Joseph A Mauro and Ezekiel N Drews

Ezekiel N. Drews, after a twelve year hiatus from acting, came back and acted like he never left the scene. He founded Lucid Films, Ltd. Co. with Joseph A. Mauro in November 2022 after some heavy drinking and never looked back. In love with acting and filmmaking, Ezekiel has a number of acting credits he's working to increase, and is looking to create a booming filmmaking community in the Midwest where plenty of talent resides but is often overlooked. He wrote, co-directed, produced, and wore 40 other hats for the award-winning dramatic feature film "Happy Birthday" in 2023. His dream is to work full time in the industry, and perchance to work with Tom Hiddleston in a Marvel work.

Joseph A. Mauro is a filmmaker based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Joe works as a director, cinematographer, and actor on local independent film productions in Wisconsin but his full time job is as a battery engineer. Joe has a passion for creating things for others to enjoy, and is inspired by thought provoking story telling. He is currently taking courses for cinematography and acting online. Mauro directed the award-winning dramatic feature film, Happy Birthday, in 2023. Joe enjoyed his drama classes in High School but put his art on the back burner, finally rekindling his artistic spark. His dream is to direct an award-winning psychological thriller one day and is currently building his body of work as a director.

Your project takes part in our festival. What is your project about?

"Happy Birthday" is a commentary on isolation, PTSD, survivor's guilt, mistrusting the authorities, the importance of family, and the perseverance of the human spirit.


What were your requirements for actors to take part in your film?
We had a standard audition process for our film. We asked for headshots, filtered those into who we were interested to see self-tapes from, and from there we had Zoom callbacks with everyone we wanted a final look at. A huge requirement came from committing 2 months in advance for a shoot date, due to a contract we had signed for a location with limited availability to film at. Other than that, we had standard acting contracts and talent release forms.

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How did you communicate with the cameraman?
We worked with several cameramen for the project, and communicated with them through Facebook group chats for availability and scheduling. We filmed primarily on weekends over the course of 4 months, so finding the availability and times worked out with the pool of talented cameramen we had available.

What locations did you choose for your project? And why?
Locations were an interesting challenge. With "Happy Birthday" being our debut film, and a feature film at that, we ran into unique challenges. Contract negotiations were a pain, and we ran into several that required specific requirements. We ended up filming a number of scenes at a high school, which worked out well for using their hallways, their auditorium, even a woodworking shop in the basement! We also used a beautiful corporate office building that screamed political vibes, a church office space, and our favorite...a secluded cabin by a pond in the Middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin. Each space provided their own aesthetics that really helped drive home the theme of isolation.

Why should distributors buy your film?
Our film has the raw potential to appeal to general audiences everywhere, due to its ability to relate themes we all experienced during COVID-19 lockdowns. We all felt isolated from loved ones, felt like we could barely trust our governments, and above all wanted to make it through so we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our film is a love letter to the world, and what it means to be human.

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What expression elements did you use in your project? How would you characterize your work?
During a key scene, the framing has some shakiness when the camera isn't looking at our lead character. This helps to convey the uneasiness and tension from his perspective as the conflict builds up to the last second. I would characterize our work as a blend of ambitious storytelling and commentary on society.

At what festivals have you had success? Has the film already premiered? If so, where?
At the time of answering this, we have won Best Drama Feature at the Clout Film Fest in California, USA and Best Feature Film at the Athens International Monthly Art Film Festival in Athens, Greece. Our film had a version premier at the National Independent Film Awards in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA back in September of 2023, but we have edited it more since then. The final version of the film has yet to premier, but we are excited to host one after some festival restrictions have passed.

What motivated you to become a filmmaker?
Joseph A. Mauro and I met on set while acting, and after a series of setbacks working on the project, we agreed that we could run things better ourselves. After hanging out and drinking one night, we agreed to start our own film production company, Lucid Films, Ltd. Co. Two weeks later, I was inspired shortly after midnight to write our first film, "Happy Birthday", and the rest is history.

Which movies are your favorites? And why?
As an actor, my favorite movie has always been Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight". I drew a large amount of inspiration and connecting the dots with watching the subtleties within the larger than life characterization of Heath Ledger's Joker. As a writer and director, I've been able to appreciate his storytelling even more in his film "Inception" due to the themes and layers inside of layers he was able to portray.

What topics do you like to deal with in your work?
I'm a big fan of talking about things that others might find controversial (on both sides), whether that's politics, religion, or whatever might offend traditional opinions. If we become afraid to talk about life because we might make someone upset, we take away any chance of people being able to mature and grow in dealing with others.

What genre do you like to shoot and why?
I enjoy dramas, but I would like to be able to branch out to comedy as well. There's something to be said about learning different styles and using the best techniques to tell a story.

What project would you like to shoot one day, what would it be about?
It's weighed on my mind a lot, but I'm a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and would love the chance to film an episode of a series, if not a whole film. There's a unique experience that comes from working with a superhero movie that you wouldn't get from any other type of filming experience. Who knows, maybe one day I'll get to meet Tom Hiddleston and direct him for a Marvel episode. I'd just about die from happiness.

What do you do if you're not thinking about a movie? What are your hobbies?
I spend a lot of time with my wife and kids, or I play video games. I've also recently gotten my Part 107 pilot license to legally use my new drone for cinematic filming, so that's partially for fun and partially for business. I'll also do Dungeons & Dragons, for fun and for sharpening my roleplaying improvisation skills.

What projects do you plan to shoot in the future?
Right now, we're collaborating with some other smaller indie companies on a few projects to kind of catch our breath while keeping busy. We ran the gauntlet on "Happy Birthday" and essentially finished writing, casting, filming, editing, producing, etcetera in about 7 months. That being said, who's to say that we won't start writing our next film two days from now? Only God knows what might inspire us to write at 12:38am on a Thursday night.