Interview with John R. Leonetti for Lullaby

Last week we got to interview John R. Leonetti for his new film ‘Lullaby’! We also talk about casting, mythologies, his time on The Scorpion King, and much more!

AJ Friar:
So how did you get involved with Lullaby?

John R Leonetti:
Good question. I was actually working on a film with Alcon Entertainment in development, another movie. And while we were doing that, one of my managers got me the script from friends of his, Lee and David, the producers. And I read it and I went, “you know, this is really good. This is really interesting.” It’s a different take on supernatural mythology, which I really dug. And so I didn’t know how long it was going to take to get that other movie in production. And this is a smaller film. And so I went to Alcon and Carl Rogers over there, he is a creative guy. And I said, “If we’re going to take a long time, maybe I could do this first?” Because it struck me. And he goes, “Well yeah, maybe.” He goes, “Well can we read it?” They read it and then they ended up buying out the other financiers and they ended up financing the movie and here we are basically.

AJ Friar:
Right. And I was looking at your filmography and you seem to bounce around from big studio projects to indie stuff as well. So which more kind of speaks to you in a more creative sense? Which ones do you really like to get after more?

John R Leonetti:
It’s interesting you say that, creatively, they’re all creative, but obviously independent films you have to work harder. You really do on every level from getting the financing, to getting the distribution, to having enough money, to grind out every ounce of time, every dollar, whatever. It’s just the way it is. So that forces you to be the best you can be within the restrictions of whatever they are. And that’s just the nature of the beast. So that’s kind of cool. I’m down with that. I’m actually, even as a cinematographer, I’ve always, always, although I was okay at it, I was pretty fast at it too. I’m about efficiency. I’ve always has been. I’m also really, really about being prepared. It’s super important as a cinematographer and of course as a director. So I think the independent films do gestate more creativity just out of the nature of how hard you have to try.

I once shot a movie, Scorpion King with the Rock, Dwayne. It was a hundred million dollar budget. It was the easiest movie I ever shot. And it was giant because you got all the tools and all the time and it was so fun. It was super fun. Way less pressure in a way. Actually, the bigger the set, the easier it is to like, actually. Okay?

AJ Friar:
Yeah.

John R Leonetti:
So I can talk forever about that, but that hopefully answers your question.

AJ Friar:
And that’s cool that you brought the Scorpion King up, because I still have one of the first edition releases DVDs in my closet at my house too.

John R Leonetti:
Really? I think it was such a fun movie to do. Oh my God. And Dwayne, he’s such a nice guy and he still is. God bless him.

AJ Friar:
And so how did the casting process for Lullaby all come about because the husband and wife in this were very great together, so how was that process like?

John R Leonetti:
Again, this is what I wanted and what all the producers wanted too, is to have really good actors that are very believable as a couple and that they love each other and they can have this conflict. We didn’t really care about names. Typically, in horror movies, you don’t necessarily need names for it to be successful. And it’s all about great characters and great acting and making it real, period. If that works and you get it out and you market it and people see it, you scare the shit out of them. I mean, it works, it just works, but it’s getting to that point. And in the independent world, it’s very, like this movie, we were very, very close to a 2000 theater release instead of the release we’re getting, a lot of it has to do with Covid and this and that. And I mean the response to this movie has been quite good actually for those who have seen it, okay.

But let’s just put it this way. If we had bigger names than Unna and Ramon, even though I don’t care, it doesn’t matter to me, they’re amazing. It would probably have gotten a wider theatrical release. That’s just the nature again, of the obstacles in the independent field, especially now. But the bottom line is she and he, Unna and Ramon are really respectively really good actors. I sense that they’re diverse in their ethnicity, which is a good thing, especially when you’ve got a story about basically a Catholic Latino that converts to Judaism. And I think Unna and Ramon is just a great actor and a great guy and a great talent. And Unna is also very good. And she comes off, I believe, even though she’s not Jewish at all, she comes off with that heritage and look and feel. She’s also just, I think, a very natural actor, actress, actor, so.

AJ Friar:
Yes. And I like how you brought up the stars in horror films too, and that sometimes you don’t really need them. Because one of my coworkers even says he hates it when they get all these big star names in horror films and suggests likes, unless you’re known people. Cause they tend to be more believable in their part when it comes to the suspense and everything. So what’s your take on that as well, knowing that you’ve got to work on Annabelle, of course, and now with Lullaby. What have you taken away from these projects that you’ve done over the years?

John R Leonetti:
Meaning in ter… Take it away in terms of what I’m not, I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand what you mean. I’m sorry.

AJ Friar:
What would you rather prefer from your acting preferences? Like somebody like Unna or Ramona?

John R Leonetti:
Oh yeah. Every hands down. I just want the right real actors. I don’t care about names now, business-wise, not necessarily a good statement, but you want my honest opinion. It’s my honest opinion. I mean, oh, Anabel Wallace for example, in Anabel, I saw her read her, a friend of hers did it. She was in England and it was in a very natural place and I just went, “oh my God.” I don’t know even know who the hell she was at the time I said, “this, this, she’s great!” And obviously she did a great job, but it’s just that connection.

Same thing with Duna, same thing with Ramon. I looked at, we looked at all these different people of course, and they didn’t really think they needed to or wanted to pay a lot of money necessarily because again, the theory is that without more movies you don’t need that. The reality in the businesses though, especially today, look, on Annabelle for example, if New Line and Warner Brothers has their own distribution arm domestically, so they don’t need it, name actors. If they have a good actors and a good movie, they can get it out there and people can see it. But there’s this conflict business-wise with that dilemma we are talking about if it’s in the independent world.

AJ Friar:
Well John, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been really fun. And congratulations on Lullaby.

John R Leonetti:

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it.

Written By: AJ Friar

Lullaby is now in select theaters and on VOD platforms.

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