Local Artist and Filmmaker, Antonio Pantoja, Talks Horror and His New Slasher Movie Project!

Antonio Pantoja Film Maker

Award winning video artist, Antonio Pantoja, discusses his horror influences and his 80’s themed slasher movie project, “One Must Fall,” in this exclusive interview!

Antonio Pantoja Film Maker

Greetings, friends and fiends, it’s The Phantom of the Ville here to present you this new and insightful interview with Louisville Halloween’s video director and award winning artist, Antonio Pantoja, conducted and “ghost written” by guest journalist, Rocko Jerome. Without further ado, I’ll let Rocko take it away—

So tell us about this movie you’re making.

One Must Fall is an 80’s themed horror-comedy slasher about a single mother wrongfully fired from her office job by her chauvinistic boss. She really needs the money so she takes temp work on a crime scene cleanup crew where her job is to clean up the aftermath of murders and suicides. There has been a string of grisly murders taking place around town. Tragedy keeps them in business and her newly joined crew gets assigned to the job. With the killer still at large— Did he ever leave the scene of the crime?

I managed to raise $43k through crowdfunding. It was amazing to see the city rise up and help!!

You have received a ton of accolades and become one of the very top Louisville guys in photography and film making. What brought you into the field of work that you do?

My father passed away in 2009 and my daughter asked me all the time to tell her stories about him. I used to tell her “Baby, I think I’ve told you all of them,” but I had two seconds of video of him from about a week before he passed. I watched it over and over and I realized that through photography and video, you become immortal. Your story can live on for all eternity.

What made you decide to tackle making a full length feature?

I grew up in a super broken home and we didn’t eat together, speak, or show love whatsoever in my household. I was raised by the television. But the one thing that we did do is we would watch horror films together. So, I think I embrace horror so much because it gives me a sense of family unity. It’s really bizarre, but, I am a huge, huge fan of horror. It’s tattooed all over my body! Growing up, I learned almost all of my life lessons through movies.

These days, I try to show my daughters a bunch of 80’s movies that have subliminal messages. For example, “Labyrinth” with David Bowie. They say numerous times in the film, “Don’t take anything for granted. This place isn’t what it seems,” and throughout the movie, Jennifer Connelly is attempting to get her brother back because she realized she cared for him once she lost him. She stands up to the bully. The movie “Little Monsters” with Fred Savage has undertones of children dealing with divorce, not taking things for granted and standing up for what you believe in. My daughter asked me about loyalty and we watched “The Lord of the Rings” together. I realized how impactful movies are to someone like myself in conveying subliminal and redeeming messages.

What is your inspiration?

I don’t have a formal education in film or photography. Heck, I don’t even have an actual education. I didn’t go to school after the 8th grade. I came from an extremely broken home, and when I was about 15 years old, I was out on my own, living in my car, homeless. I was given an opportunity to work in a call center and I remember seeing my reflection in the glass as I walked into the building. I remember thinking, “This building is so beautiful. If they gave me the opportunity, I’d clean the trash out of this place.” And they did. And every single day I made it my goal to work harder than every single person in that building.

I realized then that the hand that you are dealt in life does not have to be your destiny. Even if you came from a broken home, destined to head nowhere in life, you can either become it or overcome it. I was lucky that I was able to break that cycle and overcome it. What inspires me more than anything is being able to pass this along to other people who have felt hopeless.

I do these workshops for free. When I started, I didn’t know if one person would show up, maybe 10. But I was completely overwhelmed when 300 people showed up. The subject matter is about my photography process, but I really use that as a vessel to inspire and encourage people that they can do anything. Even if they feel destined to fail, to always remember to enjoy the journey en route to your goal.

I also really love to compete. A lot of people have this mentality of “if I don’t compete, then I never have to lose” and I totally get it. Heck, I lose a lot. I’ve lost a lot more than I’ve won, but because of that, I managed to snag over 50 awards in the last few years. I think that’s just a metaphor for execution. It means that I am trying. I learn a lot more from my failures than I ever will from my successes.

How do you like working in Louisville?

Louisville is all I know. I was born and raised here. I love Louisville so much. Our culture here is amazing. We are kind to strangers, we don’t cast judgment upon anyone, we embrace the arts and we support any and every one. I don’t see myself working anywhere else. I will always live and work here. The beauty of the Internet is that it gives me the ability to shoot anywhere in the world and come right back home to work remotely.

Right now I’m currently living my dream. I am so lucky. If I was doing the exact same thing 10 years from now in the exact same place, I would have the greatest fulfillment. If things got better, I couldn’t even imagine! My hope is that my movie does well enough for people to trust me to teach them the process, as odd as that may sound. I am just extremely thankful and lucky that people even let me point a camera at them at all. I literally just show up and push a button. I sometimes get far too much credit because it’s the people in front of the camera and behind the scenes who deserve the real accolades. I’m just very lucky to be there at all.

What is your greatest accomplishment to date?

The day my father passed away was the worst day in my entire life. The day I became one was the best day of my entire life. I’d say that above all, being a father is my greatest accomplishment.

Rocko Jerome

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