Filmmaker and writer Tony Jopia was born in Chile and raised in Liverpool, England. His first film was a short titled “Zombie Harvest” in 2003 and he has since gone on to direct feature films including “Crying Wolf” and “Cute Little Buggers” which seamlessly blends the horror genre with comedy as its storyline evolves around mutant rabbits terrorizing the populace of a small and otherwise peaceful countryside town.

In a recent and exclusive interview, Tony Jopia discussed his career, muses, and more.

Comedy, horror, and rabbits

Meagan Meehan (MM): What inspired you to become a filmmaker and how did you get your biggest breaks?

Tony Jopia (TJ): My father was key to my future, he would take me to the cinema at every opportunity. Then came "Stars Wars" and "Superman", "Raiders"....all reinforcing my love for film. From the age of nine I knew that this was my destiny. My Dad loved watching horror Movies with me. “The Poseidon Adventure” and “Damnation Alley” really triggered my imagination. Before long I was making my own films, storyboarding, and editing 8mm mini-movies I made with my school friends. I even went on to work at the local cinema for a couple of years!

My big break was in 2009 when I made a feature called “Deadtime” in a mere three weeks after meeting a bunch of other film enthusiasts. Getting to know people like actor/producer Kris Dayne, line producer Jeremy Stephens, and having my brother Stuart and son Alex alongside meant we could achieve almost anything for almost nothing.

Having one film under my belt led to many more. I’m now prepping for three more features all kicking off in January 2018. It’s a matter of taking every opportunity and giving it your best shot.

MM: How did "Cute Little Buggers" come about?

TJ: 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 called “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 1950'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 the rest is history.

I called my writing partner Andy Davie to pitch him my idea and the first draft was born. Andy is a great horror writer and we both agreed we needed more comedy so heard about another awesome writer called Garry Charles, sent him our draft, and he came on board to do a version. We shot a teaser to convince the executives such as Fabien Muller and he loved it and we went into production with having enough budget to shoot it in twenty-one 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.

MM: Can you tell us about some of the folks that appear in the movie?

TJ: 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 lots of the rogues from “Crying Wolf” such as Jonny Walker and Caroline Munro. She is one of horror’s most amazing dames 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!

The brilliant Sara Dee with her gutsy action woman outfit has to be mentioned as does Lesley Scoble from “Village of the Dammed” who was hilarious. I loved 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.

MM: Are you a big fan of comedy and horror mashups?

TJ: 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 but I also love it mixed with comedy. The next film I'm making I’ll be working with my brother, Stuart, and my son, Alex. It is a dark phycological ghost story, so I’m going to put my comedy boots away for a little while and hopefully scared a few people!

However, I do have plans to make a sequel to “Cute Little Buggers” titled “The Quills Of Death” which I’ll tell you more about in February 2018.

Movies, projects, and the film industry

MM: Thus far, what has been the best part of working in the movie industry and where do you hope to go from here?

TJ: Making micro-budget films is a real challenge that tests you on many levels.

You have to learn how to be creative and effective with minimum time and resources but it comes with 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 individual with a lot of talent and a matching desire to produce the best possible movie.

That's what it’s all about really, getting the best possible results all the time. The audience don't take into consideration that you had only twenty-one days and $25,000 to make a movie.

For them its 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.

I'm very fortunate as I also have a day job as a creative director for a major broadcaster so fitting in films is a true labor of love and takes immense planning from myself also patience and tolerance from my wife. She has been a massive driving force in my push to make movies. I would love to carry on making films ideally with bigger budgets and more time. I love my day job but nothing beats the feeling of watching a story brought to life and a film delivered at the end of the journey.

MM: Do you have any upcoming projects or advice for aspiring movie makers?

TJ: I have one serious horror to make in 2018 called “The Frequency of Fear” with my brother and son. 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. If things go to plan, my drama “Angelito” will be filmed in 2020. 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.

For advice, WORK WITHIN YOUR MEANS! Basically, if you have to start somewhere out of the fully funded route then definitely find ways of making things. The best education in this business is to make stuff, even if you have to do it for nothing as long as you gain as much experience as possible, do it.

This leads to getting more knowledge and contacts. Before you know it, you meet the right people that that can elevate you to where you want to be. If you are going to embark on your own productions then make a list of what you have available first then write around it. Make the little you have go as far as possible. Manage expectation and produce what you can, as well and professionally as possible.

Plan, schedule, rehearse, and believe. Making movies, as amazing as it is, it still brings a lot of pain and tears but ride it, believe in yourself and those around you. Turn to them and make them feel a part of your vision, your project, and your ambition...and most importantly: HAVE FUN. Do things that interest you, that you know a little about and never forget this: it is fine to make movies YOU love but they need to be appealing to the masses too because from commercial success comes commercial support. If your movies brings in a return, others will trust you, your talent, and your movies, and eventually this can lead to having a little more control of what you do in the future.