Tony Jopia 28112017

An Interview With ‘Dawning Of The Dead’ And ‘Cute Little Buggers’ Director Tony Jopia


Tony Jopia, writer-director-producer of films such as Crying Wolf 3D, Cute Little Buggers, and the zombie film Dawning of the Dead, which just arrived on VOD, took the time to sit down and answer a few of our questions about his films.


Horror Fuel: Do you remember the first horror film you saw? What was it and how old were you?”
Tony Jopia: I got to see loads of black and white creature features like THEM! and The Black Scorpion from around 11years old when my father would wake me up to watch them on late night TV. Prior to this, I think The Wizard of OZ was pretty scary, I remember going to the cinema on a very rainy day with my dad when I was about 6 and getting freaked out by the monkeys and the green witch. The forest was spooky too. The first few films I call full-on horror, that had a massive impact on me, where Carpenter’s Halloween – loved the prowling camera, it was almost as if we were made to feel like the killer Myers. Then came The Changeling with George C Scott which I loved, it was a cool Amityville type horror. Then came An American Werewolf in London that became one of my all-time favorites. The mix of horror, comedy, amazing VFX great soundtrack and Jenny Agutter, in my eyes, was a perfect package. Finally, nothing hit me more between the eyes, in term of shocks and horror, than The Evil Dead which blew me away and The Thing which alongside ET I think are some of the greatest films ever made.”
Horror Fuel: “I think you’re right.”
Horror Fuel: “What effect did it have on you?”
Tony Jopia: I think the first thing they achieve was engagement, they were shocking, frightening, magical and technically inspirational. They went somewhere I had not seen or experienced in a movie before. They offered that escapism to an emotional destination never visited by my eyes before. It was like being on a roller coaster…dangerous, thrilling, a true adrenalin kick. Whether it was the menacing characters, the incredible stories and plots, the technical visual effects or simply the facts the lights where down and I was living a nightmare but loving it at the same time…remember great Horror is best watched with your eyes closed (LOL).”
Horror Fuel: [laughter]
Horror Fuel: “When did you become interested in making films?”
Tony Jopia: “I remember watching The Poseidon Adventure at the cinema and going through all the possible emotions with the film’s cast driven to incredible situations, loved it in every way. One thing that stood out was the buzz the cinema had when the film finished, loads were chatting about it as they left the cinema, for some reason this stuck with me, not only was I remembering the drama but so were loads of other people…I loved the connection the film made with people and I thought I want to do that, I want to tell stories, engage them with situations, excite, shock, I knew from that very moment that I wanted to make films, I was 9 at the time and its been my ambition from that single day. After this every time, I had a movie experience, whatever the genre, it just reinforced my desire to be a part of the big screen. Whether it was Grease, Star Wars, Damnation Alley, Empire of the Ants, Jaws or The Blues Brothers it just said – go for it Tony.
My father spent the little extra money he had buying me an 8mm Camera and editor when I was 12. He believed I could do it and from an early age he supported me and pushed me to make it happen. We would make action films with my school friends. He even painted his work van like the black A-Team van for one of my productions. I got married really young and had a wonderful son which meant I had to change my priorities, it was now about being a responsible husband and father and bringing in an income so it diverted my love for creating to become a Promotions Director for Broadcasters in the UK, this led to becoming Creative Director for a number of Major global broadcasters, although it brought me success it took me almost entirely away from my film making dream as I got older I kick started the desire by making a few shorts and In 2008 I realised I had to give it a go and went for it by making Deadtime for £6,000 pounds. The film received a global release. From this moment, I was determined that nothing would stop me…and nothing will stop me now I’ve directed 4 feature films as, in my mind, this is just the beginning!”
Horror Fuel: I’m glad that you decided to follow your passion. We hope to see many more films you in the future.”
Horror Fuel: “You have a new film coming out, Dawning of the Dead. Can you tell us about it?”
I have always loved zombie movies, apart from Dawn of the Dead, one of my favorite movies of all time, I was really into Lucio Fulci’s work including the soundtracks. My producer brother Stuart Jopia has also been a fan, not surprised since he stole all my VHSs and Poster when I went to film school (have forgiven him lol). So after working together on CLB I knew I wanted to make another movie with him and my Son Alex so I pitched DOTD to executives Kris Dayne and Fabien Muller who supported me on CLB our idea, which brilliant horror writer Andy Davie helped me create the first draft. They were 100% on board which was amazing, almost as amazing as the two of them are. As director and producer, they totally supported me and really put everything in place for the film to be made. I owe a lot to them. Stuart and his writing partner Stuart B delivered an enhanced draft of the script and we went for it. It was a massive challenge as it was way too big a movie for the time and budget we had, but we just went for it. I came up with ways to make the film feel more global by reaching out to directors from around the word like Yanis Zafeiriou, Nika Braun, and Alexander Zwart, to name a few.
They shot a few shots for me in various locations they lived in so I was able to show countries such as Iceland, Greece, USA, Israel…South America… Locally the Banbury council helped us by closing down roads and allowing us to do car stunts and explosion. We were inundated with offers of Zombies…it just all fell into place but still a challenge to film the whole film in 25 days and a micro-budget. I wanted everything outside the News Studio to feel as big as possible and everything inside the building claustrophobic. The story was simple really, For me, it’s all about survival. Fighting against the odd and driven to live. I set out from the very beginning to have a fast-paced film that kicked from the word GO! Sort of a runaway train running out of control and that’s why I ended it the way I did with Katya being chased.
Horror Fuel: “It sounds great. I look forward to seeing Dawning of the Dead.”
Horror Fuel: “What separates Dawning of the Dead from other zombie films?”
Tony Jopia: “We never intended to make a unique zombie movie, for us it was an opportunity to embrace the genre and do the best and most popular film we could. A zombie flick for zombie fans made by Zombie fans. It was important to deliver the most watchable movie possible within our capabilities and budget, we wanted it to be full of gore, action and moments zombie fans would enjoy.”
Horror Fuel: “Have you always been a fan of the zombie genre?”
Tony Jopia: “Sure, Lucio Fulci really captured my interest from very early on, His Zombie Flesh Eaters poster with the hand bursting out of the grave always jumped out at me and really planted itself firmly in my imagination, I really liked the way he didn’t hold back with the blood. He took you right to the core of the gore! Loved the music too, the light rock synth rhythms with the haunting heavy low oboe-esque sound felt like it could only be the soundtrack of the zombies. The wood through the eye was simply …. gruesome. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was a classic even if the blood was too red but the helicopter blade decapitation was ace even if it was a little ropey on the VFX front…but it didn’t matter, it was the thought of what happened that made it so effective.”
Horror Fuel: “When can genre fans expect to see Dawning of the Dead released?”
Tony Jopia: “Dawning got released on digital earlier this month, the rest of the world soon after. The film had been super popular globally which is really exciting for all concerned especially after all the hard work and dedication that went into it. It’s also great to hear from so many zombie fans who have emailed the production saying how much they are looking forward to the film and loved the trailers and promotions. We had a couple of test screening and they were incredible, we were inundated with compliments. Zombie fans genuinely loved the film which means a lot!!”
Horror Fuel: “You directed Cute Little Buggers that came out earlier this year. Was that a fun film to make?”
Tony Jopia: I’ve always loved creature features and deep in my heart I knew I would make something crazy like CLB. In the one day, I caught on TV Gremlins and one of my favorite films. It’s a Mad Mad Mad World. A chaotic comedy that just sang out to me. Along with my love for classic Hammer movies and monster movies from the 50’s lead to me falling for the concept of something cute going bad. Later I remembered my grandma used to breed rabbits and wondered one evening…what if…..and literally said to myself they had to be Cute Little Buggers…and the rest is history, I called my writing partner Andy Davie to pitch him my idea and after he called me Stupid Little Bastard, he warmed to the idea and the first draft was born. Andy is a fab horror writer and we both agreed we needed more comedy so heard about a another awesome writer called Garry Charles, sent him our draft and he came on board to do a version. We shot a teaser to convinced the Executives such as Fabien Muller and he loved it and we went into production with having enough budget to shoot CLB in 21 days. It was one of the best shoots I’d had ever been involved in and having co-producers such as Jeremy and Andrij Evans at Brainy Monkey look after the post, it meant we achieved wonders with almost nothing in an incredible amount of time. A lot of the cast from Crying Wolf came on board for the ride and we all had a blast making it. Its 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 Horrors 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 Dammed was hilarious with her 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.”
Horror Fuel: “Who knew that cute little critters could be so deadly.”
Tony Jopia: “You have seen nothing yet, wait till you see CLB 2 Quills of Death and you won’t look at another cute creature the same way again. CLB is just daft and silly so when you embark with this attitude anything can happen…but never forget this is a comedy horror.”
Horror Fuel: “I’m so happy that there is going to be a sequel!”
Horror Fuel: “I really enjoyed Crying Wolf 3D. The world needs more horror-comedies and more werewolf films. Do you have plans to do another one (horror comedy)?”
Tony Jopia: “Oh yes! we will be releasing some very exciting news in January of a movie-making venture with a Japanese partner to make a number of COMEDY/HORRORS in the style of Crying Wolf and Cute Little Buggers. Watch this space. When it comes to making the films I always write a list of things I want my films to have and achieve, for this ride, comedy had to be a key ingredient. The action and horror was a must as you can’t ‘not’ have action in a creature feature. But we also wanted to give it some credibility by having the touching tale of father and son making up to save the day. The humor thought definitely led the way, it allowed us to take the ridiculous scenario and make the most of it. I wanted to appeal to a broad audience, something for every horror and comedy fan. Lots of all guns blazing and creature invasion with jokes and blood topping the pie! Its pretty full on! 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 plumber’s 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 Exorcist are two of my favorite 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 I’m working with my brother Stuart and Son Alex, it is a dark phycological ghost story, so going to put my comedy boots away for a little while and hopefully scared a few people.”
Horror Fuel: “It sounds good to me.”
Horror Fuel: “Are you working on anything now?”
Tony Jopia: It’s going to be an incredible few years, what with out Japanese film slate deal which we will be telling the world more in January, we have also picked up a production deal with UK backers which means I have one serious horror to make in 2018 called The Frequency of Fear with my brother Stuart and son Alex. In addition, I’m booked in for 2018/19 to make two action creature features, one a western and another set in an apocalyptic desert town in Northern Chile all written by Tom Crinch and Stuart Jopia. We have a Family creature feature being penned by David Hamilton and CLB 2 starts preproduction early 2018 and if things go to plan my Drama ANGELITO filmed in 2020 that hopefully will go on to win the Oscar in 2022…after that I’m probably going to concentrate on producing more movies with my son and brother and hopefully become a successful content creator for my broadcaster.”
Horror Fuel: “Wow, you’re going to be a very busy man for a while, but that’s a good thing.”
Be sure to keep an eye out for the many upcoming films from Tony Jopia. But don’t worry, we will be following his work closely and we will keep you updated. Another good way to stay up to date is to follow Jopia on Facebook.
Don’t’ miss Crying Wolf 3D (review) and Cute Little Buggers out now, and check out Dawning of the Dead now on Digital HD and on DVD this March.

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