October Artist Spotlight:
John Valle

KATE KIM SITS DOWN WITH old friend and emerging filmmaker JOHN VALLE to discuss his inspirations and artistry.  



John was one of my first friends at college. We were in the same freshman film block, meaning we had every single class together. Navigating college with new people and still being an easily influenced teen, I reached out to many people and objects that I could explore and hold onto in hopes that they would make me whole or happy.

All of those facades and people faded, but John is still my friend today. He and a few other people are who I am lucky to be friends with. In his new apartment, his shelves are lined with VHS tapes of slashers and cult classics. His walls feature beautiful posters and artwork, most of which are also for horror films and cult classics.

Since I met John freshman year, it’s comforting to know that his room will always look the same. His dorm was lined with some of the same posters. His hundreds of records spilled out from under his desk and drawers. His tons of toys and trinkets follow him from one year to the next. John has been important in helping me not fear the camera and judgment, and teaching me things that—this is a common theme—film school did not teach me.

Please enjoy some words from John! 

What do your parents do? 

Both of my parents worked for the US state department. My childhood included traveling globally; residing in Belgium and Ecuador for several years when I was young.

Were your parents supportive of your artistic endeavors?

To an extent... They support filmmaking and the industry, but also would rather see me working in the commercial/TV world. 

What are some of your inspirations?

A whole slew of films, which I guess is obvious for a filmmaker. but the Classic Universal Monster movies were my gateway drug. They are movies I can binge watch any day.

They don't get enough appreciation as films, only as staples of pop culture.

Just to name some more of my favorite filmmakers, I've found a huge impact from Cronenberg, Bergman, Jodorowski, Carpenter, Lynch, Argento, Polanski, Bava, Gillem, Svankmajer, and recently Kenneth Anger's Magick Lantern Cycle.

I tend to be drawn to films with a dreamlike, ethereal quality in their presentation.

I’m also inspired by the writers Kurt Vonnegut, Franz Kafka, HP Lovecraft,  and William S Burroughs.

They’re Pretty stereotypical white college boy writers, but so it goes. Comic Books have also been a huge inspiration for me since I was a kid, especially since I was surrounded by them working at a comic book store from ages 13 to 18. The classic EC and Creepy comics have some of the most stunning horror visuals of any art form, and their writers are masters of short-form horror stories.

Alan Moore's swamp-things subversion of the monster genre is also a huge influence, taking a pulpy monster story and spinning it into something deeply emotional and philosophical.

Did your upbringing have any inspiration for you and your work?

I think experiencing different countries and cultures somehow pushed me toward art in ways I'm still figuring out.

I've met people with similar backgrounds to me who also began working in different forms of art and find it interesting.

I'm still piecing together how it impacted me in its specific ways. While traveling and moving into new places with no friends or connections, movies were all I had and always felt like home. when I was living in New Jersey my two 80s-90s metalhead uncles would show me every horror movie they thought was worth watching when I was around 7 years old. It was an early film education.

What is your main focus in filmmaking?

Directing and cinematography are my main points of interest and are where I feel the most creative freedom. That's what I've been passionately focused on for years. however, I do enjoy G&E work and it gets me good money but it’s not something I see myself doing long-term.

Lighting is everything in filmmaking for me.

the script is the blueprint and what every project is locked into, but lighting is what tells the story: it tells the mood, the atmosphere, the character. It dictates your thoughts when a script and dialogue can't.

What are some of your favorite films?

Andrzej Zulawaski’s possession is one of the most emotionally charged and intense movies I’ve ever seen. It is deeply disturbing and impactful like no other movie.

It never lets up or gives you time to breathe. It's incredibly shot, directed, and performed and I would urge anyone interested in film or horror to watch it.

Frankenstein is probably the biggest influence on me going into filmmaking. its moody gothic atmosphere, stylized set design, and timeless story couldn’t be more perfect.

Terry Gilliam's Brazil is visually stunning but also one of the greatest satirical films of all time.

David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch is the perfect adaptation. Cronenberg almost becomes burroughs in his translation, creating a more structured narrative but adding his own flavor of weirdness to keep it faithful to the source material.

Igmar Bergman’s the magician has some of my favorite cinematography of all time. Jodorowsky’s the Holy Mountain pushes what the film medium is capable of.

The list can go on forever!

Twin Peaks, Escape from New York, Tenebrae, Videodrome, Hourglass Sanatorium, the wall, Suspiria, paris, texas, Alice, Evil Dead 2, Prince of Darkness, the dead series, Tetsuo the iron man, Black sunday, repulsion, etc.

Do you have a favorite genre?

The Horror genre or horror-adjacent has been the genre I've always wanted to work in. I would love to work on a sci-fi film, but that seems to be a bit trickier on a low budget, although so many of the best sci-fi films have been.

How did you get your first gig?

I went to an art high school that specializes in filmmaking, Graphic design, and theater.

As a freshman in high school, I was getting asked to shoot dance recitals, live performances, parties, and events. It was A lot of videography and theater lighting.

It Wasn't the best, but it was fun. the extra cash was cool, being in high school.

Do you think social media has helped or hurt your career in any way?

It's a double-edged sword.

On one side, social media has put me in contact with many great, talented artists of every medium and has been a great place to showcase and share work and meet people I may never have crossed paths with otherwise,

but on the other side, I hate using and being on social media and would rather have my time and energy put in other places.

I'm honestly pretty lazy and carefree about all that stuff, but there's a shift in the industry where your work is valued by your attention on social media. It's leaving a lot of extremely talented people behind in favor of people who work to play the system.

To me, there's no heart in content that is solely made for gaining likes on social media. You end up seeing a lot of the same things and people who only know how to work in a specific trendy style.

Not to discredit all of them though, some artists get really creative in these boundaries.

What are some things you’re working on for the future?

Right now I’m working on my new short film.

My logline is: “A surrealistic horror/dark comedy incorporating stop motion animation, hand-painted animation, film manipulation, and puppets. The story follows George Thurston, a writer who after tragedy, settles for a life in isolation working a dead-end job writing sci-fi stories for a porn magazine. Tormented by where his life has taken him due to his own negligence, he is drawn back home by mysterious forces bringing forward George’s own self-hatred and pushing him toward acceptance.”

Take from that what you will, but its main sources of inspiration are from the films of Jan Svankmajer, The Wolf House directed by Joaquín Cociña and Cristóbal León, the paintings of Edward Hopper and Michael Borremans, and the works and essays of William S. Burroughs and Franz Kafka.  

Should be fun.

I guess we will see how it all goes.

I’m also set to shoot a couple of short films and other projects that have me excited, along with some sculpting and resin-casting projects I’ll do something with. 

Instagram: @john.valle