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USC graduate makes it big in LA as director

By Staff | Aug 10, 2014

Karl Mueller originally wanted to be a film critic, but that dream was left in the dark something better ended up coming along.

The Wells native recently released his movie, “Mr. Jones,” to the public. Mueller was the director of the horror film.

“I am very lucky and fortunate to be in the position I am in right now,” Mueller says. “There are thousands and thousands of people vying to get their stuff read and produced. Having a finished product makes you look back and see how much work was put into it by everybody on the cast and crew.”

Mueller received a phone call from a producer who he was working with in the summer of 2011.

“He told me that horror movies are always needed,” he explains. “I really fell into the genre by accident. “Mr. Jones” was my first real directing job. It was amazing.”

Being the director gave Mueller a chance to execute his script and mold it into what he had in mind.

“Having the power to change every detail in a scene is very appealing, especially on my script,” he says.

“Mr. Jones” was shot in 2012 and was finished at the end of the year.

In May, 2013, the movie premiered in New York City at the Tribeca Film Festival.

“It was a blast,” Mueller explains. “My family was there and so was the cast and crew. It truly was a great feeling.”

Mueller jokes that the only downfall of directing a movie is that there is never enough money.

“Also, on the set it’s a time crunch to get as much footage as we can in our alloted time,” he says. “We shoot scenes out of order because it would take too much time setting the background and getting in and out of makeup/costumes. Our time is very valuable and needs to be used in the most efficient way possible.”

The entire process took three years, which is not a bad timeline Mueller says.

“It was surprisingly fast from what I was told it can possibly take,” he explains.

In high school, Mueller was part of the concert band and performed in plays and musicals at Wells-Easton and United South Central. He graduated in 1996.

His father, Rick Mueller, was the owner of Wells Drug and his mother was a speech therapist at Wells-Easton.

“In high school, I remember making short videos on VHS tapes and not being able to edit anything,” Mueller recalls. “I even remember having a photography class at USC with Judy Hoppe.”

Roxanne Mueller (Karl’s aunt) was a film critic at the Cleveland Plain Dealer in Cleveland and Karl was inspired by her to get into journalism and film.

“Movies can really open your eyes to a different kind of art form,” he says. “My original idea was to get into journalism, but I wasn’t a fan in college. I only took a couple classes and found out fast that journalism is objective and has certain discipline restrictions, which I didn’t want. So, I switched to a radio and television film department major, coupled with a political science major.”

Mueller graduated from Northwestern University in 2000.

While in college, Mueller was the head writer for a Northwestern student television group.

“We did one show a year because we were only students and had other things to do,” he explains. “The film would be about 30-45 minutes and take all year to edit and have everything come together.”

After college, Mueller stayed in Chicago for five years and worked at a publishing firm.

“Lots of my friends moved out to Los Angeles right away,” he says. “But, honestly, it just wasn’t the right time for me.”

Mueller did eventually end up in Los Angeles in 2005.

He started off as a production assistant, working with commercials.

“I knew I had to earn my way up the ladder,” Mueller says. “In my down time, I would be writing screenplays.”

After a year as a production assistant, Mueller passed a screenplay titled, “Shelter” to a friend of his, which eventually turned some heads.

“My screenplay was sold to a production company called Mandate Productions,” he explained. “It really generated some momentum to my career. The whole process of getting your foot in the door is so mysterious and frustrating at the same time. There are small windows of opportunity and you have to ride the wave while it lasts.”

Mueller’s “Mr. Jones” played in a Los Angeles movie theater for a week, was made into a DVD and can be downloaded on any streaming service.

As for what is next on Mueller’s radar, it is another film, but he won’t be directing this one.

“I wrote a screenplay, which was titled “The Devil’s Hand,” and it will be released to the general public this coming October,” Mueller says. “I don’t have any say how the final cut will come out. I can’t get too attached because the director can change the entire feel I was going for when I wrote it. I’m a movie fan in general, so as long as it comes out good, I’m OK.”

Mueller has a one-year-old at home named Max.

He says Max won’t be able to watch his movies until he gets to the teenage years at least.

He is living with his wife, Deirdre Pfeiffer, in Los Angeles and Phoenix because she works there.

Mueller is returning to Wells for the Wells-Easton reunion and will be showing his film, “Mr. Jones.”

“It will be great to get back home and see everybody,” he explains. “What I’m really excited for is the new school at USC. Wells is fantastic and a new school is great for the community.”

Being in the film industry is where Mueller wants to be and he really enjoys the relationships.

“The people are one of the best things about this industry,” he says. “You form a special bond with your co-workers because you are literally forced to be around them all day.”

For Mueller, his job is what he wants, but it can be a struggle sometimes.

“Making a film takes a lot of hard work and preparation on everyone’s part,” he explains. “Every second on screen is almost like an hour preparation between the makeup, lights, etc. I am very fortunate and know I’m a lucky one who is living a dream.”