Born in upstate New York, Evan Katz, 33, and his family moved to San Diego when he was a little kid. Before he turned his attentions to cinema full-time, the future writer/director was an unabashed, professionally minded hip-hop head.

E.L. Katz: I started out as a music journalist first. I covered a lot of hip-hop, punk rock, and metal music, for a bunch of different websites. But then I switched over to covering genre films. I was lucky to jump onto the first wave of genre websites, like, which had Creature Corner connected to it.

With the music stuff, a lot of it was pretty L.A.-based. When I was living in San Diego, I’d come up to Los Angeles a lot for hip-hop shows. This was early underground Los Angeles hip-hop. These guys started this radio station on, and I did a lot of interviews for them. It was a super rough streaming radio station—this was before the days of Pandora, obviously. But I got to go to a lot of events and meet a lot of people. I also used to be the hip-hop editor for this magazine in San Diego, where we’d interview hip-hop artists from all over the world. Curb Server, though, was very underground, with artists like Living Legends, Murs, and people from outside of L.A. like El-P and Atmosphere. Hip-hop was a pretty big part of my earlier years.

Before I ever knew I wanted to get into film or become a filmmaker, I wanted to focus on journalism. I was a high school dropout, though, so that stuff didn’t seem like it could happen for me. There were definitely some points where I researched how I could get into a journalism school of some kind without a high school degree, and how I could further my education that way. But I didn’t have good concentration. It wasn’t easy for me to work my way back to that education path and do things that regular way. I ended up going to this university called Full Sail in Orlando, where you don’t need any credits or anything like that to get in. If the check clears, you’re in. I thought I was going to be there to study music production, like recording live audio. I thought I would do that, but I ended up becoming friends with the film kids more. I also learned that my hearing was kind of fucked-up from going to so many shows when I was younger. Music production just wasn’t a valid direction.

I ended up sticking with film. I just never imagined that film would ever turn into a job for me. I grew up loving horror movies and action films. For me, it was watching marathons of John Woo movies; I loved the Coen Brothers, Sam Raimi, Evil Dead—anything that was kind of funny, kind of violent, and kind of fucked-up all at the same time. I really loved movies but never thought I’d work in that world. It was like, "Man, that’s Hollywood—it’s a whole other universe so far beyond my reach."