What’s going on, go ahead and introduce yourself
What’s up everyone, my name is Justin Casselle, I’m a filmmaker/producer in Chicago.
How was life growing up?
It was good, pretty basic life growing up, white picket fence type upbringing. I grew up with four older sisters, so I was the baby, but we were all very close. As a kid I was really into sports, I played basketball, baseball, and football.
At a young age did you consider yourself creative?
Not at all, like I said earlier, I was really into playing sports. I played for almost 18 years straight, but when I got to high school I started to get burnt out.
What was the first medium you then got involved with?
In high school I started to transition into more creative fields and find my voice. I got into improv. I needed a couple extra credits my SR year in HS so I figured why not take improv, plus when I played basketball we would always the drama students practicing and I thought it looked fun. Then I got into college and that got away from me because I started living the typical college lifestyle.
How did you then get into filmmaking?
I continued trying out new things within the creative field. As SR year of college rolled up, my advisor said I needed to take one more class, so I decided to take up improv again. The professor in the class was a theatre director and wanted me to audition for Hairspray. He talked me into doing it and I eventually fell in love with the production side and being able to put together a performance. I then began to realize that this was something I could pursue as a career.
When did you then begin to really think this could be a career?
Around that same time I was starting, I was realizing this could be a career for me. After I graduated from college, I was hanging with my friends wondering the route I could take to really start working with film, directing, and producing. I started putting together a portfolio and started reaching out to production companies and ad agencies. I got an internship as a producer, which then opened the door to the process of filmmaking.
What’s your #1 job as a filmmaker?
For me, what’s most important is to communicate my vision to my cast and crew, and then creating that vision with the editing process. I can only explain so much via word of mouth; I really rely on the cast and editors to really help put it all together. Communicating what’s in our head is usually the biggest challenge at times for filmmakers.
What was the first big video you put together?
The first big video I put out was a music video for the band Kinky Love. This video ended up getting a ton of exposure and it ended up getting published in Chicago magazines. This was a huge deal for me. At first I was terrified of the prospect of directing, especially being my first job, but the video ended up turning out fantastic.
What was the first narrative piece? you put out?
The first narrative pieceI put out was Rural, a television pilot, which was in 2014. Film Collective studios and I spent two weeks shooting the pilot out in Kankakee. We ended up getting a bit of traction from the pilot, but not too much. It was a great experience for me, since it was the first narrative piece I got to produce. I worked with the director to cast talent, hire the crew, scout locations, manage the budget and overall just really help to bring his vision to life.
You currently work for DDB, a huge creative advertising agency. How much do you have to compromise as a filmmaker due to restrictions?
There are always restrictions when it comes to agency life. Time and money are two big factors when it comes to working with brands. But, I will say agency life does have its perks, my agency has exposed me to a ton of production companies, directors, editors, and other producers in which I have created great relationships with. If I’m working on a freelance or personal project, I could reach out to these companies and have them work on the project with me, it’s awesome.
As someone who works for a large advertising agency, what’s one piece of advice you have for college graduates trying to get into agencies?
I started off with an internship, and I highly suggest college students getting an internship either in school, or when you graduate. If they are going to pay you, do it, if they don’t, then don’t do it. When it comes to getting into agencies, really focus on being well rounded as a creative. Dive into a couple of mediums, you’ll have a better chance to touch different parts/teams within the agency. Also, while in school, work on extracurricular activities, don’t just show the work you’ve created in school, they are looking for more than that.
Do you prefer working in the agency or as a freelancer?
I prefer the freelance route 100% more. I love agency world, but I eventually want to dedicate everything to my own personal work.
What’s one kind of film you would like to create in the future?
I’m really drawn to work that comes out of Europe. European film does a great job of blending comedies and drama, almost making two separate genres, synonymous. That’s the type of film I want to eventually create.
Today you drop your new web series, “Why Don’t You Like Me”? Explain to us the concept behind it
WDYLM is a comedy series that I co wrote, directed, and produced with Adam Lieberman. The series centers on a 20 year old woman who comes home one day to find that she’s been evicted from her apartment and has 30 days to find a new place to live. She embarks on this adventure to find the perfect roommate, but she ends up finding herself along the way. 8 of the 9 cast members are women, which is so rare in any sort of filmmaking medium these days. The lead is a talented black actress by the name of Jamila Tyler, again, another rarity. The series was entirely shot in Chicago, and we’ve got some amazing music on the show.
The reason I created this series was because this same story happened to me. One day I was shooting in NYC and came back to my apartment with a note on my door from my landlord telling my roommate and I we had two months to move out. On this two month journey, I really began to find myself, just given the unexpected nature of a young kid, new to a city having to face these challeneges, and in the series, so does Jamila.
Why do you think there are so few women in the filmmaking industry?
A lot of people still have old-school stereotypes, they believe females are just crazy girlfriends, or stay at home moms. For some reason people in Hollywood, and often times, those who watch their films, don’t view women as multi-dimensional characters.
How are you going to roll out this series?
The trailer drops today. Next Wednesday we are going to be screening the whole series at Second City at 7pm. Ep1 drops Nov 2nd at whydontyoulikeme.net. We will drop the series on the website, we will have a Facebook, and Twitter to engage and communicate with us about the series both @wdylmseries.
If you were able to direct a film and pick your cast, who would you pick?
Rashida Jones, Anton Yelchin, Samuel L. Jackson, Louis Ck, Donald Glover, Aya Cash, and Zoe Kravitz.
Who are your top 5 favorite filmmakers of all time and your favorite movie from them?
In no order, David Fincher, Spike Lee, Sofia Coppola, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Mike Nichols.
David Fincher – Seven
Spike Lee- 25th Hour
Yorgos – Dogtooth
Mike Nicholas- The Graduate
Sophia – Lost In Translation
What could we expect to end out 2016?
Going to continue doing a lot of writing, looking to create two more short films by early 2017.
When it’s all said and done how do you want your work to be remembered?
I want my work to be remembered as my own. I want people to understand my voice, to be able to recognize my work and aesthetic. I think the best films have a clear aesthetic, when you see a Tarentino movie, you know it’s his, when you see a Fincher movie; you know it’s his. That’s what I want. I want my voice to be heard.
Written By: Nicholas Rud