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Meet J. Horton of Zapruter in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to J. Horton.

Thanks for sharing your story with us J.Horton. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I started out in music. Right out of high school, I was the front in a funk/rock band called Smak Dab. I had always been a huge movie buff, but being from Fort Wayne Indiana, I didn’t really see working on movies as something you could do for a living. I poured all my creative energy into the band. A few years later, when the band broke up, I was at a crossroads. This was also right around the early 90’s independent explosion. Clerks, Reservoir Dogs, Slacker, El Mariachi, Blair Witch, had all come out and many of these were made by guys like me, not rich, outside of the industry and some for less than what I was making in a year working minimum wage. It all of a sudden seemed possible.
I decided to go to school. I got my GED, took the S.A.T’s and moved to Louisiana, where my brother got me a job working offshore as a deckhand and relief engineer. I did that for a year and saved money to pay for my first year of college. I also used that time to really read about the craft of moviemaking and screenwriting.

I went to the University of New Orleans and got my B.A in Communications with a concentration in Film Production. It was there, right after graduation that myself and my two best friends put our money where our mouths were and made an independent feature of our own, ‘Rise of the Undead.’ We made that movie for a few thousand dollars and miracles upon miracles… we sold it. Well, it was distributed. I was on my way.

With a single feature under my belt, I made my way to Los Angels, thinking the city would welcome me with open arm. It didn’t. It took me over a year to land my first onset job as an assistant editor and behind the scenes videographer on a low-budget movie called Butcher House. It wasn’t much, but what I soon discovered was it only takes one job to lead to the next and the next and so on.

Soon after that, I started edited and shooting for other filmmakers. I edited maybe half a dozen features and shot a few others. Over the next few years in-between other’s projects, I produced a few more of my own features, TRAP, EDGES OF DARKNESS, MONSTERS in the WOODS. I also started getting hired by others to direct features. I directed around ten features for AMG Film Partners spanning all sorts of genres. I did comedies. Dramas. Church movies. Thrillers. Documentaries. It was really where I learned how to make movies from development all the way though distribution and promotion. I also worked editing features and promos for companies like FOX DIGITAL STUDIOS and SYFY CHANNEL.

After finishing production on my latest directorial effort, DEATHDAY, I started looking at producing projects for others. I felt it was time to pass on what I had learned and give some others the same kind of opportunities that I was given.

Last year, I started doing a podcast to support other filmmakers called FILMMAKERS ON with Sean Reid. It was there I met and interviewed Aaron Mento, who had just come off of Ugly Sweater Party. He passed along his script for 16 Bits, which I read and flipped out over. And now we’re getting ready to make it.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not been a smooth road. I’ve been making movies for almost twenty years and for more than half of that I held a day job. I was directing and editing low budget features on the weekends and all while working as a barista at Starbucks. I was in LA working for over five years before I was able to quit that gig. And even then, I was editing all kinds of things for others to continue doing my own work.

Things did get progressively better, however, in the past few years, the distribution landscape has changed drastically. Leaving me and filmmakers like me scrambling to find new ways to monetize our work.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Zapruter story. Tell us more about the business.
Zapruter is my personal production company. We develop and produce independent feature films. We now have a library of roughly 20 titles. Deathday was the latest. I’m most proud of the fact that the company exists and prospers all on its own terms. We’re not beholden to anyone.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’ve fought and scraped for every job, every dime I’ve ever brought in. No luck at all.

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