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Home | Interviews | Interview: Tony Jopia (Cute Little Buggers)

Interview: Tony Jopia (Cute Little Buggers)

Hi Tony, please tell us how the idea manifested for “Cute Little Buggers?”

Tony- I was brought up watching creature features by my father. He would often get me up late on school nights to watch films like Tarantula and THEM!, films I absolutely loved. When I lived in Chile, my grandparents were very resourceful and breed rabbits, so I guess if you put the two together I was bound to do something of this crazy nature at some time or another. My co-producer and Actor friend Kris Dayne were keen to make another film after the success of Crying Wolf, we had such a blast making it with some amazing people we just wanted to get everyone back together for another movie making experience. My writing partner Andy Davie and I got the first draft together, we shot a short taster to convince executives such as Romain Barbey who was amazing at supporting us and making it happen. Once we had enough of a budget and a second draft penned by Garry Charles we just gathered the gang and off we to bring to life our little movie. I really wanted it to be as much fun off as it is on screen …and it was.

What challenges did you face working on the film?

Tony-The main problem I faced was the decision of how we brought to life alien Rabbits on such a tight budget. We only had 3 weeks to film the entire production so real rabbits were going to be unmanageable to handle and potentially impossible to get them to do what we wanted. Then we found some cheap toys which looked more like slippers than bunnies – so that went out the window. This left me with only the CGI option open to me to not only achieve the action but to get consistency of the look across the whole film. 

If it had been possible I would have definitely gone practical but animatronics and bespoke puppets cost a lot of money so sadly that wasn’t an option. Aside from this we didn’t have ANY issues, it was one of the best shoots I had ever been on, brilliantly line produced by Jeremy Stephens, Kris Dayne and Stuart Jopia. Together they brought a magnificent cast and crew who were massively dedicated and gave their upmost to make this as good as we could produce and have a blast making it. All the post production was handled by Andrij Evans who really made the magic happen. We know we’ll never please everybody with the choice of CGI and the jokes etc and nor should we expect any sympathy from viewers as they only want to be entertained but we live in such a fickle world where many love to comment on the faults rather than the achievement. Of course Hollywood can throw money into films and have them tackle most issues we just had what we had and the rest was down to doing what we could in the time we had. We are super proud of how CLB turned out and how its been received globally and really excited about the sequel CLB 2 The Quills of Death too, which is going to be BIGGER, BETTER and more BADD ASS than ever.

Do you think there will be a sequel?

Tony-Definitely! We have just had the sequel greenlit and will be going into production early 2018. CLB 2 The Quills of Death will have most of the characters battling out a different kind of menace, which are just as cute but more deadlier than ever. We were going to call SPIKY LITTLE BASTARDS but that was too much of a giveaway. This time I want it to be more like Die Hard and Predator – serious action tied in with ‘in your face’ creature massacres and laugh out comic moments to leave you Gob smacked.  If all goes well then we have 3 and 4 written and ready to go too. So the future is bright for our cute little buggers!

Did you always know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

Tony-ABSOLUTELY since I was 9. My father was key, he would take me to the cinema at every opportunity, firstly in Chile which family rumors claim I walked my first solo steps at the age of 1 down the isle of the local picture house in Iquique. When we arrived in the UK within 2 days we were sitting in the cinema glued to the screen watching Airport 75. Then came Stars Wars and Superman, Raiders….all reinforcing my love for film and from the age of 9 I knew that this was my destiny. Once I reached 10 I would beg my dad to drop me off at the cinema to let me watch pretty much everything I was allowed to see, the cinema new me well.

The Poseidon Adventure and Damnation Alley really triggered off my imagination. 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. Meeting a bunch of dedicated film Nutters in 2009 who were as mad as I was and agreed to shoot a feature (DEADTIME) in 3 weeks. Getting to know people like Actor/Producer Kris Dayne, Line Producer Jeremy Stephens and having my horror movie producer brother Stuart Jopia who made GOOD TIDDINGS and AD son Alex alongside meant we could achieve almost anything for almost nothing. Having one film under my belt led to Crying Wolf and then to CLB and then to Apocalypse know as Dawning of the Dead which gets released in Dec 5th 2017.

Did you have anyone that inspired you professionally?

Tony- I like to give my movies my own stamp but I always love watching some of my favorites to get inspired. I’ve always enjoyed Horrors. John Carpenter’s Halloween and The Thing were a massive lesson in horror movie making for me as well as being two of my favorite films of all time. John Landis’ The Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London also connected with me, on this occasion it was more the humor and Jenny Agutter that stood out. Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead is a great example of horror and comedy working incredibly well together. Absolutely made me jump of my chair one minute and then laughing at Ash’s brilliant one liners and outrageous situation. They are the best viewing a horror director can have before making a creature feature, but if I had to pick two directors that have always driven me then it has to be SPIELBERG and SERGIO LEONE. Two master of film making and storytelling.

What can you tell about the special effects of the film?

Tony- We did try to create as much in-camera as possible knowing it would enhance the visuals effects but in the end I knew I needed consistency across the animation of the rabbits and their environments so reluctantly opted for CG creatures. If I had more time and finance then practical would have been the way forward. 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 4 features because they are amazingly generous individual 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 its either good of 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 and one guy definitely made it happen. Andrij Evans at Brainy Monkey was our post Production producer and he definitely wave his magic wand and brought the magic alive.

You have some legends in the cast! What was it like working with everyone?

Tony-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 who is hilarious and a very popular actor in India now, Rodrigo Penalosa Pita from Spain was simply mesmerizing, he has a certain ‘jne sa qua, something a little dark and sinister which I love, and the popular model/actress Dani Thompson was brilliant.

Dominic Took who produced a lot of the film but left just before filming began, rounded up a lots of the rogues from Crying Wolf such as Jonny Walker who plays PC James, Sara Dee came on board to be his love interest and warrior goddess with her gutsy action woman outfit, Caroline Munro one of Horrors most amazing dames was great in this and 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! Lesley Scoble from Village of the Dammed was hilarious with 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 such as Tim Hope who was ace!. So many actors gave so much it was very touching, professionals like Eryl Lloyd Parry, Lydie Misiek, Roberta Whitney and Benji Ming were hilarious and Honey Holmes is a great comedy actress doing big Hollywood Movies now and all are ready for CLB 2.

What do you want to say to the audiences that will be watching this movie?

Tony- The film is just an oddball comedy with lots of silly going on, don’t take it too seriously, sit back and have a laugh. At lot of reviewers have been saying …One of the best creature features of 2017…an action thriller horror with killer rabbits…you will enjoy it….A pure romp. Loads of laughs…a gruesome good time….you will get a kick out of this one and there’s loads more. I think they all liked it because it’s just a blast and very silly…a bit like the comic annuals kids get at Christmas…BUT remember rabbits are cute and little but you never know with a touch of movie magic they may well turn out to be BUGGERS too! CLB is like JAWS but with KILLER BUNNIES”

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