Chester grad makes the right connections toward his film career

| 29 Sep 2011 | 04:12

Chester — Joseph Palau’s herniated disc may have waylaid his high school basketball career, but it led to a career in filmmaking. The Chester native found himself unable to walk at the age of 16. For three or four months he couldn’t do much else except watch television shows and movies. He found himself becoming increasingly interested in the lighting in films, and decided to find out more about the subject. He began looking up everything that he could find online about lighting and made himself an expert. After high school he attended Full Sail University, a film school in Florida, and then moved on to the New York Film Academy in Manhattan. He said it isn’t difficult to get into either school if you know what you want to do and are serious about pursuing a career. At age 19, he ventured out to Los Angeles on his own, without knowing a soul there. “It has definitely been hard,” he said of his experience. He worked in whatever capacity he could — sometimes for no pay at all, simply to get his foot in the door. He worked hard as a production assistant, priding himself on always being punctual even if it meant sleeping in his car outside the studio. He’d go out to get people everything from coffee to watermelon. They noticed. After a show or film project was completed, people would remember him and call him to work on their next project. Eventually he was promoted to head of the personal assistants. From worst subject to best Although English was one of his worst subjects in high school — he simply wasn’t good at writing essays, he said — he began writing scripts and short stories and showing them around. He gave one of his scripts to Joey Medina, a comedian who worked with George Lopez, and who helped Palau with finishing touches. Jess Varga, a special effects guy filming a Web series pilot titled “Sin City,” gave Palau a chance at filmmaking. Varga was involved with Third Rock Slyde, and stars such as Andy Dick and Patrick Warburton. Jason Manns, a musician and producer, was also very helpful as “the guy who makes my films come to life,” he said. He is inspired by people like Steven Spielberg and James Wan of “‘Saw 1’ and on up through ‘Saw 5’ or ‘6.’” He has been trying to meet them and hopes to one day soon. His favorite actor is Denzel Washington. Through the contacts he’s made, Palau got the chance to direct two short films of his own, “Raccoon” and “Deceit,” which was filmed at the Bagel Affair in Chester. He loves taking true things and putting them into his stories, he said. He took acting classes, not to necessarily learn to act but to learn what actors experienced so that he could better direct them. He is currently taking online courses on entertainment business, working toward a masters degree that will serve as his “Plan B” and round out his understanding of the industry. Now 21, his goal is to do more directing and film writing. He is planning to film a thriller/horror film next year set in his hometown of Chester. The plot goes something like this: a group of teenagers find themselves in a haunted house that brings their worst fears to life. It will differ from past horror flicks, like the “Jason” or “Halloween” series, in that it will follow a deeper plot and be more of a “thought motivated” film. Most of the film will take place in an old house that will most likely be a set created and situated in California. But he plans to film some of the area around Chester and hopes to have a screening at the Chester Cinema 6 on Route 17M. The process is grueling: First he has to write the script and then present it to investors and backers. After he makes the film he will pitch it to a larger company, such as Universal, for wider distribution. He plans to write and explore all kinds of genres and situations beyond the horror/thriller formula. If he had it to do all over again, he said, he would have gone out to California a lot sooner. He would have liked to have gone to school there, to get an even quicker start to a career he is impassioned about. His family is very supportive of his creative venture, but some people have tried to talk him out of going out west. Many people go to California but for one reason or other do not find their dreams panning out. Some of his friends went out recently and ended up turning back, he said. The glamour of the industry is alluring, but it takes persistence, patience, determination, hard work — and possibly even sleeping in your car at times. It’s lonely out there at times, he said. But now that each step is taking him closer to his goal, it’s been worth every minute.