One of my favourite people in the world is Joe Lujan. Joe is a fantastic person with phenomenal talent. When I was still writing for the El Paso Herald-Post, I interviewed him. This is his story.
“To me, it’s very important to let people know, in high school, its rough. Just find your escape, your way to express yourself, and believe in it and just do it,” says Joe Lujan, owner of Carcass Studios.
Have you ever been bullied? Walked into school and simply wanted run home, or find yourself praying for the world to end or worse?
I know what it’s like to be bullied. Joe Lujan knows.
“La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froide,” is from Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s novel titled Les Liaisons Dangereuses. “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” is one of those sayings that transcends cultures. It’s something many of us hope one day to extract, revenge.
For me, that revenge is living a life better than those who thought it was fun to bully the skinny kid who wanted nothing more than to write, work in radio, and one day be a reporter. People hating on me, people wanting to take my money, my books, anything I had. That was my life at Andress when I was there.
What about Joe Lujan?
While attending Montwood, people would throw books at him. There were tons of rumors spread about him. There were even times, he says, that he would eat lunch in the bathroom, in a stall, just to avoid people and what they were saying and doing to him.
It wasn’t easy.
Now Joe has found his revenge. Oh, and is it ever so sweet. His revenge came in the form of a movie. What movie? Ah, not so fast my friend, let me tell you about Joe first.
“A lot of the stuff I’ve created is not really for everyone,” says Joe, speaking of his films. “It was my way of artistically expressing myself…I was bullied horribly in high school.”
For Joe, watching horror films wasn’t scary, it was a relief.
“Film itself was my escape,” Joe says. “Watching movies, watching horror films – Resident Evil, Scream – those films were the ones that would be my escape from the hard times I was having in high school.”
In the end, Joe found his voice, his soul. Joe found a way to use what happened to him to give voice to his creativity. From his high school years, Atelophobia was born.
“When I decided to do my film Atelophobia,” says Joe, “that was my artistic revenge to all those who bullied me. That film is based off of experiences from high school. A lot of characters reflect a lot of people from my past.”
“It was my way of telling them ‘look at me now,’” he says. “I’m doing what I love to do; I didn’t let you guys stop me.”
After watching the trailer, I can only imagine what he went through.
Joe was born in Las Cruces but raised in El Paso. By middle school, he thought he had his life planned out: he wanted to be a veterinarian.
“Already in middle school, I was thinking what I was planning on doing with my life,” says Joe. But, then, an older sibling started to plant seeds in his mind.
“My sister snuck me out of school,” he says. “She snuck me and my younger brother out of school for a ‘doctors appointment’ to see the first Resident Evil.”
When he saw those credits roll, it was then that he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker.
“I was doing it with my cousins and my siblings here in El Paso, while I was attending school,” he says of his earliest work. Which can be seen here.
He was sketching characters, like Tikalypse, who is the hero in his lasts film, The Immortal Wars. (As a note, if interest, Tikalypse, and the Immortal Wars come from a comic book series called The Vanquishers, also by Joe. Locally you can get your copies at Rebels Comics.)
It’s not easy, being from El Paso, and wanting to break into music, movies, or even writing. Far too often we tend to think our friends and family are just playing around. Joe had the same issues, family thinking this was just a hobby, a passing phase.
“People taking it serious,” says Joe of his beginnings here in El Paso. “I think that’s been my struggle. When I was here a lot of people thought it was just a hobby. They didn’t know this is where my heart was at; this is what I what I want to do with my life.”
In creating films, in expressing himself, that was the biggest struggle he had, convincing people this is what he wanted to do. I can relate, we can all relate to this, it’s not easy. But Joe continued.
“I did a short film and that was the one…they started seeing the passion and drive…it was called Shear Death,” Joe recalls. “It was a short horror film, and they were getting creeped out by it.”
It was after that – after Shear Death – that people began to see his drive, his desire to be a filmmaker. It was also a time he started making a film almost every week.
“I was always constantly doing one every week, so I was learning from my mistakes,” Joe said. “They started seeing the progression, from each film getting better and better, and more and more they were more interested in what I was doing.”
You can see that progression. Joe’s film reel, which included the short film Shear Death is a place to start; Then, his most current reel. You can see the growth, the progression. You can also see the passion he has for what he does.
Joe’s life could have taken many different paths. Being bullied, he could have chosen to end his life. He could have given up on his dream, given in to what everyone was saying about him, or to him. But no, he continued striving. He moved on. He allowed his past to inform his work, his art, giving it a voice, and being able to move past it.
I, for one, am glad we have Joe Lujan. That he is still here and followed his heart, his dream. His hope, his final word is that we all would support those who are doing the same. You never know, it may be the only way they can share what they are going through, what is inside of them, screaming to be known.
“Support independent arts,” Joe asks of us all. “It’s crucial to support artists and people who have a passion and a love for something they want to do. It might be their escape. It might be their way of expressing themselves because they don’t know any other way to express themselves. It’s important to support them no matter what.”