The historic Kentucky Theatre, in downtown Lexington, is no stranger to midnight movies. In fact they have been a part of the theater’s rich history for over 25 years. The crowd for this Saturday night show is larger than normal, with about 200 people waiting patiently in the auditorium for the show to start. Of course this is no ordinary midnight showing. Tonight the Kentucky Theatre plays host to the world premiere of Monstrosity, the newest film from local writer and director George Bonilla and his company ZP International Motion Pictures.
George, wearing a shiny black and gold sports coat, stands at the front of the auditorium to introduce his film, graciously thanking everyone for their support. The lights dim and the audience applauds wildly as the film begins.
Afterwards as the crowd exits the auditorium, George is there again, this time shaking hands and signing copies of the film on DVD that are being sold at a nearby table. From the energy and excitement displayed by Bonilla, you would never guess that it is past two o’clock in the morning.
Prior to all this, George Bonilla sat down with me to discuss Monstrosity and his thoughts about independent filmmaking.
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Nic – So George, tell us a little bit about why you’re here tonight.
George—Well Nic, tonight we have a showing of our latest motion picture. It’s called Monstrosity and stars John Dugan from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Monstrosity is the sixth feature film that ZP International Pictures has released.
Nic—Monstrosity is your sixth feature film. How long have you been making movies?
George—I’ve been working in television and things of that nature for almost 25 years and I’ve been making movies for about the past ten years.
Nic—I understand that ZP International Pictures is based in Kentucky, is that correct?
George—That’s right. We’re based completely in the Lexington, Richmond, and Frankfort [Kentucky] area. We do all of our shooting here and we use local talent as much as humanly possible.
Nic—So tell us a little bit about the film that is having its big screen premiere tonight?
George—It’s what I like to consider just a good old fashioned scary movie. We’d done several other films like Edison Death Machine, Zombie Planet and Dance with a Vampire that had quite a complex story line and characters, many layers to them. Then somebody said that what I really needed to do was make a good old fashioned movie that just scares people. I thought about it a bit and then I thought, what scares people? Monsters in an abandoned factory, that’s scary and that was the genesis of the story came. I’m going to put people into an abandoned factory where they’re hunting something and something ends up hunting them. It’s just good action, drama, scary.
Nic— I know it was only recently completed. Is tonight the premiere of Monstrosity?
George—Yes it is. This is our first theatrical showing of the film. We did screen it at the Fright Night Film Festival in Louisville, Kentucky as a favor because John Dugan was a guest there. Also Ken Daniels, who runs the festival, asked us to let him show it there because our film Edison Death Machine won the award for Best Special Effects at last year’s festival. But, this is its true world premiere.
Nic— Will you be entering Monstrosity in any other film festivals?
George—Actually I am. There is one we’re going to be at in Milwaukee called the It Came From Lake Michigan Film Festival. Also we’re going to have a representative of our company screen it in a show in Little Rock, Arkansas, that’s Full Moon Video, and we’ll have it at a show in Nashville, Tennessee as well.
Nic—Sounds like October will be a busy month for ZP International Pictures.
George—Extremely busy. In fact we’re going to be working on something new with our first feature film Zombie Planet and its sequel Zombie Planet 2. We’re taking the two films, which are a four hour epic and condensing them down to one two hour movie called The Kane Chronicles: The Battle for Zombie Planet. I just finished the re-edit for part one yesterday and I’ll start part two tomorrow. I should have them ready to go in about three to four weeks. The final product will be action packed!
It really is amazing, I’ll tell you I was worried about losing characterizations and losing plot points but I’ve actually managed to keep almost the entire story intact. I went in and looked at the essence of each scene and said now what are we supposed to understand about this scene? For example, this scene is really about what Kane thinks about Adam and so when I approached it that way I was able to take say a 12 minute scene and boil it down to six minutes and it works.
Nic—Talking about filmmaking in general, can you tell us a little bit about being an independent filmmaker? What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
George—I’ll tell you about the big challenges for me. Most people are going to say right off the bat “money”, but with technology the way it is today I think that a person who’s smart and thinks on their feet can get their picture made. To me the challenge is more about getting people to take your picture seriously. Once the picture is done and they see it, they take it seriously. When you are getting a person on the set and they realize that it is a 14-16 hour day and not some magical process and getting people who will stick with it. That is a real challenge. I mean we’ve had actors drop out and producers come and go so I think really the hardest thing is just making the feature and getting it done with manpower. I mean the other things fall together. I also have to say that we’ve been very successful so far, we’ve done six films and in November we start work on Hellaphone, which will be our seventh feature!
Nic—What about distribution? Do you have any difficulty actually getting your films out there to the public once they’re made?
George—No, we’ve been very fortunate. We’ve been picked up by two different companies. Tempe Entertainment picked up Zombie Planet 1 and 2 and their contract ran its course and it’s kind of nice because they actually said to us that they didn’t think they were getting our movies out there as big as they should get and I think somebody else could do better. So Brain Damage Films or Maxum Media has picked us up for those films. Since then we’ve decided with Dance with a Vampire, Edison Death Machine, and now Monstrosity that we would do our own distribution and we’re actually doing very well at it. We’ve had four different offers on Edison and three on Monstrosity. So far we’re handling our pictures just fine. I mean if somebody backs up with a truck full of money, we’ll give it to them, but right now we have two worldwide distribution deals and we’re handling three ourselves.
(Note: after this interview was completed, Edison Death Machine went on to win the award for Best Science Fiction Film at the 2007 It Came From Lake Michigan Film Festival.)