American producer, director and screenwriter Joe McClean is an all-around filmmaker who even has his company called “Ginger Beard.” He has written and directed two independent movies to date, and his latest project is called “The Drama Club” which was released on VOD by Leomark Studios in 2017.

The film focuses on a group of high-school friends from dram-club who meet up after being apart for more than twenty years. The movie includes worthwhile dialogue and touches on a range of issues that are important in today’s world. Joe McClean recently discussed the movie and his experiences working as a filmmaker in the entertainment industry via an exclusive interview.

Start in the film industry

Meagan Meehan (MM): Initially, what inspired you to seek out a career as a filmmaker and when do you think your “big break” occurred?

Joe McClean (JM): Acting in plays in high school was my gateway drug to filmmaking. I found a community I thrived in. It takes so many people to put up a single show, and that process of communal creation lit a fire in me. As I got older, I realized the power of storytelling to open minds and be a part of the collective consciousness. For me, it doesn’t get any better than working with brilliant people to create a story for an audience to devour.

I haven’t had a big break…yet. Big breaks are rare, like winning the lottery. What I’ve had is a series of projects that I thought would be my “big break” and then found out they were really more needed practice and a stepping stone to the next gig.

Stay in it long enough and you’ve got enough practice and have enough contacts to keep the snowball rolling down the hill. There’s an element of luck too, but if you’re not prepared for it then it’s wasted on you. I’ve got a library of scripts and I’m always working on something new so when opportunity knocks I can answer.

MM: When and why did you start Ginger Beard and how did you choose that name?

JM: I started Ginger Beard when my last company, Red and Tan Productions, broke up. I was partnered with a great filmmaker Sarju Patel, and eventually, our interests aligned so much that the business wasn't as mutually beneficial to both of us, so we went our separate ways to chase the dream independently. Ginger Beard is obviously a reference to my red facial hair, but it's deeper than that too.

My wife's maiden name is Beard, and when our son was born, he had a slight ginger highlight in his hair. He was a ginger, and he was my wife's son, so he was also a Beard. He's my Ginger Beard.

MM: What kinds of scripts do you most seek and can screenwriters send them directly to you?

JM: I'm open to being brought on as a director or writing on someone else's project, but Ginger Beard currently only produces things I developed from concept on. I'd love to produce other people's projects in the future, but my company has some growing to do. I gravitate toward deep character studies, usually darker in tone, and I love an unconventional viewpoint that's argued well. If anyone's interested in working together, they should contact my agent Adel Nur at Halcyon Talent Agency.

Discussing the latest movie

MM: How did “The Drama Club” come about?

JM: Every year for the last seven or eight years I’ve been going to this property at Pine Flat Lake for a few days of boating and nights of irresponsible consumption of adult beverages. I start looking forward to next year’s trip the minute I get home. I go with Dane Bowman, Barry Finnegan, Chris Ciccarelli, and Jon Thomas – who all star in “The Drama Club” – and a couple years ago it dawned on us that we were being idiots for not shooting some movie up there.

We had a brilliant location with years of memories already, and I’ve been friends with those four guys for over two decades, so it was a no-brainer to tell a story about the trials and tribulations of friendship -- as well as the pending mid-life crisis stage we were all quickly approaching.

MM: "The Drama Club" covers some pretty serious subjects, did you hesitate to include any topics and how do you think the inclusion of these subjects strengthens the film?

JM: I don't think you should shy away from anything. It all needs to fit into a story about friends, rather than being a long political or social rant, but if you can make it part of the story then never shy away. Being bold will always strengthen a story. In my first draft, all the characters were white. Which really pissed me off. It pissed me off because that's what represents my childhood and growing up. On one hand, I was writing what I knew, on the other I don't believe in the white washing of my industry. It was during preproduction that Hannah's race changed and I wrote the scene about why there was no white kids at the school the characters all went to.

MM: Does it go without saying that you’re a fan of “The Big Chill”?

JM: I saw “The Big Chill” twenty years ago, and I liked it, but it didn’t have the intended effect on me because I was too young. I still thought that someday I’d have all the answers. That someday I’d reach some magical understanding of what it was to be a human. Then I lived. I traveled. I married (twice). I paid bills; I had a kid and, at some point, I started wondering, “What does any of it mean?” I went back and read the screenplay for “The Big Chill” a few years ago, and it smacked me. We’re all going through our personalized version of the same unexplainable life.

Future events and ideas

MM: Thus far, what have you found to be the best part of working in the movie industry?

JM: The people and the process, as well as the amount of work it takes to bring even the smallest project to life, is absurd. It’s a million-piece jigsaw puzzle with no picture on the box to reference. I think most people would agree that putting the puzzle together is better than having a puzzle completed. And, of course, having friends over to puzzle with you makes the journey even better!

MM: Career-wise, where do you see yourself in ten years and what upcoming events would you like to mention?

JM: Almost everything I’ve written in the last couple years, for hire and of my own imagining, have been TV pilots. We’re firmly in a golden age of television, and I’d love to say I got to work in that field during this time. So, ten years from now I hope I’ve already enjoyed some years working in a television writer’s room.

As per upcoming news, “Resident Evil: Vendetta hits the US” is coming out on June 19, but what I’m currently most excited about is a P.O.W. feature script that I’m currently writing and hope to have released by 2022.

MM: Finally, what kinds of advice can you offer to people who are currently aspiring to enter the industry, especially as a filmmaker?

JM: Work, you don’t need someone to hire you to get to work because writing is free. Certain ideas are very inexpensive to shoot. Make shorts and make a web series, even if no one sees your work, just keep working. The more you work, the more you learn and sculpt your craft, and the more work you have in the world, the more likely it is that it will be seen by someone who can hire you.

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