The Movie Waffler Waffling With CUTE LITTLE BUGGERS Director Tony Jopia | The Movie Waffler

Waffling With CUTE LITTLE BUGGERS Director Tony Jopia

Chilean-born filmmaker Tony Jopia follows up his 2015 horror flick Crying Wolf with another fun mesh of frights and fun, Cute Little Buggers.

This is yet another collaboration between yourself and Uncork’d Entertainment. How far does that working relationship date back?

About four years now. Uncork'd picked up our second film called Crying Wolf and did a fab job distributing it. They were also very respectful to us as the makers of the film by sharing and keeping us updated with all the release news.

And how do you think this project differed from previous films you’ve done together?

Being the second movie we've worked on, and certainly not the last one, it's been a smooth ride in general. We have high hopes for Cute Little Buggers and we believe the film has the best company managing the USA release.

And do we dare ask which one of the films is your favourite? Or is that like asking a father to pick between his kids?

Not a problem, both have their own personality. For me CLB is a great little movie, delivers on lots of levels, humour, horror, action. When you think we only had 25K, 13K more than Crying Wolf, to make the film entirely for this was one great achievement. As long as people go with an open mind and enjoy it for its fun and silliness then it should be a pleasurable experience.

You'll never want to stroke a rabbit the same way again...nor eat one ….they might even EAT YOU FIRST!

This one seems ‘different’ to the other films though?

Yeah it is, but they all come from the same Jopia camp, silly comedic stories wrapped in bloody horror. I wanted this one to have more personality and feel more accomplished, which I think we achieved. There are lots of visual gags as well as one liners. It's meant to be a rollercoaster ride of chaos and madness. I took a lot from the Ealing films of the '50s, Hammer movies and a bit of Peter Jackson thrown into the mix. It was a blast to make it, and because of the global sales success of this one we are now planning the sequel, CLB2 The Quills of Death, going into production in early 2018. It's going to be cute at times but most definitely bigger and nastier than the first, and it won't be rabbits.

Would you say this is almost ‘burrowing’ in a different genre to the other movies?  It’s part horror film, part comedy…

Yeah I do, comedy is good in horror scenarios; it releases the tension before the shock moment. Get it right and the effect is awesome. CLB really goes full hog to bring out the laughs. Everyone plays it straight but you know as a whole we are not taking it too seriously.

One thing your movies have in common is the use of a supernatural monster of some sort. Where’s that stem from - your interest in those types of villains?

My father was key to me becoming a filmmaker and having fun with creatures and monsters. He would take me to the cinema at every opportunity, firstly in Chile, where family rumours claim I walked my first solo steps at the age of one down the isle of the local picture house in Iquique. It also didn't help that my father would get me up at midnight on school days to watch the classic black and white creature features on TV such as Tarantula, The Black Scorpion and Them, to name a few. When we arrived in the UK, within two days we were sitting in the cinema glued to the screen watching Airport '75. Then came Star Wars and Superman, Raiders....all reinforcing my love for film, and from the age of nine I knew that this was my destiny. Once I reached 10 or so my dad would drop me off at the cinema to let me watch pretty much everything I was allowed to see. The cinema knew me well. Films like The Poseidon Adventure I loved, and Damnation Alley really triggered off my imagination with its apocalyptic monsters. Before long I was making my own films, storyboarding and editing 8mm mini movies I made with my school friends...went on to work at the local cinema for a couple of years....then came ET and Gremlins – enough said.

Tell us about the cast…

A lot of the cast from Crying Wolf came on board for the ride and we all had a blast making it. It's nice to also show some loyalty to those that give so much for so little. I loved working with them and didn't hesitate to have them in the movie again. Kris Dayne played the lead with his good looks and he brought a number of great supporting actors such as Samar Sarila from India, Rodrigo Penalosa Pita from Spain, and the popular model/actress Dani Thompson. Dominic Took, who produced a lot of the film but left just before filming began, rounded up a lot of the rogues from Crying Wolf such as Jonny Walker; Caroline Munro, one of horror's most amazing dames - she was great in Crying Wolf and didn't hesitate to come along to play the fortune teller predicting the end of the world; Gary Martin, Mr Slaughter High was fantastic and so funny with his tasteless one liners and despicable novelty song that brought the house down...quite literally; and the brilliant Sara Dee with her gutsy action woman outfit. Lesley Scoble from Village of the Damned was hilarious swinging her pet dog's remains and then crashing to the floor overwhelmed by killer rabbits...the stunt nearly gave me a heart attack. Lee-Ann Robathan finished off the casting for us with some great additions from her agency.

The location itself is somewhat of a star too.

For sure. When you work on micro budget films you have to work and plan around what you know you have; in this case we had the farm and grounds set in the English Cotswold. This was the same location as Crying Wolf. We knew what we had to play with and we made the most of it. Woods, large cow barn, outbuildings etc. With all this in mind I wrote the script with Andy Davie, who also penned Crying Wolf, and so he knew what was achievable. We all slept, partied and shouted action, all in the same location. Lots of fun!

Was everyone a little freaked out by those bunnies on set – or were they CGI?

We relied on CGI rabbits due to time and budget constraint. Often it was a matter of painting the picture of the scene with rabbits missing and often playing the rabbit role myself. Play it straight I said; however cute they are if one of the little bastard ripped your throat out you wouldn't be blowing kisses back at it. So for me it was about identifying the threat and the danger they offered. Often I would describe the killer look rather than the furry cute lovable pets we all adore and this really did the trick. By day two most of the crew and cast were ready to instigate global rabbit genocide. I must add that no real rabbits were ever harmed in the making of this movie. If I had a choice I would definitely have preferred practical effects, or at least more of them, but making micro budget films is a real challenge that tests you on many levels. How to be creative and effective with minimum time and resources is a massive ball ache, but with the pain and tears comes the pleasure of meeting some wonderful people. As a director, if you can get everyone on the same wavelength then magic truly happens. For me, working with my team and friends such as Stunt Coordinator Mark Johnston is always a pleasure because he, with his team, give 150% into everything. We have worked with the same bunch of people across all four features because they are amazingly generous individuals with a lot of talent and a matching desire to produce the best possible movie. That's what it's all about...getting the best possible results all the time. The audience don't take into consideration that you have 21 days and 25K to make a movie; for them it's either good or crap, so what you deliver on the night has to pass the test of expectations and when you have so little to achieve it, you really need your crew to make it happen.

Any changes to the film between completion and distribution?

No! It seems the film as it stands is the one getting released. The distributors did do their own posters, which is very common.

How much say do producers and filmmakers get in a film once it’s been sold to a distributor? Do you have to just let it go and wish it luck?

With micro budget films yes, more or less, but Uncork'd have been brilliant to keep us in the loop and the development of the release package.

What do you hope audiences get out of the film?

The aim has always been to make a fun movie, not taking itself too seriously, and I think if viewers go to it with this in mind they will enjoy it. I do love comedy, and when you're working on a crazy concept of alien rabbits you are automatically driven to have a certain element of tomfoolery about the whole thing; besides we had such a laugh making it we couldn't really resist taking it slightly OTT. The plumbers trying to refill their weapons is one of the most outrageous scenes ever. Don't get me wrong, I love serious horror. The Thing and The Exorcist are two of my favourite films but when I saw An American Werewolf in London and The Evil Dead their use of comedy really connected with me. The next film I'm making, with my brother Stuart and son Alex, is a dark psychological ghost story, so I'm going to put my comedy boots away for a little while and hopefully scare a few people shitless. But CLB has been so amazingly well received globally that there are already plans to start production on CLB 2 The Quills Of Death in February 2018.

CUTE LITTLE BUGGERS releases on VOD in November.