Michael Bonomo - Writer, Producer, Director
For today’s Twenty Questions, we go to the Dark Side. No, not the Force but to a more realistic side of the human experience. Michael Bonomo is a producer, writer, and director of shorts, a film genre that takes a feature film-sized story and tells it in a fraction of the time, with all the atmosphere and emotion of its bigger cousin left intact. Michael is taking time from several projects he’s working on to talk to us.
Michael, thank you for taking time out of your schedule!
MichaelB: Hey Michael. Thanks for having me.
Matchflick First Question: What is the biggest challenge in creating a short feature film?
MichaelB: What hasn't been challenging? The challenges are not all that
different from a feature film or a novel. You’re taking a story, telling it in the most engaging way possible and trying to entertain the audience. But, you’re also trying to do it in a very short period of time.
Matchflick What are the misconceptions about shorts?
MichaelB: Probably the most common one I’ve come across is that because it’s a short film, it’s much easier to make than a feature. That may be true in terms of cost and shooting schedule, but the prep can be a nightmare, as you’ve got to compress everything you’ve got and cram it into a small amount of time.
Matchflick What is the biggest attraction of shorts for you as a filmmaker?
MichaelB: Shorts are a great way to really try out new ideas, learn new aspects of filmmaking and just be creative on a relatively small budget. That creativity allowed me to really try new things (like a ompletely silent short with Unsaid) and even to try my hand at cinematography. Never Again and Echo), something that I would never have had the opportunity to do on a feature length film.
Matchflick What are some of your more memorable projects?
MichaelB: The progress I’ve made from project to project is the important part. I’m constantly asking myself questions like, am I constantly learning? Am I constantly evolving as a filmmaker? Is each new short a step up in quality? Those are the things I look at.
As for specifics, I’d say Unsaid had the markings of one that really stood out to me. We made it over the course of one night, starting early in the evening at my apartment to shoot the female lead’s scenes getting ready to go out and as soon as that was done, we high-tailed it over to the cafe where we spent over three hours trying to shoot the sequence between the two of us in the cafe window (we ended up using three shots, but we shot about 15 angles). We wrapped her after that and the cinematographer, Noel, my associate producer, Kyle and I stayed up until four in the morning trying to get shots of my character driving, smoking and basically going home sad. The best part was, we had to get up early the next day to shoot the second half of Never Again. So, yeah,
I’d say that short film really was memorable for me.
ASSASSINS - Ten Minutes of Intensity
Matchflick As a filmmaker with a story, do you "see" the beginning, the journey, or the ending first?
MichaelB: Well, it depends on the project. I’d say at any moment I’ve got about twenty various story ideas in my head. Some are just the ending. Some are just the opening. Hell, some are just a vague line that sounds like it could lead to a much bigger story.
Matchflick What do you want your audience to walk away with?
MichaelB: I want them to leave wanting more.
Matchflick How did you get your start?
MichaelB: I’ve been watching movies my whole life. I saw Zombie Lake when I was four and Night of the Living Dead ’68 when I was five. I’ve been hooked on films since. (Yes, I’ve gone back and watched Zombie Lake and it is a horrible film, I’m aware). I wouldn’t say I ever really got a start, in the classic sense. I wanted to make a film, and everyone I know wanted to do the same. I saw no one was actually making anything, so I went out and spent every dime I had on the equipment I’d need to make a short film. I put out some feelers and BAM! I had a crew. At that point you can’t really back down, so I went and made Porcelain.
Matchflick I’m assuming that you didn’t just burst on the scene as a writer/director. What did you do before your first professional film?
MichaelB: Well, I helped out on a single film when I first moved to LA. But, honestly, that was about it. Had a day job, and when that went out of business I jumped right on making my short films. Between that first film and losing my day job, I wanted to make things, but I just didn’t follow through. And, I wouldn’t say I have a professional film yet. We’ll be shooting that in August.
Matchflick What dues did you pay before making your first feature film?
MichaelB: I’ve been very lucky. I helped out friends on their projects and found a few amazingly talented mentors who have taken me under their wings and supported me every step of the way. I also made sure to have a day job so that I wasn’t scraping by like so many people do.
Matchflick You were in two of your shorts, UNSAID and The COOK. Was that out of necessity, or did you just have "the itch?"
MichaelB: I absolutely do not have the itch to act. Actually I was in two of my shorts: Unsaid and Never Again. I had a small part in the feature film The Cook that my cousin co-wrote/produced. Unsaid I had planned on being in since I had the idea, since it was from a personal place earlier in my life, and I knew there wouldn't be any lines, so I was alright with that. Never Again was not something I was ever supposed to be in. The actor for that film cancelled the day of shooting, and since it’s supposed to be the girl’s brother, I was the only one who even had a similar shade of hair
to her, so I had to step in. As for The Cook, I had no choice. I was family, and since I was the only one who actually looked like they’d been in college (I had just graduated a year before) I was forced to do the lines. Those experiences convinced me that I was better off behind the camera.
The Story is all
Matchflick Let’s talk about your latest project, ASSASSINS. Where did the idea come from?
MichaelB: ASSASSINS the short came from my need to do a more dialogue driven
short film. Most of my earlier short films had very little in the way of dialogue, so I wanted to focus on that in this short. That, and I really wanted to look into the serial killer/assassin/thriller style of films. I’m incredibly impressed by some of the recent Korean films like Oldboy, The Man From Nowhere and I Saw The Devil, but when I turned to American films along the same lines, they didn’t hold the same impact for me. I wanted to make a film that blurred the boundary of the 'good guy'/'bad guy' dynamic, because the world around is shades of grey, and I wonder why can’t more films show that?
Matchflick Did you have your actors in mind when you wrote it, or did you get lucky in the casting?
MichaelB: I had Bill Oberst Jr. in mind as the lead from the moment I started writing the script. I’d met him about a year prior at a networking event and he’d struck me as the perfect, world-weary assassin. I was also tired of seeing him always stuck in the psycho B-level horror film guy. He deserved better and I wanted to try and give it to him. He’s amazingly talented. Vicente has become a good friend out here in LA, and I knew he would be what I was looking for in the part of the other assassin. The two played off each other nicely.
Matchflick Did you expect the reception you got with this short?
MichaelB: No. Not at all. I was blown away by the reviews we’ve gotten. The feedback has been wonderful and the support from anyone who has seen the short has been nothing short of astounding.
Matchflick Now I understand that ASSASSINS will be made into a full-length feature film. Where will the story take us now?
MichaelB: Yes. We’re shooting Assassins as a feature in August. What you will see is Bill’s character going a little deeper. The short is being used to set up the opening for a wicked little cat-and-mouse game between Bill’s character and a bounty hunter looking for a huge pay day. In the middle of this game is a young man, named Chris, whose girlfriend
was just brutally murdered and he’s now being used as a pawn between these two killers. I can’t get into it too much more because, well, I don’t want to ruin the surprise.
Matchflick The biggest problem with every independent filmmaker is funding. Are you getting backers, or are friends and family helping support the film?
MichaelB: You know. It’s funny. Support is coming from out of
nowhere. We’ve gotten a nice little rush of support up front, and we’re quite aware this will die down a bit. We need to get the word out to as many people as possible without drowning our friends in our begging please. However it happens, we will be making this film, and we’ll do our damnedest to get every last penny we need to make it.
The Feature Film - and YOU Can Be a Part of It
Matchflick Who is coming back from the short, or is that telling?
MichaelB: I can say Bill will be back from the short, but other then that, my lips are sealed.
Matchflick Who were your inspirations for becoming a filmmaker?
MichaelB: Guillermo Del Toro, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky, Clint Eastwood, Ingmar Bergman... there’s a ton more, but it just becomes a list of all the filmmakers I dream of meeting.
Matchflick Aside from ASSASSINS, are there any other projects down the pike for Michael Bonomo?
MichaelB: Yes. Most definitely, but they’re all on hold while we focus on prepping for Assassins. We have another feature, Muse, that has been written for a couple of years now, and we’re still looking for funding because it’s grown in scope since its inception. So, as soon as that funding is in place, we’ll jump on that one as well.
Matchflick Will you continue to do full-length feature films, or will shorts be your niche?
MichaelB: Shorts were never meant to be my niche. I really don’t know too many people that can make a living making short films. The goal is to make a living doing what I love and to do that I need to make feature films, commercials, etc. So, I’ll continue to do shorts when I have sudden rushes of creativity and I need to make it ‘right now’, but in the long run I’m going to focus more on feature films.
Matchflick Lastly, with everyone hanging on your every word, what would you like to tell them?
MichaelB: I’m sorry that you’ve been hanging on my words. There are much better wordsmiths out there. Well, if you liked any of my short films, I cannot wait to bring you my first feature film, Assassins. I’ve got a ton of stuff in various stages of creation and I can’t wait to share it with all of you. Just like every indie filmmaker, we’re trying to entertain you. So, give us a chance, because, well, we need it.
Catch Michael Bonomo's feature film debut with the full-length version of ASSASSINS. Also visit his Facebook page, and his personal web page to keep up with all things Michael Bonomo.
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This column will explore my taste in film. I watch all kinds of movies - all kinds - but likes science fiction/fantasy - action, animated, funny, even stupid. He will speak of his experience and his encounters with science fiction and the way it colors his - and our - everyday life.
Mike Thomas was introduced to science fiction when he first watched 2001 - A SPACE ODYSSEY, and was hooked ever since. But he doesn't just watch the gee-whiz, gollee-gee special effects. He watches the costumes quirks, evaluates the musical scores, even identifies favorite actors of directors. He collected comic book, but has moved on to weapons: he currently owns the Mj?llnir - the Hammer of Thor, Electra's Ninja Sai's, Mace Windu's Light Saber, and a couple of Batarangs.|
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