this guy answers in my interview,  my partner in crime talked with Billy over the phone and also seemed pretty impressed with his graciuos attiude and openess to talk filmaking.  These are good qualities as , I dropped a few of the filmakers I had talked to over the phone or in person  from my Quest because of , a poor and unopen attiude to talk movie making.  In my opinion Movie Makers have to be open and willing to share ideas with others, (you should wait to become the great filmaker, then you can  get the "I don't have time for interviews because I am so accomplished already , bullsh** attiude".)   Its nice to actually meet a filmaker who just wants to sit and talk  filmaking every-now-and-then and Billy Garbina is just that kinda guy.  He is an award winning Independant Movie Maker and has a few new features in the works for the next year.  they are posted in my New Movies BuZZ section!


Name? Billy Garberina

Place Born ? East Coast

Place Grew Up? Albuquerque, New Mexico almost my whole life.

Whats your favorite Place to Visit? Places I’ve never been and the occasionally bizarre locales in my dreams.

Your Favorite Color? Sky Blue

Favorite Sport? Mixed Martial Arts

Your Eye Color? Bloodshot

Whats your favorite kind of Music? Classic Rock from the 50’s through 70’s.

Are you Married or Single? In a relationship

Where did you attend School?  Going to New York University as we speak, masters candidate in Social Work, just finished my first year.

Whats your favorite Movie(s) ? Tough question. The list changes and there are simply too many great movies and great directors. If you pressed me this second I’d say Miller’s Crossing by the Coen Brother’s, Leone’s The Good The Bad & The Ugly and Walter Hill’s The Warriors.

Whats your Favorite TV Show? I’m currently biting my nails waiting on the new season of True Blood. I’m generally obsessed with reruns of Star Trek, all series for some reason. The new Battlestar Galactica and The Shield will remain worthy of study for a LONG time to come.

Did you study to become a filmaker? If so what School?

I studied theater in high school and got my undergrad in acting. I skipped film school and went directly into the trenches.

Who are your Idols?And why ? ( Miyamoto Mushashi) the man mastered sword craft enough to kill men with single strokes of a wooden sword in duels, wrote an enduring treatise on martial philosophy and became an enduring pop icon in Japanese culture to this day.

(Nicolo Machiavelli) as a little too accurate in his handbook on politics and got imprisoned. Nobody has written a better book on the core nature of making movies.

(Orson Welles ) wasn’t afraid of screwing with the wrong people.

I would consider my life successful if I manage to be a tenth as cool as any of these guys.

As an accomplished filmaker, have you won any Awards for your work/projects? If so which Movie(s)? and from where did you receive your Awards? what year(s)?

Necroville – 2007 – Best New Mexico Film, Santa Fe Film Festival

Gimme Skelter – 2007 Best Feature Film, Halloween Horror Festival, Tampa Florida

How long have you been filmming movies? What motivated or influenced you to become a filmaker? How did you get your start making films? How old were you when you made your first feature film? And what was the Title of that film?  I’ve been making movies since 2000. That’s when I started shooting my first feature, Collecting Rooftops. I moved to LA after college to jump into acting and screenwriting. It occurred to me that the “normal” (whatever that means) road to acting/writing was chocked full of hungry talented dreamers and tough to navigate, so I decided to take responsibility for my own career by producing and directing my own projects. I was 24 and had a script I wrote and directed my senior year in college for the stage (Collecting Rooftops). It was extremely well received and I decided to try to make the leap to the big screen. I’ve been involved in theater since I was 16.

How many feature films have you already completed? What Genres? And what were the Titles? How long did it take for your first film to reach distribution? What was the films Title?

I’ve directed 4 features. I’ve produced 4 Features.


Collecting Rooftops, Necroville, Stiffed, I Heart U. Only Necroville has made it thus far. Stiffed and I Heart in post are extremely promising.


Collecting Rooftops, Necroville, Gimme Skelter, I Heart U. Necroville and Gimme Skelter are out. Like I said, I Heart U has what it takes to go the distance as well.

Gimme Skelter was the first movie I produced to make distribution. We shot it in May of 2006. It hit shelves August 2008. Necroville was the first movie I directed to make distribution. We shot that April of 2005. It hit shelves September 2008 right after Gimme Skelter.

After the 2002 Santa Fe Film Festival, I actually got a call from a major studio interested in picking up Collecting Rooftops, but sadly they declined to option it in April 2003.

I directed my latest features, Stiffed in October 2008 and I Heart U in June of 2009. I was also a producer on I Heart U. Stiffed is nearing completion and I Heart U is still in post. I am currently gearing up to shoot two new features this summer back to back in June and July, titles pending.

How many films have you worked on, (if any) besides your own films? Have you worked with any other Directors and if so how was the experince?  Who has been the mnost notable person so far to work with? and  for what reasons?

I’ve worked on at least two dozen independent features. At least a dozen have been released direct to DVD through different distributors. Usually as a lead actor and often in some crucial capacity like

  2nd unit director or assistant director. I‘ve run stunts, hung lights just about everything at one time or another. On an indie set, that’s more or less par for the course. My mileage in the field has GREATLY impacted my personal process as a director and producer. I’ve been on the set of 6 million dollar features and I’ve been on the set of 6 hundred dollar features. Some things are universal, some aren’t.

Most influential has been Scott Phillips and Richard Griffin, indie writers and directors themselves. I learned TONS about making movies with no money and great scripting from Scott and a lot of things I know about camara work I picked up from Richard. Both of them got me great acting roles early on and both of them influenced my decsiion to focus on horror-comedies since 2003.


As an Independant movie maker, whats your take on working with Actors? have you worked with any known stars? If so how was the experince? who were the stars? I always get in trouble for my thoughts on this question I sometimes joke that actors are the natural enemy of the independent film production. The truth is, I see a very symbiotic relationship between the “unknown” actor and the indie film director. The actors need the exposure; the directors need the talent a beautiful thing to be sure. Sometimes though, you get a prima donna, an addict or a personality disorder. Though few and far between, the drama generated is far from worth the final product. Unfortunately there is almost always a sweet spot in production where actors have the project by the huevos. If you have the wrong person in there, you’re in for a nightmare. I actually had a guy hold my project hostage once for extra pay. He’s an awesome human being. I hope he makes a million dollars and his aspirations for a future in politics aren’t impeded by the domestic violence charges on his arrest record. True story. This is the main reason, I suspect, that directors latch on to a few actors and hold on for dear life. Good actors make a movie fly. Great actors are a rare gift. I worked with Richard Lynch on The Wedding Slashers as second unit director. That was amazing. Randomly enough, I just saw him starring on a two-part rerun of Star Trek TNG just yesterday. He has an amazing presence on screen and off. He’s a real class act and has wild stories from his many years in the trenches. He told me “you guys have a real Roger Corman thing going on here.” The dude has hung tough with the biggest of the big dogs and there he was rolling around on the ground in a barn in New Mexico in the middle of the night in October. The man is a consummate professional.

I worked with Gunnar Hansen on the set of Gimme Skelter. Working with THE original Leatherface was something I could not begin to describe. I was freaked out by that movie when I was ten and now here I was face to face with the man himself. He is a very gentle spirited guy, extremely warm and giving. He was a real treat to work with. He bought the cast and crew cherry lime-aids on a particularly tough day. That’s the kind of great person he is.

Which Directors have influenced you the most?  and why did they? What Actors have influenced you the most? and for what reasons?

Akira Kurasowa – People study the man religiously as a movie making genius and they should. On the other hand, if you watch Yojimbo again and look at the dog carrying the human arm or the ridiculous eyebrows on the less-than-bright crime boss’s son, you realize that he had a cornball sense of humor from the very beginning. My kind of guy. He also inspired Star Wars and A Fistful Of Dollars as well as generations of film makers. What’s not to like?

Sam Raimi- Made Evil Dead once upon a time. He has always inspired me since watching his films in high school. He had me at Evil Dead 2, I was hooked by Army of Darkness. I always hated non-active cattle characters in horror movies. I was always the kid yelling “Grab the damn shovel and smack Jason upside his dome!” Chainsaws belong in the rotting corpses of zombies and Sam Raimi brings us this wisdom with a vengeance. Sam Raimi was the first director to introduce me to splatstick.

Peter Jackson- I saw my first Peter Jackson movie at the midnight movie near Berkley campus. It was Dead Alive. I fantasize about making movies as cool as Peter Jackson. He scored academy awards for the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy from beginnings as humble as Sam Raimi. Peter Jackson is another great influence. Peter Jackson perfected splatstick in Dead Alive. “I kick ass for the lord”? How can you beat that?

John Carpenter- His movies still have the capacity to creep me out. Dark social satires, crazy situations and always a wild ride. The man is a master, plain and simple. Of all movies I own on DVD, my Carpenter collection is the most filled out.

Sergio Leone- My Dad raised me on Sergio Leone. My love of westerns comes directly from Leone. Aside from being a visual master of drawing out time for what can seem like a perfection of eternity, Leone’s juxtaposition between extreme dizzying wides and extreme close ups of jagged craggy details makes for some fine cinema. He also had the good sense to hang on to Ennio Morricone for his scoring. Leone had a pitch perfect sense of tension, visuals, character, detail and sound in his movies. I’ll never tire of watching those movies. Leone has all the humor of my favorite horror directors and manages to put that into the old west.

Walter Hill- Made, among others, The Warriors and The Long Riders. Do I really need to go very deeply into that? Violence in slow mo and excruciating detail is what makes Walter Hill movies sing for me.

Can you tell us what makes Billy the man tick? (what makes you want to be a filmaker? and why? and what do you enjoy doing when not making films? At the core, my desire to be a director, producer, writer and actor all center around one simple concept: I love telling stories. As a storyteller, I like to get closer to the profane, the taboo. It’s cathartic for an audience to get to the heart of tense subjects and explore them. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but that’s the job. I’ve wanted to be in movies and make them from before that was even something I knew someone could do.

In my downtime? I like nothing better than to hang out in my underwear with my girlfriend and our dog and cat. There’s nothing more satisfying that tuning out and decompressing. I play video games, and lots of them. Video games are quickly becoming the equal of many movies in story telling content, orchestral arrangement and cinematic technique. I like the participatory component and the wide variety available. I suppose I am a child of the digital age. Nothing will ever replace actors, sets and scenarios, but it is a relatively new storytelling format that has only barely begun to be explored. I read, I juggle and every now and then when I can find a free minute I study Aikido.

How has the audience reacted to your films and Style of filmaking? How about the Media? Are you an activist? if so what organizations do you work with?

Audiences tend to react very positively to my pictures. Most people seem to “get” the fact we’re making movies with budgets less than pennies on the dollar from major motion pictures. In a way, I think many fans of my stuff and projects like it are looking for something a little looser, a little less formal and a lot grittier. In indie cinema, you can go a lot of places you just can’t in mainstream media. Every project my team and me generate is refining our process. A lot of indie film makers argue they need more money; hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to make their next picture. The best lesson I’ve learned is you can never count on what you don’t already have. I feel I need to do more with less. I believe that if I can make a truly undeniably great movie for a couple thousand dollars, people will come to it. One of these days I’ll get it right.

As far as the media, I do okay along non-mainstream routes. I’ve been getting good attention the last few years here and there in Fangoria, Rue Morgue and other horror mags. I’ve been making more and more appearances in blog reviews and websites dedicated to indie horror. The reality is the larger media just isn’t interested in smaller budget projects. Sure you get a Paranormal Activity or Clerks every now and then, but hundreds of great movies pass under the radar every year that might never get noticed. Don’t get me wrong, I think larger media outlets just have a limit to the amount of time they can focus on for content in their programming. Larger budget pictures have a broader advertising base and therefore likely to be something the average person has heard of and can respond to. Media distributors have to run a business too.

As far as activism goes, I’m sure you can imagine there isn’t a lot of money in indie cinema. Until last September, I was working in HIV Prevention for seven years with a wonderful community based organization Youth Development Incorporated in Albuquerque, New Mexico concurrent with my film making activities. It was going so well, I decided to take the next step forward and go to graduate school at NYU to get my Masters in Social Work. It’s a two-year program and I just finished my first year with close to a 4.0 average. I interned at a facility in Queens for individuals struggling with mental illness. I even managed to generate a PR video for the facility to improve community relations. Social Work as a field and the pursuit of social justice are definitely in alignment with my personal philosophies.

As a Filmaker which genres of film do you prefer to work in the most? Whats your own take of the filmaking process?  What do you enjoy most about making films? Like I said before, I don’t always want to work in horror/horror-comedy. It just so happens that most of the opportunities are there for indie film makers with tight budgets. There is an insatiable market for it. There’s also a LOT of people making them, so competition for attention can be harsh as well. I’m lucky I love horror and horror comedy. Low budget horror gave me the opportunity to direct, produce and star in movies that make it out there in the world.

Interesting, in horror you can have elements of action, drama and comedy. You can have all the elements of plot and character that you need to draw an audience in. It’s a very versatile genre. Still, I wouldn’t mind taking on non-horror genre again. I’d like to take on some science fiction or even documentary work eventually. I’m even planning on a musical in the next year or two. I just got finished last summer with a feature length western I was 2nd unit director, cinematographer and a lead in the ensemble. It’s called The Righteous and The Wicked and it is going to be pretty sweet when it’s done. I’m also going to be directing my first minimalist science fiction feature this summer in Albuquerque.

As for the process of film making itself? It’s almost never easy. It’s almost always hard. Some people see me come unglued or despondent and wonder why I do it at all. The truth is, there’s nothing more I want to do with my life than this. Everything I do in this life is specifically for the purpose of informing my role as a storyteller. The process can break you down to a blubbering mess on a sidewalk, or have you triumphant in moments of exhilaration. Making movies is living life well. What do I enjoy most? Over the years I’ve found something I call “perfect moments” in making movies. Sometimes, on rare occasion everything will simply come together. The actors, the set, the light, the shotÉeverything just coalesces. It is in those moments that you can see something really beautiful has been captured in the craft. My goal is to try to have as many of those happen in my process as I can. It’s tough. Often it’s almost too much just to get a movie shot at all. But when a perfect moment comes by, it makes the suffering well worthwhile.

As an accomplished filmaker how has it been to find Distribution for your films? Do you currently have any films signed with major or minor Distributors? Whats your take on the whole process of Distribution?

Finding distribution is getting tougher and tougher. The DVD market is drying up more and more every year. I have many of my movies I’ve made in major and minor capacities in distro. I don’t believe any of my projects are signed to any major labels and the aggregate of my distributed projects are probably dispersed over a dozen distributors or so I’d guess. The process of distro is a whole other level of nightmares. Getting the damned movie made is one thing, getting people to watch it is a whole other ball of wax. And distributors have to eat to, they have advertising costs, staff and all kinds of bills to pay for generation and duplication of professional DVD outputs. It’s a tough racket. It’s every bit as challenging as making the movies themselves.

Billy as an accomplished Independant Movie Maker, whats your take on Big Budget Films v/s Independant films? Production differences? Talent Differences? I said before that some things translate and some don’t. It’s an unfair comparison. It’s totally an apples and oranges affair. There are remarkable movies made for hundreds of millions of dollars and there are fantastic independent movies I’ve seen generated for a couple thousand dollars. You’re unlikely to ever see Arnold Schwarzenegger or Tom Cruise on the set of a five thousand dollar movie. You’re also unlikely to see giant explosions, wild car chases destroying half of San Francisco or comprehensive interstellar warfare. Then again, I’ve seen people do amazing things with very little on an indie set. The point is whether a movie has a huge budget or a tiny one, you can never account for good scripting, good direction and good acting. It’s totally subjective. I’ve also seen some real garbage made for millions of dollars and some real stinkers made for a couple grand. Hell, I’ve made some real stinkers for a couple grand. Talent is equally subjective. Now “A” list actors have made Troma movies in the past. Again, talent is subjective. Great actors have bad days, and terrible directors manage perfect moments. The big difference is money. On large sets I’ve had the fortune of visiting, there are many egregious wastes of time and money. On the other hand, with millions at the disposal, I imagine it’s hard to keep track of every penny. Who knows?

Billy , as an Independant movie maker can you give any advice to the upcoming Directors trying to scratch out their own way into the Media Spotlight? Any advice for them starting up? Working with actors? Advice on the process of making a feature film, thru your own experiences? and can you give any advice to the Actors working with Directors? Lastly Billy, where do you see yourself ten years from now as a filmaker? Still making movies? Do you have any new films in the works? And just as a journalistic curve ball, Whats your take on Turtles?

Advice to young directors: learn photography and learn acting. Good directors need both. I’ve had the good fortune to be trained first as an actor and then by great photographers to learn what I’ve managed to glean about the process. Most directors I run across know one or the other, but rarely have a grasp of both. Also to understand the pain of each department, you need to do the job once or twice. Edit a feature a few times and you learn why editors need more coverage and options. Act a few times and you’ll learn how confusing and frustrating it can be to totally be out of the loop of what’s going on, how hard it can be to stand in exactly that spot and how tough it can be to generate plausible emotional response for the 13th time in a row. I feel that by walking in the shoes of different departments and doing different jobs you gain a better command of what needs to go into making your movie better and working with the people that need to do those jobs.

My best advice is to get out there and do it. Learn everything about everything related to making movies. We live in an age of miraculous technology. Cell phones, PC’s and 3 chip/CMOS HD cameras give you literally NO EXCUSES for not making your movie. There are a thousand stupid details that go into the process. You’ll figure that out as you go along. What you won’t learn is how to get through the process until you do it. Nothing will be harder than getting through your first feature until you get to your second. 12 years into this, I am still encountering unprecedented nonsense I would never have guessed is an issue. You could blow 150 grand on film school and your MFA thesis (literally) or you could take 5-12 grand and outfit yourself with all the production gear you’ll need to shoot. The rest is artistic sensibilities and people skills. You have to be fearless and you have to be courageous. Fortune favors the bold. You have to not be afraid to be a motherfucker, you have to be willing to admit when you have been a motherfucker and you have to wear your soul and heart on your sleeve. When they get trampled and dirty, you have to pick them up off the floor, dust them off and put them back out on display.

You’ll learn as you go. Just make sure you find some way to learn about acting and photography. And don’t forget to make the movie you want to make. Be uncompromising. Learn to compromise. Never surrender, never say die, never never quit on your movie. Never.

Actors: learn how to make a movie. You’ll understand why things work the way they do, you’ll be more empowered and generally more useful to the process.

I plan on making movies until I’m cold and dead in the ground.

In ten years, I expect that I will have made larger strides into larger projects with better overall results.

Right now, I’m in post-production on the western I mentioned and two features I directed last year. This summer I’m directing two mote features in between school semesters and popping in as actor on a couple of friends projects.

Turtles? Turtles mean three things to me. First, I’ve loved the teenage mutant ninja turtles since the original black and white Eastman and Laird comics. Fantastic stuff. Second, people who “turtle” in Starcraft and SC2 are annoying nuisances who will fall ignominiously before the might of my armies. Finally, turtles are exemplary models of evolution over the course of many millennia. The vicious bastards will take off a finger with their beaks if you cross the wrong one. In New Mexico, we actually have wild box turtles living in people’s yards. I ran over one last summer. I thought I rolled over a rock leaving my driveway. I cracked the poor little guy’s shell. He was bleeding. I put him into some nearby tall grass to die in peace. Later, I found he crawled off and was fine. They are tough, tough little varmints. Turtles are not to be underestimated.

         - Billy Garbina, May 2010