Atlanta filmmaker Brian Lonano has been garnering raves on the festival circuit for humorous horror short CROW HAND!!!, which makes all of us at ATLRetro laugh like crazed lunatics every time we see it. Now he is on the cusp of bringing us another heaping helping of the hilariously bizarre with GWILLIAM, a tender tale about the love between a man (William Tokarsky of TOO MANY COOKS and YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL) and a goblin (an animatronic puppet). But he needs your help! That’s why he’s running an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign, promising an insanely inventive and perfectly perverse variety of rewards for donors.
The short film has long been the weird nephew in the motion picture family. Since theatrical exhibitions largely abandoned the “selected short subjects” of days gone by (aside from, say, Pixar’s commitment to the form) in favor of more movie trailers and before-the-show advertisements, it’s been a constant struggle to get short films in front of large audiences. Sure, film festivals routinely devote chunks of programming to shorts, but the audience is always limited to the people in attendance. In recent years, however, that has changed. Say what you will about the Internet’s impact on the film industry, one thing is indisputable: it’s provided makers of short films with a platform that allows more people to see their work. That, in turn, has had an impact on television programming. Animated TV series have used the “two cartoons in one half-hour” format for a long while now, but some networks—most notably Cartoon Network and its [adult swim] programming block—have embraced the 11-minute episode as a standalone entity. And [adult swim] has taken that short film format into live action, with series like Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s multiple offerings (such as TIM AND ERIC AWESOME SHOW, GREAT JOB! and CHECK IT OUT! WITH DR. STEVE BRULE), YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL and that twilight zone of weirdness at 4:00 a.m. where things like TOO MANY COOKS show up.
That’s where we cross paths with Kool Kat of the Week Brian Lonano. Lonano has been making short films for a decade now. His nine shorts have screened at festivals from SXSW to Fantasia International Film Festival, from Canada to Cambodia. And here in Atlanta, he’s been shown at the Atlanta Film Festival and the Buried Alive Film Fest. (He’s done promotional bumper shorts for many festivals around the world as well.) His shorts are typically a deft mix of wacky comedy, horror or sci-fi tropes and inventive practical effects.- a combo no better seen than in last year’s CROW HAND!!! His 10th film, GWILLIAM, is currently in preproduction, and to raise the funds for this endeavor (because while the Internet is a convenient platform, it’s really hard to monetize it), Lonano has turned to the new audience that the Internet has provided for assistance via this IndieGoGo campaign.
ATLRetro caught up with Brian Lonano to ask him about the campaign, his history in short films, what GWILLIAM is all about and what’s on the horizon.
ATLRetro: You’ve got nine short films under your belt in the past decade, including the inspired THE TRANSMISSION and the utterly berserk CROW HAND!!! What first drove you to dive into filmmaking?
I grew up watching films that featured a lot of special effects and puppets. I am a big fan of Jim Henson, Tim Burton, Spielberg and classic STAR WARS. JURASSIC PARK came out when I was 10 and I wanted to make movies ever since. I became obsessed with seeing any and every movie that Industrial Light & Magic did the special effects for. I didn’t have a camera for a long time so I drew comics and made puppets. As I get older I seek out more bizarre film oddities like HAUSU, THE VISITOR and A FIELD IN ENGLAND. Those kinds of films coupled with what I grew up worshiping keep me inspired to make movies.
You’re not only known for your short films, which have screened all over the world, but you’ve also been recognized by the industry for your commissioned work for festivals and television, something our readers might not immediately know about. What does Brian Lonano do when he’s not dreaming up weird short films?
My full time job is working at a post-production facility that processes dailies for TV shows and movies that shoot in town. The commissioned work I make is mostly for film festivals. I would direct a short film called a bumper that advertises the film festival and I would more or less have creative control which is great. I’m very grateful to film festivals that show my work so when I’m asked to make a bumper for one, I put a lot of effort in making a kick ass bumper to show how bad ass the festival is.
It’s a tale as old as time: a man and a goblin in love. What attracted you to this story, and just how disgustingly screwed up can we expect the end result to be?
GWILLIAM came about from a drawing my brother did back in 2011. He was drawing a picture of this weird little man—it just looked completely wrong in the best way possible. We laughed about the picture and decided we had to name the weird man. So we asked ourselves, what’s a gross name that would fit this monstrosity? And we decided on Gwilliam. After that we came up with a strange story where a different man was prowling at night and has an encounter with Gwilliam…I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. I’m excited about how gross this movie is going to be because it’s not gore centric like my previous film CROW HAND!!!. It’s a whole new kind of disgusting.
The preliminary sculpt you’ve shown on the website is impressive even in this early stage. Who’s behind the design of the Gwilliam puppet?
I see designer Rachel De Urioste mentioned in the IndieGoGo campaign. What she’s bringing to the table? Rachel De Urioste is a local artist, fabricator and designer and she’s designing the GWILLIAM perks for IndieGoGo. She designed the crow totem that was featured in CROW HAND!!!. When we were on the festival circuit with CROW HAND!!! I asked Rachel to make some plastic versions of the Crowtem so I could plant them in theaters and see if anyone would pick them up. I loved the idea of something tangible to take away from the movie. CROW HAND!!! is so short that I wanted to make a big impact with the promotion of it. So with GWILLIAM I wanted to make a new prize to give out to potential donors. If I was giving to a campaign, I would want something cool like a toy. I think people gravitate towards tchotchkes like that.
The variety of rewards you’re offering investors range from the innocuous (digital downloads, credit listing) to the utterly depraved (a Gwilliam sex doll???). How did you come up with these ideas?
I brainstormed ideas for prizes with Rachel and my wife/co-producer Victoria Cook. We all agreed the totems from CROW HAND!!! were a great idea and we wanted to take it a step further. Rachel had never dabbled in designing toys and I am a big fan of Archie McPhee‘s novelty finger puppets so I thought a Gwilliam finger puppet would be a great prize to give out. As I said earlier, if I was donating to something, I would want to get a cool toy. Rachel is making full painted Gwilliam finger puppets but she is also making rainbow editions of the Crowtem and Finger Puppet as well as solid color Gwilliams (we’re calling it the ROY G BIV collection) and even glow in the dark finger puppets! The blow up is another prize we all came up with. The doll would be life size (meaning Goblin size) and the goal is make it a functioning doll. We wanted our campaign to stand out and I figured weird finger puppets and blow up dolls would do the trick!
You’ve lucked up in nabbing William Tokarsky fresh off the TOO MANY COOKS brouhaha, but he’s also popped up in projects ranging from THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE to YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL. How did your paths cross, and how did you know he was the right man to romance a goblin puppet?
William was very easy to get in touch with. I sent him a message on Facebook asking if he would be interested in working together on a project. We agreed to meet in person and I gave him the script to read. I didn’t say much about it until he read it. Thankfully, he was laughing at the script and said he would absolutely be a part of it. So far working with William has been terrific. He’s easy going, very funny and a great team player. I look forward to shooting so I can direct him.
On the local front, you’ve worked with the Buried Alive Film Festival as a judge, you’ve shot a great bumper for them, and you’ve had your shorts exhibited there as well. Any hope you’ll be bringing GWILLIAM to BAFF screens in the future?
If the film is completed in time I would absolutely love to screen it at BAFF this year. But because I am friends with Blake and the whole team (and they are also working on the film), it would be an out of competition entry. I love screening my work here because the audience gets what I am trying to do and they all seem to really enjoy it!
All photos courtesy of Brian Lonano and used with permission. Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com.