In the biopic of your life, what's the opening scene?
The opening scene would be me at 6 dancing like crazy in my room to "Upside Down" by Diana Ross, me at 7 making the kids in my class learn a musical that I wrote called Jungle Fever, or me at 8 performing "Kids in America" via karaoke in Korea with a stuffed bear as my back up singer.
I really, really loved Plain Devil (You can view the trailer here and purchase or rent it from Amazon). It definitely felt like a love letter to John Waters' love of old fifties juvenile delinquent movies; almost like a modern day Girls Town only set in Seattle and with more sleazy European villains. So, basically this is your cue to tell me all about the genesis of it and any cool behind the scenes stories you been dying to tell.
Thank you! So, Plain Devil started with the title. I thought it was a sort of funny double entendre. Are they nothing but devils or very dull devils? Of course I was inspired by juvenile delinquent films as well as noir films. So many noir films equate bad girls with evil and the devil and use in the title, well I went from there. I wanted it to be a sort of fish out of water story where the new girl tries to fit in with the bad girls in town. Instead of it being a cautionary tale she does end up fitting in in a sort of Sandy from Grease way. I feel like the same things that influenced John Waters and probably Grease influenced me too. I have a love for those old films and yet I identify with the misfits, so in my film the bad girls do not get their comeuppance but win, in a way, at the end.
Hobo with a Trash Can just premiered last month (You can view the trailer here.). I've been following it for a bit, as whenever you say the words "anthology film" and "budget of literally one dollar," my ears are definitely going to perk up. Can you give me a bit of a rundown about what the deal is?
Oh man, Hobo with a Trash Can was so much fun and something I'm really proud to be a part of. Claire Llewellyn is a director that I know and she put out a call for directors to submit trailers for an anthology based on trash items. She gave you your item and you had to create a story and short trailer of it. The best ones were voted on and got to be in the anthology. The idea is that the Bo, the hobo played by Christopher Kahler, has the gift of second sight. As he digs through the trash can he can see where the items have been. Each short film is the story of a trash item. Our rules were to film something using the budget of $1. Of course there's much more too it, you'll have to watch it.
If we're gonna talk about what's down the pipleline, how's Raw Meat coming along? I know that a couple of our mutual friends, Samantha Mack and Shreddz, are in it, but what else can you tell me, and, I guess, by extension, the readers?
I am very excited about Raw Meat. Right now the props and other special effects are being made. It's a very exciting process and I can't wait to show images of some of it. We've also cast a lot of local talent as well as, of course, Bill Oberst Jr. and Jackey Neyman who played Debbie in Manos: The Hands of Fate. There may also be a cameo from a certain Nadine L'Esperance as well. After a few more things come together we'll be ready to shoot everything. I can't wait.
Being super independent, and especially with genre pictures, you've gotta come up with a lot of creative problem solving to get the effect/shot you need. Gimme some examples of ones you are particularly proud of.
For Awesome Ouija Board (ed note: check out the trailer here.) we had to come up with a way to make scissors fly though the air. I had a few different ideas that involved a combination of running shots backwards, some editing trickery, and my personal favorite part that I came up with on the fly, what I call "the scissor cam." What we did was film part of it from the scissors' point of view. As the scissors fly around we just see the blades and what the scissors see.
I think what I like most about your work, is everything seems to have a specific mood in mind. You can see your fingerprints all over whatever you do, but you definitely have a mission to accomplish and that varies from project to project. What you're trying to accomplish with Awesome Ouija Board is not what you want to accomplish with Plain Devil which is totally different from, say, what you're going for with with any of your musical projects. How important to you is it to experiment with various tones and motifs with each project?
I have eclectic tastes and I think that shows in the work that I made. I do treat each project individually and try to give it the tone and feel that it warrants. I was afraid that an overview of my work would be too disjointed for viewers. But I've been told many times that my projects have a certain feel. I'm too close to it to see, but I'm glad that other people can see it.
Speaking of music, you're in a few bands, Due To-It, Filthy Issue, and Huh-Uh but the one I cannot stop listening to is Huh-Uh (listen here), because I am a sucker for exactly what you're peddling. Like, I've been playing "Insect Photographer" and "Castles" so much, that if I had a roommate, they'd probably've murdered me by now. I couldn't find a bio on the band because I am a terrible journalist, so tell me all about it. And also promise me there will be more music from you cats. Even if it's a lie.
Huh-Uh was a synth band. We were once an all girl all synth band, but we added a dude and live drums. Then we added a bass which played with a synth sound. Our stuff is very edgy and dancey. We were featured on one compilation cd and one compilation picture disc 45 via Olympia's Crunks Not Dead label. We put out our own limited run ep a few years ago called "Castles." I think there are still a few copies you can get via Amazon. I'm planning on doing a re-release of that ep soon. We also have more material that was never released. Although we don't play together anymore there's still recorded material enough to make an album. I have the raw tracks but they need a little work. Hopefully, I'll be able to work on that after my next film is finished.
You also sell jewelry at your Etsy store, but what I was more intrigued by was that you also make custom nail polish colors. I have zero idea what even goes into nail polish, let alone how you'd go about creating new shades. This is me literally fumbling around to ask: so, how do you even make nail polish?
I buy supplies including the nail polish bases, mica powders, glitter, bottles, etc. They I experiment with mixing the colors and the glitters until I get the polishes that I like. There are so many different options. Usually I think about it in my head first before I try something. When it turns out wrong it's disappointing, but when it turns out well it's exciting.
I'm a total Cannon films junkie, so I ask everyone this (mostly as a provocation to talk about Golan Globus productons): what makes the perfect action scene?
Oh man, I wish I knew. I'd love to make action and thriller films. I never have. One thing that I think is crucial to an action sequence is tight and meaningful editing. You can't have any filler or unnecessary moments in action. The moment you have that the viewer becomes disengaged and whatever is happening makes less of an impact.
Since it's been a few months, time to ignite what will either be you agreeing with me and being correct, or you detailing, at length at why you are wrong: Freddy vs Jason - who's better?
Freddy. I'm a Freddy girl. I love Freddy. I know some people find Jason scarier because his world is based in reality. I'm big into dreams and psychological scares. So for me it's Freddy all the way. I also love how Robert Englund plays him, especially when he is being more menacing.
ED NOTE: Wow, way to be completely wrong. Jason is clearly better for the simple reason that after a dream monster that can do literally anything still manages to get punked out by a teen, they lose all credibility. Like, how'm I gonna be afraid of Freddy when I know he'll get his, when meanwhile, you got Jason over here who's either a hillbilly what doesn't understand pain or some kind of rage Frankenstein and I know that all I ever did was just slow him down if I happened to survive.
Finally, is there anything you want to ask me?
How did you develop your love of Lifetime movie of the week films, and what are some of the best?
I could write a dissertation on why I love Lifetime movies, but I'll just tell you about the first movie that got me hooked.
In the early 2000's, Lifetime aired what is, still, to this day, one of the craziest goddamn movies I've ever seen. It's called Invisible Child. The basic premise is Rita Wilson plays a mother of two, who has an imaginary third child that all the family basically goes along with, humoring this clearly mentally ill woman. Our protagonist is actually the new nanny they hired, who is slowly getting increasingly disturbed and uncomfortable with this whole situation, as Rita keeps freaking out at the nanny for forgetting to do shit for this imaginary child. Eventually, the nanny calls child protective services, as that's what you do in this situation, and the movie plays them as the villains. Seriously, the third act is about the nanny and the family banding together to keep this insane bullshit going.
I'm purposely not selling you on specific plot points, because I implore you to track a copy down. You can get it used for like a buck on Amazon.
After that, I was hooked. Lifetime movies just have this very specific trashiness that can't be duplicated by anything else.
Some great ones are Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life, which is about a teen swimmer who loses it all because of his addiction to internet pornography. It's actually directed by the guy who did Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, and since, as we've already gone over, Jason is better than Freddy, this is a good jumping in point.
I mean, you gotta check out the more recently hyped Lizzie Borden Took and Axe with Christina Ricci and the Flowers in the Attic flicks. Then there's Maternal Instincts, where Delta Burke goes around beating people in a hospital to death since, due to an emergency hysterectomy, she can't have children. Baby Monitor: The Sound of Fear, wherein a nanny overhears about a plot to assassinate her over the titular baby monitor. She's Too Young, which sounds like it should be about teen pregnancy but ends up being even more absurd. Sexting in Suburbia, which, well, should be self explanatory, and, finally, Honeymoon with Mom, wherein Shelley Long tricks her left at the altar daughter to take her on said honeymoon. She has tricked her because she's a magazine editor and is trying to interview the reclusive ex-astronaut who owns the resort.
You can keep track of everything Tonjia's doing at her official website.