FILMQUEST 2019 – Jonagold – Michael Bizzaco Writer/Director

Film Title: Jonagold

Genre: Horror

Synopsis: After an unwelcome visit, a reclusive singer-songwriter engages in a heated exchange with his musical muse — a duel that quickly escalates beyond words.

Jonagold will be screening as part of “Shorts Block 4: Man’s Best Friend” at the Velour Music Gallery in Downtown Provo on Sunday, September 8th at 4pm.

Official site-link: https://www.jonagoldfilm.com

Instagram handle: https://www.instagram.com/jonagoldfilm/

 

Scorpius: What is the genesis of your film? How was the idea inspired/born/conceptualized?

The roots of Jonagold can be traced back to the spring of 2018. Producer, Cory Santilli, and myself were having meet-ups to discuss and critique film concepts that the two of us were trying to get off the ground. It had been nearly three years since Michael Higgs and myself had made a film, and we were eager to reclaim the inertia and satisfaction of being on set and shooting something – anything. Airing all this to Cory, I decided I would start developing a short that would cost very little to make and center on one character and one location; a project that would get Mike and I back into the swing of things and prepare us for our next feature.

 

Believe it or not, up until almost the final days of pre-production, most of the film took place in the hallway of a home, in front of what was to be a basement-door. Buckeye would sit slouched against the adjacent wall, eating his plate of food and conversing with the “muse,” who was nestled close to the other side of the cellar-door. It wasn’t until we found the actual house that we used in the film that this idea was transformed into something much more elaborate and certainly more visually appealing.

 

The old farmhouse we shot in (located on the south shores of Rhode Island in a town called Wakefield) was perfect in every way for Buckeye’s story; our only struggle was finding a suitable door to fake as the basement-entry, as none of the doors in the home actually led to the cellar. But, the house had this amazing looking bulkhead right in the backyard.

 

After the scout, Michael Higgs and myself went back to the drawing board and rewrote a core of the dialogue between Buckeye and the muse to account for the farmhouse’s geography; while also introducing the microphone and speaker-system that can be seen at various points throughout the film – a glorified tin-can-and-string between Buckeye and the muse.

 

In terms of conceptualization, we really owe so much to the house. You could feel the history in the walls and floors, and especially that grand staircase – which plays a major part in the film.

 

Scorpius: What message or feeling are you hoping to convey through your film/story?

 

That sometimes it’s hard to let go of something you love, no matter how much it hurts.

 

Scorpius: Are there any elements, themes, or characters in the story that were inspired from your own childhood/life?

 

Yes and no. Buckeye was essentially all fiction, and developed in close collaboration with our good friend and actor, Edward Ventura. The character was an inspired amalgamation of iconic late ‘60s folk-icons; most notably Bob Dylan. We took a lot of Buckeye’s personality from Dylan’s early press interviews, where he wielded a stoic expression and cold wit towards the reporters that were trying to glamorize him.

 

The muse-character was born out of experiences that were more personal to both Michael Higgs and myself. There were some dark days in both of our lives, and in many ways, developing the muse together was like a unified catharsis of those unpleasant times.

 

Scorpius: What is your ultimate/ideal vision for yourself as a filmmaker in your future?

 

Michael Higgs and myself have been making films together for the last ten years, and will continue to forge ahead as a creative duo. With the recent surge of auteur-driven horror, the two of us both dream of the day where our mark on the genre might be recognized and appreciated the world-over; but we’re also extremely grounded individuals. We know our place, and we know that there’s plenty of work to be done. But, we are both eager for the challenges that lay ahead of us.

 

We will always  be working to produce bigger and better films that continue to explore our deep-rooted love of genre-cinema, while aspiring to connect and resonate with the audiences that we ourselves will forever be a part of.

 

Scorpius: What’s next for you as a filmmaker? Do you have any films/projects you are looking forward to pursue?

 

We have been developing a feature-film over the last several months that we are eager to get off the ground sometime next year. It’s a dear passion project that has been gestating for quite some time. We are also writing several new films; one of them being a feature-length version of Jonagold.