One-on-one with Joe Kramer: Crafting Comedy in the Cosmos with "Higher Grounds"
Joe Kramer, a Philadelphia/New York-based director, photographer, cinematographer, writer, and editor, has found his niche in filmmaking by blending humor with intergalactic adventures. His film, "Higher Grounds," recently earned the prestigious title of an official selection at the Bruges International Film Festival. From childhood dreams of becoming a Ghostbuster to creating viral hits like "Running the Gammatar," Joe's journey is a testament to his diverse skills and creative storytelling. In this one-on-one, Joe shares insights into the making of "Higher Grounds" and his reflections on the future of cinema.
Tell us a bit about your most important film so far.
Joe Kramer (JK): "Higher Grounds" is a sci-fi comedy that hilariously unfolds when a slacker alien, tasked with destroying Earth, becomes infatuated with a bitter barista. The fate of our survival hinges on the alien securing her number before his partner wreaks havoc. It's a comedic take on life from an orbital perspective.
What were the key challenges making it?
JK: The film, though ambitious, faced its main challenges in the realm of special and visual effects. Bringing this indie project to life involved outfitting a comedy in sci-fi attire, complete with blue aliens, spaceships, ray guns, and animations – not an easy feat on a limited budget.
What’s one aspect that you’re particularly proud of?
JK: I take pride in the precision of our execution. The film we made closely mirrors the script and storyboards, showcasing a meticulous approach akin to an architect or engineer. We achieved almost exactly what we set out to create.
How did you get involved in filmmaking?
JK: My journey into filmmaking started at 12 when I discovered the original "Evil Dead." The realization that a group of friends could make a film independently, without restrictions, fascinated me. I began crafting my own films with friends, a passion I've continued throughout my career.
What new projects are you working on or are you hoping to work on in the future?
JK: My writing/producing partner and I have completed a script for a feature-length film, with plans to produce it in the future. Additionally, we're currently writing a script for another short film slated for production in the spring/summer.
What role do film festivals play?
JK: Film festivals serve as vital platforms for showcasing work, connecting with like-minded individuals, and creating an inspiring atmosphere. They offer not just exposure but also an enjoyable way to spend a weekend immersed in the cinematic world.
What is your advice to filmmakers tackling the festival circuit?
JK: Be intentional in selecting which festivals to submit to. Choose those aligned with your goals and audience.
How do you see the future of film?
JK: While the future of film remains uncertain, I envision it becoming a more specialized interest for a dedicated audience. As new forms of entertainment emerge, cinema may no longer be the dominant mainstream art form but will persist in a more specific and dedicated capacity.
Which filmmaker do you admire and why?
JK: My admiration lies with filmmakers possessing a distinct voice and style. Icons like Fellini, Kubrick, Wes Anderson, and Tarantino, to name a few, are favorites for their unique contributions to the cinematic landscape.
What film have you recently seen that you have admired in one way or another?
JK: David Lean's "Summertime," starring Katherine Hepburn, left a lasting impression. Shot entirely in Venice in the '50s, it offers a captivating time capsule, blending bittersweetness and achingly beautiful moments.