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Interview: Jonny Brugh And Space Dream Productions For 'Proof'

By: Jaimz Dillman

Few actors have left an impression on me in quite the way that the experience I had meeting Jonny Brugh did. His character, Deacon from What We Do in the Shadows, is a fan favorite for his cheeky humor and sexy dancing. And after being in the audience during one of his tutorials at Spooky Empire, I can say I've learned some of those moves. Later in the weekend, we were able to chat in between events, and I got to know more about the man behind the fangs. Once I heard other spooky friends of mine were working in partnership on a film project by Brugh, I knew I wanted to share their journey.

Koura Linda and husband Spaceship (or "Spacey", as Jonny says) of Space Dream Productions also met Brugh at the con, which led to a conversation on how to get his film made. Brugh says, "I've been wanting to find someone to work with for quite a long while, and it's not easy. New Zealand is very small. I needed to meet people. Koura and Spacey walked up to me at Spooky and asked what advice I had for young filmmakers." After a long talk that led to the three having dinner, Koura asked Jonny the one thing no one had yet - "What do you like to do? What do you want to make?" Jonny said, "No one's asked me that. Can you believe it?"

A worldwide pandemic pretty much shutting down the film industry has given way to artists finally having the time to work on projects they wouldn't have otherwise. "I've always been writing, but we don't always find the time to make something. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of money and time. And I just haven't had opportunities to do that. I would be touring theater or doing projects in New Zealand," said Brugh. "I decided I would throw myself into things that are interesting for me. Whether they were good or not is something else I've had to confront. We have to inspire the people we work with. We've got to be really into it."

The first film is PROOF, described as "a test of humanity, a searchlight on morality, mortality, and the great beyond." Brugh explained, "It's not situation comedy, it's not rom-com. I think any writer should write what they know. It's got to be truthful, authentic. I'm really just trying to execute some craft. Some are going to love it. Some are going to hate it." As Linda chimed in, "and we say, 'okay, let's go make another {movie} while you're talking about that.'"

Finding a way to get his projects made was the difficult part for Brugh. Funding is one side to this story where Space Dreams Productions comes in. They will carry the film through production and the festival circuit. "The whole reason that I started an independent film production company was to make films and tell stories without relying on the funding and permission required from large Hollywood studios. Jonny asked me about the projects that we've done and I feel like he said he wanted to work with us before I asked - I don't know if I would've been bold enough to," Linda said.

"For me and our company it's so important to have conversations with people who have interesting stories they want to tell," said Linda. "When I first read PROOF, not gonna lie, 2-3 pages in I was like 'I have to finish reading this cause I told him I was going to,' and I kept reading it then, OH! I literally felt like all of my bias and judgement was exactly what the movie was about! It flips and it's so beautiful, it's so good."

Keeping the production in his home country was ideal for the native Brugh, "I would like to put together a team of filmmakers and technicians in New Zealand that would like to work together down the track. I want to draw people around me to work as a team. That's the prized experience."

Linda explained, "It was important that we really wanted to pay people fairly. Jonny said, 'I want to hire them, I want them to know this is a relationship,' and hearing that passion, I had respect for that authenticity. I knew he meant it. It was a real goal."

More short films are set up for production as Brugh says "any strong creative needs to have 5-10 pokers in the fire. And I have lots, I have many." Brugh's company, Hiemlich Maneuver (yes, that's how he spells it), has plans for after PROOF. "This project, short film, is also part of three projects - Lambing Season, and Goth to a Flame, which is my fave," Brugh said. "I do a lot of things for the craft, for the little things. Working with people, keeping busy. I don't have any great one-liners to say why I make films. I know I'm good at acting. I know I'm good at telling some stories, so I'll do that."

Jonny Brugh as Deacon in 'What We Do in the Shadows'
Jonny Brugh as Deacon in 'What We Do in the Shadows'

"Once a film is finished and ready for distribution, it's a lot easier to see, where would this fit? What festival might this be really good for? Then you angle it to get out there basically," said Linda. Getting eyes on the film once finished is another main goal for the team. "While there's the festival circuit, streaming has changed a lot. There's been distributors who've packaged short films together and sell them as a feature. There are people trying to do different things since COVID struck and film markets closed down. Now you've got platforms like Tubi and even on Amazon there's festival corner, where you can see films that have screened," Linda said. "It's very hard to make money on a short, which is why so many short films are crowdfunded. Look, you give us a little bit of money, you get something awesome, we get to make something awesome, and no one is 20 grand in debt."

Asked whether awards are important or just getting people to see his work, Brugh says, "I think momentum would be my focus, making good work. Awards? Yes, obviously. People seeing it? Yes, obviously. But have creative freedom to move forward. The long game. Be able to make the stuff that I'd like to see." The end goal of this campaign is to be able to fund the following films. The whole process is a lot of work so getting as far as they can past the initial $20k mark will set the group up for more production.

"The idea is we'll be able to fully produce PROOF and be ready for festivals," said Linda. "I know Jonny has Lambing Season and Goth to a Flame ready to go as soon as this one is done. So we want to keep up momentum. There's no limit. You literally can raise a million dollars if we get there."

Using Seed and Spark helps the creators get support from like-minded people who celebrate diversity while offering small give-backs at different monetary levels. "It's important that the perks are very transportable and doable. We feel uniquely placed to provide really good value that we can transport," said Brugh. Everything from a social media shout out and badge you can display for a humble brag to signed scripts and Deacon sketches are being offered. Want a producer credit behind your name? Those are up for grabs, too... for the right price.

Final thoughts are for a limited number of original WWDITS movie posters as an incentive to those with deep pockets. It will require some wrangling from some co-star pals to get signatures from cast and crew all over the world. "I have to get out to all the cast and say 'sign this, Jonny's trying to make something'. And if they do, that would be great," Brugh says.

So fiendish fans, the goal is set. Get the funds raised, the movie released, and have Jonny back here for a grand re-welcoming. Any amount is appreciated to add to the pot. I’ve got my badge of support to proudly display. As Spacey chimed in, "An ocean is but a multitude of drops, they say!"

For more information on Brugh's upcoming film, PROOF, click here.


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