Filmage-A-Trois: David Bonnell – By P.J. Starks and Jakob Bilinski

Welcome to Filmage-A-Trois, our own little sexy slice of indie film heaven. We’re indie filmmaker’s P.J. Starks (HALLOWS EVE, A MIND BESIDE ITSELF) and Jakob Bilinski (OBSOLESCENCE, THREE TEARS ON BLOODSTAINED FLESH) your tour guides through an unorthodox way of picking the brains of independent filmmakers from all over. What exactly is a “filmage-a-trois” you’re probably wondering? No, it’s not our attempt at three ways with other artists. It’s not as easy as you might think. So rather than suckering them into the sack, we’ve asked them to have a sit down. We’ve tasked ourselves with bringing youthe best and in some cases obscure filmmakers we’ve been privileged to call friends. To get right to the point of what makes their clocks tick and to see what kinds of film topics that get their gears turning. So put on a brain condom, cause we’re about to blow your sensory overload!

David Paul Bonnell, a native of Winamac, Indiana, has been a serious photographer since the age of 14. Interning for Brett Leonard (THE LAWNMOWER MAN) on the 2008 documentary A HOLE IN THE HEAD: A LIFE REVEALED was David’s first foray into the world of filmmaking. David formed Over Analyzed Productions after returning from a tour of duty in Iraq and began making short films. He followed up these short productions with the feature film MELTDOWN in 2010 and has been working on projects with some of the area’s top filmmakers. His talents range from directing to cinematography, as he recently was Director of Photography for the hit comedy web series THE BOOK OF DALLAS which has garnered over 1.3 million viewers on KoldCast TV. Enough exposition, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

JB: You have Danielle Harris, a gallon of fake blood, a bottle of rum, a camera, and access to a mortuary, alone, for three hours. What happens?

DP: Something sexy and hopefully consensual.

PJ: All filmmakers have that one dream project if they had the time and budget! What’s yours?

DP: I would a do a series much like "Tales from the Crypt". I would want to do 10 episodes but I would only direct one. The others I would bring in the top and unknown indie horror directors from around North American to direct one hour episode.

JB: Horror is one of the few genres that have a dedicated fan base, with festivals and conventions specifically to celebrate it. What is it about horror that you find so fascinating, and why do you think it’s so popular as a genre?

DP: To me Horror is no different than any other fan base; it is just seen as different because of its appearance. To me the horror crowd is no different than a sports fanatic, but instead of painting our bodies in blue and white we dress up like the preacher from SILVER BULLET or Jason from FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise. My love for Horror comes from growing up in a small Midwestern town as an outcast. I didn’t have a lot of friends so my Friday night memories came from going to the video store. It was my treat for the weekend; I would go off to the dark corner of our Home Town Video store and gaze at the endless VHS covers trying to decide what I would bring home. To me it was a way to break out of reality if only for a few hours and take out your angers and fears in a nondestructive manner. Horror is just an outlet we use to entertain us and get us through the rigors of everyday life and if an NFL fan can have 16 games per year plus playoffs and a super bowl then I think 3 to 4 Horror con a year is fitting.

PJ: What film have you seen in the last 5 years where you were like,"damn, I wish I’d come up with that?

DP: Adam Wingard’s A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE. I loved the tone and mood that the film sets. The cinematography and lighting choices were beautiful. This is the type of film that has a limited budget but finds ways to look past the money with creativity.

JB: One thing I run into sometimes in cinematic debates amongst friends/fellow enthusiasts (and even filmmakers themselves) is that modern cinema isn’t as good as the classics. Like all the films that are regarded as quality need to be a certain age, and current filmmakers’ output are too commercialized, mainstream, or lacking in some regard. Personally I think that’s crap. A good film is a good film, period. My favorite films are a hodgepodge of tried and true classics and modern masterpieces. A lot of the debate I encounter stems from modern techniques being disloyal to cinema (such as increasing use of CGI over practical effects, the new form of 3D, shooting digital vs. "film," and now the high frame rate that Peter Jackson and James Cameron are advocating). What are your thoughts on the old school vs. new school mentality?

DP: Wow, now that is a question! To me the best films, no matter the time, are films that are story and character driven. I believe a good movie comes from good writing followed by a good director and good actors, not a time period. People are always going to make the claim of "back in my day" or "they don’t make them like that anymore" and it’s all BS. You can shoot in one location on a $200 dollar Wal-Mart cam and if you know how to tell a story and have the writing and acting to back it up you’re going to make a good movie. On to 3D, is it fun? Absolutely, but is it a novelty sometimes used to enhance a movie that is lacking in story and skill? Yes! Take Piranha 3D without the 3D, that is a SCI FI Channel movie of the week, but with the FX it becomes a fun movie experience and there is nothing wrong with it. I am a firm believer in the idea that film is an art but like any art I think sometime people forget that it is also meant to be fun. As a filmmaker all I really want is to make a film that that allows viewer to have a good time.

PJ: Channing Tatum calls and says, “write me a starring role in a summer blockbuster!" What would it be and what is the tag line?

DP: It would be a Magic Mike spinoff where Mike becomes a cop teaming up with Dwayne Johnson. The two will be forced to go underground into the world of European sex trafficking. Posing as male prostitutes, they will have work their way up to the top of the Sexual Empire. The tag line, “Magic just got dirty.”

JB: So you’ve shown a strong ability in your films HAPPY HOOKER BANG BANG and THEY SAID THEY WERE HERE TO HELP, to utilize what’s available to you at the time and take advantage of it to make a visually impressive piece with limited resources, and quickly to boot. It makes me wonder: what is the most challenging aspect of working at the extreme and true indie level? And do you think the limitations are more something to overcome, paying your dues or an element that forces creativity and should be embraced?

DP: First off thank you for the compliment. I think a little of both if I would of started out with unlimited resources then I would never know how to be creative. I think no budget Filmmaking makes you think and makes you learn how to be a filmmaker. It’s part of paying the dues that makes you able to create something from nothing.

PS: It seems like the indie film scene is being saturated with everyone who has a camera, do you think this trend has made things harder for those with a true passion to find their market or do you think it makes it easier for distributors to find new and fresh talent?

DP: I love that fact that everyone is making movies and we are getting to see a higher quality of film based on the low costing cameras. On the other hand I do feel there is a crowding in the market with people that make movies simply because they can. I think it makes us, as filmmakers, have to work harder to make something that really stands out.

JB: You’re helming a film which will be a starring vehicle for either one of those popular Disney/Nickelodeon kid actors or a bubblegum pop singer, who has now grown up and is looking to shed their clean-cut image. What film do you make, and how do you corrupt the crap out of them?

DP: I would make a film that centered on drugs addiction and abuse. This would really push their range as an actor/actress. I would make them as a character someone the audience hates more and more as the film progresses. The character would wrong loved ones for no reason other than personal gain. Finally I would end the film with the main character at their lowest breaking point putting a bullet in their own skull to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”.

PJ: What kind of advice do you have for someone trying to break into this world?

DP: I think it’s important to know that this is a very demanding world. It’s not for everyone. I have had so many people come up to me and want to be a part of a film set and after a few hours they are bored and ready to leave. You have to love the work, you have to love the abuse and you have to be able to take the criticism. I think it’s like any profession in the way that if you want it bad enough and work at it the sky is the limit. I’ve never been one of the those people that likes to discourage someone getting into the industry by telling them you will never make it, it’s too difficult, because it’s an art form

A big thanks to David for taking time out of his schedule to allow us to bombard him with some crazy and some in-depth questions about the indie film scene. Until next time, we’re Filmage-A-Trois, serving you awesomesauce since 2013.