Paul Bunnell is the director behind a post-modern, sci-fi/greaser hit, The Ghastly Love of Johnny X. This film has has been well-received among fans and critics and serves as a beacon for passionate film making in 2013. We’re lucky enough to have him for some Q & A time, so let’s get right to it.
Fister: What inspires an eleven year old kid to make a movie? What was it about?
Paul: Well, I’ve always felt strongly about the power of motion pictures. It’s been in my blood as long as I can remember. I love having a chance to create something from just the simplest of ideas and see it build and grow until I have a final product that, hopefully, entertains.
Fister: What film are you most proud of so far? What about that film mattered so much?
Paul: At the moment, THE GHASTLY LOVE OF JOHNNY X is my biggest achievement. Not just because it is the latest, but because it represents some important themes to me, as far as the relationships of some of the characters. Also, as you may know, there was a long period between getting started and finally finishing the picture, so in that way it is a personal triumph. I never gave up on the idea of completing the movie, and I think the final product was worth the wait.
Paul on the set of The Ghastly Love of Johnny X
Fister: You seem to have a fondness for showing up in some major releases in uncredited roles – good timing on your part?
Paul: Well, luck and timing always play a part in the movie and tv industry. I’ve often been in the right place at the right time, in many cases!
Fister: I had the pleasure of reviewing your film, The Ghastly Love of Johnny X. What was the inspiration behind this film and why did it have to be shot on Kodak’s popular (and out of production) Plus – X black and white film stock?
Paul: I was originally inspired to make a film in the vein of a classic science-fiction B-movie like TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE. Of course, that one is classic for the wrong reasons, some people might say! But I did think it would be fun to create something with that sort of low-budget 1950s vibe. However, at no point did I want it to be a parody, so it was never intended to be a spoof along the lines of, say, AIRPLANE! The characters had to play it for real, otherwise the joke would have worn thin really fast. GLJX went through a few different incarnations before we got to where it ended up, and there is definitely humor throughout, but it is not a comedy. Of course, I don’t think of it as a musical, either, despite the fact that we ended up with half a dozen songs in it, but that is another story altogether!
As for the decision to shoot it in black and white, that was of course to help replicate the feel of those old B-movies. I had a lot of resistance to that idea, too, with people swearing nobody would watch a movie that wasn’t in color, but I really felt this story and these characters would be best served with the black and white treatment. Shooting it in color and converting it to black and white later would not have produced the same results, either, although I know this is how it’s done in today’s digital world. There is something very special in seeing a genuine black and white movie projected on the big screen, especially one that has been well shot, which I feel this one was. There is a depth and gritty reality that would have been lost had we shot in color. And, of course, when I started making the movie, nobody knew that Kodak was going to discontinue that particular b/w film stock! After I finally nailed down the funding to complete the film, I discovered that Kodak had just officially ceased production of their Plus-X b/w stock, so that was yet another hurdle to cross. Happily, we managed to obtain the last of it, and I’m very happy with how GLJX looks in the end.
Fister: Did you pay Creed Bratton in exotic hallucinogens? He was amazing in the film by the way. Regardless of what he’s doing, he has to be a character and then some. You can see it his eyes.
Paul: Ha Ha, no Creed was paid in the conventional manner! I have to say, he was a true professional, through and through, and I agree with you that he is amazing in the role of Mickey O’Flynn. He brings something quirky and unique to the role, and is a lot of fun to watch. Probably my favorite scene, dramatically, is the one between Creed’s Mickey and Reggie Bannister’s promoter, King Clayton. Creed displays some real emotion, from irritation to anger to complacency, and is able to have fun with the character without making fun of the character. Interestingly, at several of the screenings, he was so convincing, and so unrecognizable in his costume and wardrobe, that a lot of the audience members were surprised during the Q&A sessions to realize this was Creed Bratton from THE OFFICE, which we both found amusing.
Fister: This is an age of instant gratification, movies made practically overnight, terrible and never-ending film franchises, more social media than we thought possible; what makes the honest old school film maker still relevant in 2013?
Paul: In my opinion, the ‘honest old school film maker’, as you say, will always be relevant as long as people enjoy quality movie making. Sure, folks today can shoot a home-made movie with their handheld camera and post it online by dinnertime, and sometimes you even find little nuggets of inspiration in such endeavors. But you get what you pay for. In my opinion, the process of movie-making, from conception to script, shooting, editing, final cut and distribution, is going to produce the more satisfying result. Put some thought into it, get the right people for the right job, take your time and do it right. It may not be the same as whatever web-series has grabbed the nation’s attention at any given moment, but, if it’s a good story, then it will resonate with audiences more deeply and for a longer period. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for instant gratification, by the way! But it will never replace a good movie – those will stand the test of time. This doesn’t really address the terrible or never-ending franchises, of course, since lots of those are done the old-fashioned way, too, except they’ve lost sight of the heart and soul of the project. I never want to be involved in a project I don’t feel passionate about.
Fister: Give your fans and my readers a little info about your upcoming film, Noirland. What else does your future hold?
Paul: Noirland is a film in which I appear as an actor only, and the third one I have made for Ramzi Abed. Ramzi is one of my associate producers on JOHNNY X and a talented filmmaker. My next directorial project is called ROCKET GIRL, which should be going into production before too long. The title sort of sounds like a superhero flick, but that isn’t a bandwagon I’m jumping on. I can’t say too much about it just now, but it does feature a visitor from another planet, and it is a period piece. Completely unrelated to JOHNNY X, though. Also, this one is being planned in living color, so it will be a change stylistically from the sort of Film Noir look we were going for with JOHNNY X.
Fister: What’s your all-time favorite horror movie? How about the films that inspired you to become a film maker?
Paul: I’m a big fan of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Now that’s a classic black and white motion picture if there ever was one! I love everything about that one, the stylized sets, the letter-perfect acting, that incredible score. The first two movies I ever saw as a child put me on the path to filmmaking: the 1967 re-release of Walt Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS and the world premiere of Walt Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. It could only happen in the movies!
That concludes our interview with Paul Bunnell and we certainly thank him for his time and commitment to cinema. If you’re interested in purchasing The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, you can do so by clicking here to be directed to Amazon.
You can also check out Paul’s website at: johnnyXmovie.com
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FILM MAKERS! If you don’t, well, just get used to awesome choices like Grown Ups 7 and Madea: The Early Years. It’s your cinema funeral.