Jon Carlo - Feral State
Feral State, a feature film written and directed by Jon Carlo, will be released by Vertical Entertainment in May of 2021 in theatres and streaming. The film stars AnnaLynne McCord, Octavio Pisano, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Jaden Piner, Baldur Thor and Sif Saga.
Jon Carlo is screenwriter and actor who makes his directorial debut with Feral State.
Tucked far away from the white sandy beaches and amusement parks is a Florida that few outsiders ever see. Nestled alongside the gator infested swamps and rundown trailer parks lives a charismatic yet dangerous grifter named Mack Monroe (Blevins) who takes in orphans and runaways off the street. A self proclaimed father to the forgotten, Mack gives these lost souls only semblance of a home they’ve ever known… but at what cost? Mack trains his ragtag gang in the art of thievery and crime, filling their vulnerable minds with vigilante gospels and together wreak havoc by knocking off drug dealers and meth labs. Hot on their tail is Detective Ellis (McCord), an ass-kicking tough as nails cop who not only fights crime, but is also forced to fight for respect in a patriarchal police force. Mack and the gang’s world gets flipped upside down with the arrival of a mysterious young girl, who at first seems like the perfect new recruit but turns out to be something far more dangerous than anyone could have imagined.
Elevated: Tell us about how you got starte in the industry.
Jon Carlo: I was born in Oakland, California but spent my early childhood bouncing around the globe from Israel to Argentina eventually settling in Toronto. I moved out to Los Angeles in 2008 with hopes of breaking into Hollywood as an actor, eventually booking roles on hit TV shows such as Parks and Recreation and Transparent. However, the life of an actor never quite fulfilled my hunger for creative expression. On a whim I wrote my first script which shockingly made it to the final round of the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, which landed my my first paying gig as a screenwriter. My first produced screenplay titled First We Take Brooklyn starred Oscar Nominee Harvey Keitel AnnaLynne McCord and Edoardo Ballerini, and was released worldwide in 2018 under 2B Films, directed by Danny A. Abeckaser. My follow-up script, Mob Town, was shot the following year in upstate New York, starring David Arquette, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Robert Davi, PJ Byrne and Jennifer Esposito, again directed by Danny A. Abeckaser, released in December 2019, also to much success. Abeckaser gave me a huge opportunity by entrusting his film vision in me not only once, but twice. That gave me confidence, paired with the success of both films, to continue on the screenwriting path as well pursue directing. In late 2019, I was hired to not only write but was given the opportunity to direct my first feature film, Feral State. After an incredible experience shooting in Florida, I knew my passion for directing was here to stay.
What inspired you to create the film Feral State?
I have to preface this with saying that Feral State came about in a way that is extremely rare and almost never happens. I was given a budget first before there was any script written… And this almost never happens. Once the money was secured, I went down to central Florida which was pre-determined as the film’s backdrop, and basically drove around seeking the story through what I saw and who I met. I can’t really speak to how the story came about, but was extremely organic, and just flooded my mind at the right moment. I just basically soaked up my surroundings and started piecing together things we had at our disposal. Before I knew it, the plot just popped into my head and then I just started writing down what I saw and the resources that were given to me. Next thing I knew, I had a feature length screenplay ready to go.
What was it like working on set for Feral State?
I always say that any day on set is a good day… However, that being said, Feral State was by far one of the most challenging projects I think I’ll ever have. We had so many obstacles, and literally anything that could go wrong went wrong. From lightning storms, to rabid dogs, I never thought we would be able to finish the movie on time. Due to the most amazing cast and crew who were so passionate and committed to the project, true movie magic was made. This movie was purely a labor of love.
What makes Feral State different from other crime films in the same genre?
I think Feral State is very unique because it doesn’t really fall under one particular category or genre. It’s a thriller that has a lot of heart, there’s action but also family drama, it’s set in the Deep South but doesn’t espouse any politics. At the core, I think so many people will relate to the film because it’s about the underdog fighting to get on top.
You wore a variety of hats on the set of Feral State - Tell us about this.
In hindsight, it’s not a good idea to take on so many roles. I wrote the movie, I directed it, I produced it, I was a one-man post production department, and I even negotiated the sale of the movie. In this case, I just had no other option, and so this project literally taught every single phase of filmmaking from start to finish. I’m grateful because now I know exactly what to do, but I wouldn’t do it again. Filmmaking is a collaborative medium, and I think the most important thing a director or producer can do is hire the right people. Now that I know what it takes, it’ll inform me to bring on the right people for future projects.
What movies have inspired your career and interest in film?
On the Waterfront, I Origins, Sicario, Arrival, True Romance, as well as films by Kevin Smith, The Duplass Brothers and Ed Burns.