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Chris Zonnas, Director/Writer: LOADED

March 1, 2014
Chris Zonnas, Director

Chris Zonnas, Director

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of LOADED, from concept to financing.

I’d been thinking about possible stories that could be told well on a micro-budget. I didn’t want to make a horror film or one with a bunch of people talking in a house, so I was leaning toward a road trip.  And then a friend and I unexpectedly had to fly down to San Diego to help another old friend having a hard time with substance abuse. We packed up his place in a hurry, spent the night and headed up Hwy 5 in a U-Haul to his parents in the Bay Area. By the time we were having breakfast on the road, I thought, “This is it.” I knew I had my concept. I then set about writing the script and scraping together the money. It took over two years between sitting down to write and starting to shoot.

2Q: Cinequest is hosting the World Premiere of LOADED.  Explain to us how it feels to bring this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?

I’m really excited to experience this with a live audience. Especially because it’s a comedy and it’s fun to watch with a larger group. The laughs are always bigger. I think six is the highest number of people we had in the room for one of our post-production screenings. Kumail Nanjiani is hilarious as usual. Not only does he deliver the jokes, he supplies much-needed levity to the story. But there are some really heavy moments too, and I’m interested to see how the audience will react when they happen. And the music is absolutely wonderful.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making LOADED?

It’s hard to pick just one best experience. From casting to production to editing and music I had a wonderful time. But I’d have to say the best and worst experiences were both on the same day of production. What began as a nightmare we were able to overcome as a team. After an uneventful morning of shooting on the side of the road in Sepulveda Basin Park, and covering only one side of the scene, someone’s remote controlled gas-fueled model jet crashed in the distance – and exploded in a ball of flames. Within minutes our entire background was ablaze in fire and smoke. Fire Department trucks and helicopters were soon on the scene and we were surrounded by emergency vehicles. They quickly closed the road and most of our production team was trapped with the Police and Fire Departments. We were stuck for the next two hours as they slowly put the entire fire out. Our background – once dry yellow grass with green bushes – was now charred black and smoking. The production unit went into our own emergency mode; the producer and AD’s got everyone rounded up via phone while the DP and I found another similar looking spot a half mile away. We realized we’d have to shoot the other side all in close-up (luckily we’d gotten a little wide coverage before the blaze), but at least we had matching background. The lighting had changed so it was a little off – but that’s what color-correct is for. Kumail and Patrick Flueger were able to churn out some intense dialogue in a very short time. The final result is a powerful scene which the audience has no idea was shot in two different locations – 4 hours apart.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

If you like dramedies such as Sideways and Little Miss Sunshine then this is your film. The three leads play complex, quirky characters thrown into a boiling pot together, and you get a roller coaster of emotion that delivers both laughs and poignancy. Maybe it will make you think about how your own friendships have evolved through different stages of your life. Accompanied by an excellent indie rock soundtrack, LOADED will keep you entertained for 90 minutes.  The San Jose Mercury News also named us one of the ’10 Films for your Must See List’ at Cinequest this year.

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Best Picture Oscar for LOADED.  Give us your acceptance speech.

Wow. I can’t believe the Academy actually watches Ultra-Low Budget movies. If you told me two years ago this could happen I would have said you were nuts. I’m flattered and not sure we deserve this honor with so many incredible movies nominated this year.

But I would like to thank everyone who was a part of LOADED and helped make this happen. You know who you are.

See LOADED at Cinequest!
Watch the Trailer!
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