After eight years of success in the Dallas film scene, the team at Little Spark Films seems primed to take on the world next. As they look towards the future of their horror-fueled enterprise that has been making shorts, music videos, and various other commercial projects for nearly a decade, their team is beginning to venture out into the world of feature filmmaking, and this writer is excited to see what they’ve been cooking up.
Daily Dead had the opportunity to do a Q&A with Catalina Querida and Joe Manco of Little Spark Films, and they discussed the evolution of LSF over the years, how their love of horror and music collided, and more.
To learn more about Little Spark films, you can visit their site at https://www.littlesparkfilms.net/, and I’ve gone ahead and included the Grindhouse cut of their short film Anti Christmas Carol, which also includes the trailer for Silly Dilly Why so Killy (just a heads-up, it’s definitely NSFW).
Can you talk about how Little Spark Films began and give us some insight into the team behind it all?
Joe Manco: LSF began in 2013. The primary reason was to make music videos for our band at the time. But shortly after, the filming outweighed the band and parties split. Catalina and I formed a small team to help hone our craft. We are pleased to say that not only are the people we started with still around, our team has grown exceptionally large. Though we are still independent and act as crew for hire at times, I am very proud of how in sync the crew operates. I didn't think in 2013 that we would be shooting on cinematic cameras or using panther dollies. That's crazy talk to a couple who just bought their first used $300 DSLR. But our work, I feel, speaks for itself and what it has done for us is become a conduit for like-minded filmmakers who feel they don't belong in the scene. There is a lot of teardown in filmmaking. They say the only way you will survive is by having thick skin. There is truth in that, and it is very damaging to some.
What’s been the driving force behind all the various content that LSF creates? Are there types of projects you tend to gravitate towards more than others?
Joe Manco: The driving force is our tenacity. I don't know if Catalina or I have ever let a project go unfinished. But that’s the name of the game. Finish your projects repeatedly and people will want to work with you. This is advice that Catalina received from some fellow filmmakers (The Moody's/Last Girl Standing) and it has really kept us focused. Be it a short film, music video, or some dinky promo spot, we take pride in every project we work on. The music videos are great for storytelling. Sometimes the client wants a little short film, other times they just want something that will showcase the performance. When it comes to narrative storytelling, we like to tell yarns that are out of the ordinary. Most of the time they are pretty outlandish stories. Sometimes I think we need someone to tell us we are getting too weird or out there for the audience. But then again, we don't want to be derivative. But to answer your question, it appears that we are starting to move past the phase of shorts and focus more on feature films.
LSF works a lot in the realm of music—is there something fun about being able to bring together your obvious appreciation for the genre world with the realm of music (side note: I also noticed that you did something related to American Murder Song, and my fella works with them regularly, so that was fun)?
Catalina Querida: We joined forces through music. Joe was in a band and I have a background in music performance and wanted to go back to singing, so I joined his band. We didn’t have a lot of creative freedom in that format, though, so we started making our own music videos and the love of film eclipsed the band. Our bandmates weren’t very supportive, either, so we just ended that part of life and embraced filmmaking.
We both love music so much and most of our favorite films share the characteristic of having fantastic soundtracks or scores, so we want to emulate that experience. We have several musicians on the team who make their own work as well as help on set. It’s pretty awesome to know that if we need a certain type of music, we can just ask and someone probably already has something made to fit the bill. To me, music and film should be inseparable.
What’s been the biggest challenge (or maybe there’s been more than one) for LSF over the years?
Catalina Querida: We’re a group of eccentric introverts, so being loud on social media or even in person is not really a strong suit of anyone on the team. Although, get everyone together on set, bring in someone new, and they are just accepted in automatically. We try to focus on inclusivity and I love hearing new ideas from the team. While shooting a feature in January 2020, Kerry O’Quinn (Fangoria founder) just started referring to us as “The Goth Crew from Dallas,” and we thought that was pretty fun. We are just an eclectic group of people who love creating in many formats. Just the marketing arm of the team is non-existent, which creates a challenge because no one can watch your work if they haven’t heard of you. We’ve been generally satisfied with people falling down a rabbit hole and then finding us there creating whatever world we’re working on. If you can have a team of crew theatre kids who grew up to be goths, that’s pretty much team Little Spark Films.
Beyond doing commercial and music video work, your team also creates short films. How different is that process for you versus the other type of work that you do?
Catalina Querida: With commercials and music videos, we put the client first. It’s their project, so we’ll make it look how they’d like. For short films, we usually have a different focus that we’re trying out on each project. We started our Hellbound Laments videos as a way to try makeup, different lighting, and some practical effects. The video we made for Sherlock Holmes and The Servants of Hell connected us to the author, Paul Kane, who in turn, offered us The Torturer. Our fake trailer Murderballs was a last-minute idea. It dropped in our laps last minute because Lloyd Kaufman was in town and Joe just asked.
That trailer got the attention of Samhain Studios at Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019. Then he joined to help with The Torturer, which was our most ambitious project at the time—one full week of filming. The story is by Paul Kane and it stars Paul T. Taylor (Hellraiser: Judgment) and Lawrence Varnado (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For). The process changed during this time to include storyboards and a full production bible to keep information at hand. We’re also currently in post for our first feature, Vicemares, and all the shorts we’ve completed definitely set the foundation for this shoot. The 48-hour film races and fake trailers that we’ve made over the years currently have a home on Troma’s Grindsploitation 9 & 10, it feels wonderful for those projects to be completely done.
What has been the biggest surprise for you during this eight-year journey of being creators as part of LSF?
Joe Manco: Honestly, the biggest surprise has been the growth. The acceptance. The quality of work. How much we have excelled as a team and as individuals in our craft. I feel Little Spark Films has something that no other group has in the DFW metroplex: the desire to create for the sake of creating. To help others who need to get their projects completed. We have been called upon more than a couple of times to come through and get the shoot through the day. It's never the same story. Now, whether those projects get released is out of my hands, unless we are also the producing team. Then that little spark we are lighting under people’s asses to “get it done” becomes a treacherous flame. So if you want to kick it with the weirdos, I gotta take a page from Ken Kesey and say, “You are either on the bus or you’re off the bus.”
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