Never Leave Anything Unfinished: An Interview with David Quiroz, Jr.

After just a few minutes of talking to David Quiroz, Jr., it becomes obvious that this is someone who gets things done. The number of projects under David’s belt, despite working in the ever-underfunded indie space, is both impressive and inspiring.

David has written or is actively writing in audio fiction, comic script writing, and screenwriting, and his work is awesomely monster-full, from the comic and campy Night of the Chihuahuas to his Bloodlist: Fresh Blood-winning adaptation of Lovecraft’s Dagon

His latest feature, Big Buck Massacre (what a title!), comes out in January next year.

I met David at the most recent NecronomiCon in Providence, Rhode Island, a four-day convention of horror and weird fiction, film, and gaming. (Famously, at least famously for me, it was where, in 2017, Matt Ryan and I had the idea for Reckoning of the Dead.) David sat on a panel about non-Lovecraftian cosmic horror films, and he provided a wealth of recommendations that left everyone in the audience with bulging new to-watch lists.

We wind up talking a bit about about his short film “After Dark,” what it’s like working on other people’s projects, what you can learn by writing in different media, and how to develop a career where other people pitch you projects. (Sounds nice, don’t it?)

As of October 1st, David has a new short out, “The Mirror Man,” which will be part of the pitch for a full-length feature. The film is currently behind a paywall, but you can check it out here and show the team some love!

(If you’re into horror or supernatural mysteries, don’t forget to check out the Burgess Springs podcast, which I co-wrote!) 

And now, enjoy my interview with David Michael Quiroz, Jr.


Noah Lloyd: Thank you for sitting down with me. You have a new short coming out October 1st, what can you tell us about about it?

David Quiroz, Jr.: I have been fortunate enough to work with a director, named Jakob Owens, who is a very prolific short filmmaker and cinematographer. He and I have been collaborating on a few different projects. This latest one is called “The Mirror Man.” It’s about a lady who moves into a house where it turns out a demon haunts the mirrors, watching her through the glass.

In the short, it’s a taste of the story overall. I wrote the feature, and he’s going to use the short as a proof of concept, and take it out and shop it.

NL: Have you used shorts as teasers for longer projects before?

DQ: No, this is actually gonna be the first one. I think it’s a really good model of doing things. I know other projects that have been successful doing it. And there have been some very famous examples, Lights Out, which was a horror movie that, you know—the short just blew everyone away, and so of course it was snatched up. The filmmaker [David F. Sandberg] was able to do a feature based off of that. There have been a lot of other ones. So it was nice to finally get into that. 

[Usually] when we do shorts, we’re using it as like, just a fun way to make something cool, and we have something to say. But this is the first time where it’s explicitly with the intent of, “Hey, here’s a taste of what we could do if you would like to see a feature version. Here’s the script and a proof of concept.”

NL: How do you approach making all these shorts? 

DQ: Throughout pre-production, scripting, and the story process, it always begins with just an idea. The thing that I’ve learned the most is how to write according to what you have. So you’ll get an idea and you want to run with things, but then it becomes, “Well, we’re going to shoot it at this location that has this layout, we only have access to these actors for this amount of days.” And so working with what you have, as opposed to just doing whatever it is that you want. 

I don’t want to say it’s limiting, because I don’t find it limiting. I do find it challenging at times, but it is kind of cool to come up with creative ways out of these corners that you’re painted into. You’re always figuring out a way to still tell the story that you want to tell, still convey the vision that you have, but working within those parameters.

NL: Yeah, there’s something about limitations, in that they force a different kind of creativity. I came across another short of yours, also directed by Jakob Owens, called “After Dark.” How did that one come about? 

DQ: What ends up happening is he (or another director) will have an idea, and they just say, “So here’s a situation.” 

It was, “A lady shows up to an Air B&B, and there’s a sign up that says don’t go outside after dark.” And that’s the only rule that we had. But of course, she still goes outside because it’s a horror movie. She ignores it. And that was the concept. 

And I ran with that. Why is she there? What makes her break this rule? Can we do it in a way that’s not just somebody flipping off authority and doing whatever they want? Like, how do we do that in a way that doesn’t lose the audience? 

And what are these monsters? Understanding that we’re going to be doing a short film with a limited budget—you can’t just step outside and suddenly there’s Godzilla—it’s got to be something that you can work in in a believable fashion. And so I created the backstory of these creatures, why they’re there, where they came from. There’s a whole list of rules for these things that are only onscreen for like twenty seconds. 

But that was another [short] that we thought about. At some point we’re going to do a feature version of that short to take out, but “Mirror Man” right now is the intent.

NL: If it’s not a major spoiler, what is the backstory of the creatures in “After Dark”?

DQ: It’s a combination of these outlaws from back when California was colonized by Spain, who had been basically terrorizing the California desert. And then finally all the landowners got together and sealed the caves that [the outlaws] lived in. And so hundreds of years later, these criminals that had been trapped inside were—oh, by the way, in the 1950s, the United States government had been dumping nuclear waste. 

I was trying to grab all these horror tropes that I just loved so much, and I grew up watching. I created these albino humanoid creatures that come out to feed on whatever humans are unfortunate enough to be nearby.

NL: So there is a little bit of Godzilla there, actually.

DQ: There you go, the nuclear nuclear waste.

NL: Is that something you do a lot? I’m latching onto all of this background writing that we don’t see onscreen at all. Is that a practice or a method that you use regularly?

DQ: Absolutely, yeah. When I first start plotting out a story, I’ll start with the characters and their backstories. What led them here? What are their wants, their needs, any other dramatic impulses that they’ll have in the story? One thing that I’m not a fan of at all is the suggestion that… something needs to happen, and you just need to force it. 

My idea has always been that if the characters wouldn’t have made that decision themselves, and if you can’t explain why they would have made that decision, then there’s really no point. You’re arbitrarily moving the story forward, it’s not going to feel natural, and the audience will pick up on that. I think that most unsuccessful stories [are unsuccessful] because you didn’t believe that the characters would do that. Or you didn’t care that the characters would do that, because you didn’t care about the characters. 

After the events are over, their life is forever changed one way or the other. And if they’ve done what they’re supposed to, it’s going to be for the better. And if they haven’t, it’s going to be for the worse, but it will change no matter what. 

And so I always start with their backstories, with where have they been before the plot of the movie starts. Even in “After Dark,” even though they’re only onscreen for a handful moments. You would have no idea what any of their backstory was. But I had to understand, why don’t they like the light? Why do they only come out at night? Why do they want to attack people? All these other things. In order to understand these actions that are only happening for a few moments, you know, I created this whole backstory. “The Peralta clan” is what they’re known as, which you wouldn’t get from the short.

NL: I love the world building that is just there to lend a weight to it. 

I don’t know if you have more to say about this or not, or if it’s just something I’m noticing, but I find it really interesting that you do this pre-writing with the monsters, too. I feel like a lot of people would certainly do this kind of work for the lead character but would never consider it for the monsters. What’s the benefit of doing this kind of background work for the monstrous, and not just our heroes?

DQ: One thing that I always try to think to myself is, when you have a protagonist, what scares them the most? What is the worst possible situation that they could be in? Based on who they are, what their fears are, what they’ve been through, leading up to the events in your story. 

You can’t be too obvious with it. Like with Night of the Chihuahuas, the horror comic that I write, I poke fun at [this idea]. I have this cop whose greatest fear is chihuahuas, and now he’s got to fight chihuahuas. It’s done in a cheesy, tongue-in-cheek fashion that’s meant to evoke campy horror movies. 

But if I’m not writing a campy horror movie, I’m trying to come up with a concept: this is what this character has, they must overcome this, in order for their life to be better, not just to survive the events. After the events are over, their life is forever changed one way or the other. And if they’ve done what they’re supposed to, it’s going to be for the better. And if they haven’t, it’s going to be for the worse, but it will change no matter what. 

I always try to, when I create the backstory of the creature, or the antagonistic force, whatever that may be, it’s always with the intent of, “How does this challenge the character the most, beyond the primal?” Beyond just the threat of physical violence or loss of life. And so, in “Mirror Man,” the short is just a lady discovering that there is a demon in the mirrors watching her. 

In the feature, we’re able to get more backstory, where it’s coming after a daughter and [the protagonist] has just had a divorce. She’s trying to fight for custody, and the daughter is very confused as to which parent has her best interests at heart, because it feels like neither of them want her anymore. This feeling of abandonment is what this demon seizes on and comes after. 

So it’s not just the fact that there’s something coming out of a mirror that wants to attack them, it’s that, there is something that’s going to take the thing that’s most precious to me, and it’s at this time in my life, where everything is in flux, given the divorce and given the custody situation. [The monster] further complicates those issues and seizes on something that is truly upsetting to this character.

NL: I think you’re kind of brushing up against this already, but why? Why do we need monsters in our movies? This is something that I noticed about your work: there are monsters there (and a lot in the case of Chihuahuas!). So what’s the attraction to monsters? Why do you keep coming back to them?

DQ: That’s a really good question. I think back to growing up as a youth. I’m Mexican-American, and we grew up in a very traditional Latino household, where it was always a scary story to scare the kids into behaving, you know? If you don’t listen to your nana, then the Cucuy is gonna come eat you. If you get too close to the river, la Llorona’s gonna come out of the water and take you. 

These lessons were always wrapped into a scary story, which is not unique to Mexican-American households. That’s going all the way back to fairy tales, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, things like that. I think for me, that’s always been the idea—that these stories are supposed to invoke some kind of, or convey some kind of meaning, some kind of a message, a lesson. 

These fears that we have in our society—and we’re at such a crazy point in the world, it feels like everything is falling apart. I don’t want to go to a movie where I have to see real things, you know? I can deal with my credit rating, and the rise of white nationalism, and all this other stuff, if I just open up a newspaper. 

But if I go watch a horror movie, it feels almost more comfortable if there’s a monster that can be defeated instead of these existential things that cannot. I know we met at NecronomiCon, where we were talking about Lovecraftian horror— 

NL: I was just thinking about that.

DQ: Yeah yeah. The draw of Lovecraftian Horror is that you cannot defeat it. You can’t overcome it. You can hide it, you can lock it away, you can run away from it, but you can’t just pull out a bazooka and defeat the monster. [Tell that to some of my Call of Cthulhu players.] I like things that give you a way to explore your fears and to confront them in an entertaining way, where they’re more tangible and thematic as opposed to all these real issues.

But in the best horror, there is a bigger story to tell. There is something to communicate as opposed to, just, somebody in a rubber monster suit chasing after scantily clad young women. I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with those movies, there is a place for those as well. But the horror that I gravitate towards is usually trying to communicate our fears with the world that we live in.

NL: What are your top two or three monster flicks that you think do this really well?

DQ: My absolute favorite, one of my top five movies of all time, is the original Night of the Living Dead. When I was teaching film, I always taught that in the 1960s era. And it’s just one of those movies that speaks so much about the culture that it was made in. And a lot of those same fears and themes are still present in the modern day, which I think is one of the reasons that the zombie genre is still going as strongly as it has been for fifty years. 

It pushed so many envelopes that hadn’t been pushed up to that point. The fact that it stands as strong as it does speaks to the fact that it had something bigger to say. It wasn’t just about, you know, zombies at your door, it was talking about the society, and changes in society, and the angst of Vietnam-era America, and things like that. Gosh, I could keep talking about George Romero, because he was so good with that. 

The Thing as a faceless entity of, like, who do we trust in 80s America? That was a really big one as well. More recently, Get Out. Jordan Peele is such a great filmmaker, but in everything he does there’s always a bigger story that he’s telling in his own unique way. And I think that’s another reason that he’s as successful as he is.

“God made them small, man made them deadly.”

NL: Let’s keep talking about monsters for a minute, but I have to ask this question: who came up with the tagline for Night of the Chihuahuas? I love it.

DQ: “God made them small, man made them deadly.” That’s a line that’s going to be spoken in issue number five. But basically, a character says, “Can you imagine if those vicious things had the strength to back up their attitude? They’d be illegal.” The tagline is a spin off of that.

NL: I mean, it’s great. It tells you everything you need to know, and it gets the tone so precise as well. We’re gonna be in for some campy horror, and it’s gonna be really fun and over the top. How did you come to the Night of the Chihuahuas project? And what got you interested in working with comics?

DQ: That is a concept I came up with a really long time ago. I graduated from film school, moved out to LA, did the production assistant thing, hated it, absolutely hated it. The Blair Witch Project had come out a few years before. But like, this was the first time that people were taking video cameras, making these really low budget horror films. And at the time, Blockbuster and Hollywood Video were picking them up for twenty or forty grand a pop, which, if you made your film for five grand, you thought you made quite a bit of money. 

We were such idiots back then. We had no idea what we were getting into. But I knew people that were doing these, and I thought, “Hey, I’m gonna grab a video camera and make one of my own. I wrote the worst script to try to shoot on a low budget, which was Night of the Chihuahuas. I did not have access to an army of chihuahuas, and did not have access to a lot of the things that you would need to pull off this project. And so it kind of languished, but that idea always stayed with me. 

And I’ve always been a fan of comic books and finally got in touch with some people who are artists. When I was pitching my ideas, everybody always gravitated toward the chihuahuas. And they were always like, you know, “That would be so much fun to draw, that would be a really fun comic book.” And so we got together, made it happen. Having an artist draw this carnage that’s on the page… 

When you’re making a film, you’re always worrying about production costs. And it’s always, “How many things are we going to have to have onscreen? How many stunts, how much makeup, effects?” All these different things. When it’s just a panel, you can write what you envision. And then if the artists can capture that, it’s incredibly fulfilling, because you don’t have to worry about all those other departments and teams and things like that. 

Not to say that it’s been a seamless process, because it most certainly has not. Comic books have their own hoops that you have to jump through and [problems] you have to contend with. But being able to write out your vision…

Of course, artists are artists for a reason, and you want to empower them and entrust them to, if they have an idea, run with it as well. So it is a collaborative form. I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of Alan Moore’s comic scripts, but like, incredible, everything laid out. And he’s Alan Moore, he deserves to do that. I have been much more open for letting the artists bring to the table what they see it being. I try to give them my vision first and bounce it off of them. And you know, we create something that we’re both really happy with.

NL: How did you attach artists that you were excited to work with?

DQ: The first artists that we used for Night of the Chihuahuas, we actually put out… There are sites where you can post gigs for artists, and you just say, “Here’s our budget, here’s [the concept.” Twenty artists responded. 

And then of those artists, we were fortunate enough to find one here in Phoenix, and we were able to meet up. Our visions matched and we hit it off really well. And then, unfortunately, we lost him. God, as we’re finding out, when you work with really talented artists, they tend to get hired on to much bigger, better paying projects. And you can’t hate that. But we just had one that we interviewed, and he loved the project. He was all aboard. And like literally the next day, we saw a video of him hanging out with Todd McFarlane, the guy who did Spawn, and Todd McFarlane was like, “This guy’s the next big thing.” 

And then the next day, he called us up, “Uh, sorry, guys, I just got offered this gig working for DC.” And what are you gonna say, right?

NL: Totally. So it sounds like you have the script for the next issue, but no artist at the moment.

DQ: Yeah, so right now issue three just wrapped up. It’s going to be a five-issue series. And the script is done for issues four and five. But, once again, we’re trying to get the artists on board. It’s an independent production. 

The publishing arm, Pork Chop Express, is local here to Phoenix. This is their first project. And so as they sell copies, they use that money, pump it into the next issue and get it done. So it’s still sort of—I don’t want to say—what’s the word I’m looking for? Kind of do it yourself, but getting some traction built up along the way.

NL: What was the transition from screenwriting to comic script writing? What kind of hurdles did you encounter, or how well did they mesh?

DQ: That’s a really good question. [Thank you.] Having directed stuff in the past, I remember what it’s like to have to storyboard things and sit down with a cinematographer and explain what you want out of a shot and why you want it shot that way. All of that comes into writing a comic script. 

Writing a comic script is like drawing verbal storyboards, is what I like to say. “I want the panel to look like this, because this is the mood that I’m trying to convey,” or, “I’m trying to set this up for later.” 

If it’s a wide [angle panel], it should be because we want them to look small and insignificant, or we want to pack in a lot of information. Things like that. You’re always thinking about the visual. People read comic books for all different reasons. Some [comics] can be very verbose, or they can just be a conversation between a couple of characters. But for the most part, people open up a comic book and they want to be dazzled with the art, they want to have interesting, cool things to look at on the page. 

Film is a visual medium as well, so there are a lot of similarities. I’ve been brought on to a few different [comic] projects since then, and it’s been very rewarding. And film’s still a passion of mine, but there are so many things, so many parties involved with [a film]. And there’re so many things that can go wrong along the way. 

My experience so far has been—maybe it’s just because I’m doing indie horror comics—but you sit down with somebody and they say, “Hey, we want to do a comic,” and you say, “Okay, cool. Well, here’s the story.” And they say, “Here’s the artist,” and then you start making a comic. 

To this point, it’s been a really, really satisfying process. I can’t tell you how many film projects I’ve been involved in that just sputtered out, [ran out] of funding, or different things that happen along the way. The comic book community has been very supportive as well, and just a really good group of people to work with.

NL: Both screenwriting and comic script writing have to be extremely visual, but you’ve also worked on audio projects. I’m not sure where Red Riding Hoods came for you on your trajectory, if that was before you started working in comics, or during, or after, but again, what was the transition into another medium like?

DQ: Red Riding Hoods was a TV pilot that I wrote and did really well. We actually got picked up by Thunderbird Entertainment in Vancouver, which also did Man in the High Castle, and a few other very cool production companies. And it never went anywhere with them, the option expired. It kept getting bites and people loving it, but then nothing would happen. 

Then this company called Violet Hour Media, which did fiction podcasts, contacted me, and they just said, “Hey, we really love this. We think it would make a good horror fiction podcast if you’re okay with converting it into that.” 

At first I didn’t think it was a good idea. But I took it as challenging myself, to do something I’ve never done before. “Let me see if I can make that work.” And we did it. It was super cool to finally get to write it. I’d had that pilot done for like two years. And then you have to plot out the rest of the season. 

When you’re pitching these, you have to show people that, yes, it can support five seasons’ worth. It’s a little bit different now, because Netflix doesn’t run anything for five seasons. But you know, you need to show that there is a world that can sustain multiple seasons. And you have to show that you already have a lot of these episodes planned out. So it was awesome to finally get to write all the episodes of the first season, instead of just talking about them the whole time. 

For me, that was more amazing than anything else. The director, Sarah Joy Brown, was a former soap opera actress. This was her first directing gig, and I thought she did a really great job. She was a super nice person and super great to work with. She [brought on] really professional actors to do these roles. It was very cool to hear all these characters brought to life. 

I’m always keeping in mind, though, that it’s essentially a slasher. It’s a team of final girls who are the sole survivors of their own horror movies. Every episode, they’re going after a new monster. It’s having to come up with, “How do we make sure that the audience can tell what’s going on?” Despite the fact that they can’t see it onscreen, they have to be able to listen to this and know. 

You have to give each monster distinguishing features. They each speak in a different cadence. That way, the audience can tell which character is which. The director did a really good job with the actresses she cast. They all sounded very different. It was a lot of fun, a lot of fun to make. We seem to have gotten some really good reviews, it was pretty highly rated on Apple Podcasts. 

I would like to do some more fiction podcasts, but at the moment my attention has been on screenplays and comic books.

…you’re thinking about bite-sized dynamic chunks. Something’s got to pop that the audience is going to react to, that the reader is going to enjoy.

NL: Are there any lessons—both from comic and audio script writing—that you’ve been able to apply to screenwriting?

DQ: Yeah. It’s the same lesson, but different ways to apply that lesson. 

In comic books you are working on a panel, which is going to be a smaller part of a page. And if you have very big, long monologues, or long sequences of dialogue, it has to be broken up over multiple panels. So you’re thinking about bite-sized dynamic chunks. Something’s got to pop that the audience is going to react to, that the reader is going to enjoy. But I can’t make huge dialogue bubbles, because it’s going to block too much of the art, it’s going to block too much of the panel. 

The opposite is true in audio fiction. You have to really focus on the dialogue for a different reason, you have to make sure that it flows, that it catches the listener, and that they’re going to be able to focus on it. Because most of the time they’re going to be listening while they’re vacuuming, while they’re cleaning their house, while they’re driving to work. Just about nobody sits down and just focuses on their headphones. 

So [I learned] a lot about writing dialogue through the two different mediums for two different reasons. But it made me reconsider every medium that I write. Now when I sit down, it’s, “What is the point of this?” and [considering] the intended audience and the way that they’re going to consume this, how am I going to make it work the best for them? 

Out of all the years of schooling that I did, and writing, actually getting in there and just doing it… I think I learned way more in the last few years, especially writing books and fiction podcasts, than in a lot of the classes that I took.

NL: I want to pull back a little bit. How did you get started writing, what’s your origin story?

DQ: I’ve always written. I’ve always had notebooks and been filling them up. And third, fourth grade, I was writing horror stories. I went to a Catholic school and the nuns would call my parents and be like, “Hey, you need to come down. We need to talk to you about what your kid’s writing.” I was that type of kid. And I would write short stories, and then bigger, longer stories. 

When I was like, sixteen, I picked up a collection of screenplays. I was like, “Oh, wow, I want to write movies.” And it was poorly formatted, because it was formatted for a reader of a book, not a reader of a professional screenplay. So in my word processor I was trying to format screenplays the way I thought they were supposed to be. The first time I showed it to somebody who knew what a screenplay really was, they were like, blasted. The formatting was terrible. But I knew, when I went to college, I wanted to do film. 

I focused more on screenwriting from the time I was like, eighteen, until my late twenties. I mean, that’s almost exclusively what I did, because I was trying to master that craft as much as I could. And failed horribly. But you know, I got a lot of practice. The whole time, I was always reading books, still reading short stories, reading comic books, reading anything I could get my hands on, especially horror and weird fiction. Coming back to those [stories] reinvigorated my love of writing, as opposed to just, you know, writing a spec that has to meet so many parameters.

NL: So how does how does that trajectory lead you to Big Buck Massacre?

DQ: Big Buck Massacre was a project that I wrote for a friend of mine I taught with at a local university here in Phoenix. He was the head of their film department. He would tell me, “You need to write something that me and my students can shoot.” He had a friend in Wisconsin who had acres and acres of forest property and a house.

He had said that around that area, they had this thing called zombie deer, which is a fungus that infects deer and basically rots them. They call them zombie deer because they’re almost brain dead, but they’re still walking around. If a hunter shoots them, and happens to eat the meat, it’s like a form of rabies. 

The first pitch that I had was very serious. It was this tale about a dad trying to toughen up his son by taking him on a camping and hunting trip. And it goes horribly wrong, because they run afoul of infected deer, and there’re crazy survivalists living in the middle of nowhere. It was this very serious thing about masculinity. 

And the guy was like, “Dude, this—no, we can’t shoot this. We don’t have actors that could pull this off. We need something that’s campier.” So I went the other direction. I came up with this idea of a sales team, out in the middle of a corporate retreat—at the time I was dealing with a lot of corporate, just ridiculous team building stuff that they were trying to shove down our throats.

They run afoul of a zombie deer, except now it’s way funnier, because the sales team all hate each other. They’re just as much a threat to each other out in the middle of the woods as the zombie deer is, even though zombie deer is picking them apart, it’s their inability to work together [that dooms them]. And the sales manager keeps shouting these stupid sales quotes to try to motivate them to escape. We just had a lot of fun with it, understanding what we’re going for. We had a really good special effects artist that created this awesome deer. And you know, we’ll see how it turns out. It’s supposed to be out in January of 2023.

NL: How do you approach working with producers, when they come to you with their own ideas? And how do you keep yourself interested in other people’s ideas?

DQ: So I’ll answer the second question first. I don’t think, unless the money was just too much to pass up, I could work on something that I didn’t care about. Even if I have things about the project that I might not love as much as others, there has to be something that I love about it, something that I say, “No matter what else happens, I want to tell this story,” or, “I want to get this across.” If that wasn’t there, I don’t think it’s worth the time. 

Writing is going to be so involved throughout the production, they’re always going to need more rewrites, and if your name is on it, you don’t want to turn that over to somebody else, and suddenly it’s something that you didn’t even envision, but your name is still on it. I’ve had a lot of pitches come to me that I’m just like, nope. But instead of saying that right away, I always think to myself, like, what doesn’t work for me? What does work for me? How can I make something happen? Film is very collaborative. I think anybody who’s trying to get into film or who wants to be a writer, a director, anything, who doesn’t know how to work with others, who doesn’t know how to collaborate, I don’t think is going to be successful—unless your parents just gave you all the money you want to make your own movie and do whatever you want. Those are very rare, but they’re out there.

But you’re always going to have to… I don’t want to say compromise, but at the same point, sometimes people have better ideas. And sometimes, even if their initial idea wasn’t better, it might force you to reconsider something that you can then make better. I think everybody on a project is always trying to make the best possible thing they can. Identifying and figuring out how to incorporate ideas that you may not initially agree with, and figuring out what can excite you about something instead of what was initially presented. Then the trick is communicating it back to people so that they don’t feel like you’ve twisted their words or anything like that. 

There’s a lot of being a politician that goes into being a filmmaker. If I get pitched something that I’m not crazy excited about, I usually mull on it for a day or two, or for a few hours at least, to figure out, “What would excite me about this?” And then usually we make something happen. 

And what was the first question? [Laughter.]

NL: I think you’ve basically answered it. How do you approach working on someone else’s idea?

DQ: I mean, I’ve been doing it for so long now that it’s just, you roll with it, and you figure it out. Once you’ve worked with people long enough, you know what they’re into and what they’re trying to get out of it. And so you’re trying to satisfy those [expectations], as well.

NL: From a career perspective, how have you positioned yourself as someone that others are bringing pitches to?

DQ: I think my work ethic, and the fact that I’ve never quit, I’ve never left anything unfinished. And say what you will about the product, but the fact that it got finished is saying a lot in this industry.

Especially in the low budget world, especially in indie filmmaking, there are so many projects that started and never went anywhere because people quit or dropped them or they didn’t have everything lined up before they got started. The one thing, whether good or bad—maybe I should have walked away from some of these projects, I don’t know—but I haven’t. 

I think people know that, “Hey, this guy will get a draft, he will do what he says, and he won’t complain about it,” which is the other thing I try not to do. There’s a professionalism that I try to maintain. I know that the hours are long. I know that it’s thankless. I know that you’re the writer, and you’re always gonna get the absolute last credit. And everybody’s going to slap the director and the producer on the back while the screenwriter gets nothing. And that is what it is. And I don’t go whine and moan about that. 

So I think just being somebody who’s positive, with a great work ethic, and being as professional as possible, goes a long way. And a lot of times when you’re starting out in the industry, you’re working with people that you came up with, and you’re gonna start gravitating towards the other people that have the same drive as you do. And it’s been a journey, but you know, I’m still here.

NL: That’s great.

Okay, lightning round. Favorite cocktail, mocktail or other beverage?

DQ: Right now? I know it’s so trendy. Like, I sound like such a basic dude, but old fashioneds. I kind of got onto that bandwagon late. I’m usually a craft beer guy and not much of a cocktail person, but I’ve discovered them and I love them.

NL: It’s a great drink. I don’t think you should be ashamed at all. 

Alien or Aliens?

DQ: I’m gonna get so much hate for this, but Aliens. I love Alien. I think it’s a great movie, but I’m basing this off the fact that I watch Aliens more. I’ve rewatched that movie so many times. But Alien is a masterpiece, so you can’t go wrong.

NL: No, you can’t. And that’s funny to hear. I haven’t done a ton of these interviews yet, but everyone has said Aliens so far. Alien is batting zero. [Did I use the sportsball metaphor right, folks?]

Okay, question three. If someone told you that you had to memorize an entire novel, word for word, what book would you pick?

DQ: That is a good one. Gosh. I mean, I could cheat and say the shortest one, The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. It was a novella, does that count?

NL: Sure.

DQ: I mean, it’s an incredible novella. But yeah, that one? 

I mean, gosh. It’s funny, because some of my favorite novels, despite my love for horror, some of my favorite novels are not horror.

NL: Like what? What are a few of your favorites?

DQ: There’s an author named Louise Erdrich. She’s very prolific, her book Love Medicine is one of my top three books. I have given away that book so many times, because I’ve met people that hadn’t read it. I give them my copy and then I have to go by a new one.

Andrew Vachss, who was very prolific in the 80s. He wrote a series of very gritty mystery novels about a private investigator named Burke, whose specialty was investigating crimes against children in 80s New York. So very gritty, very disturbing books. Strega, by Vachss, is one of my all-time favorites.

NL: Very cool. All right, most underrated or sadly forgotten TV show.

DQ: Wow. Um… there was a TV show that I got the biggest kick out of, and it only lasted one season on the USA channel, called The War Next Door. It was basically spy versus spy. One spy has retired and his arch nemesis moves right next door to him. 

Every episode was just the two of them fighting, and at the end of every episode, one of them died. And then it just started over the next episode, like nothing happened. It was super clever and really funny. It only lasted like, eight episodes or something. But I still remember every episode, I thought it was great.

NL: I love this question, people always pull things that have I’ve never heard of before. 

Okay, last question. Tell us about one thing we haven’t talked about yet today that lives rent free in your brain.

DQ: There’s a movie called Willow. One of my favorite movies. There’s this one guy… The first time Willow sees the Galladoorn army, he runs up with a baby he’s trying to get them to take from him. And the first guy on a horse, he just goes, “Out of the way, peck!” 

I imagine that when you wrote that line [Well I didn’t write it, presumably screenwriter Bob Dolman did], you probably just imagined him, like, growling. He delivers it with such gusto. I always think to myself, that dude probably shows this movie to everybody that comes in his house. [Laughter.] Like everybody. And he’s so proud of the way he delivered that line. It’s ridiculous and over the top, I think I bring it up all the time. My wife always rolls her eyes at me.

NL: My partner had never seen Willow, and we just watched it like, two days ago. 

DQ: So you know the guy I’m talking about. 

NL: Of course, yeah! Are you gonna watch the Disney+ show?

DQ: Oh, for sure, for sure. I know that they wrote novels as sequels, that [the movie] didn’t make enough money for them to actually shoot the sequels, but I’ve never read those. I’ve always wanted a sequel. I’ll be happy to go back to that world again.

NL: That’s great. I love it. 

So that was the interview. [Who am I, John August?] Thank you very much. This was really fun. 

DQ: Thank you for having me on.

One response to “Never Leave Anything Unfinished: An Interview with David Quiroz, Jr.”

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