Nashville Film Festival Filmmaker Interview: Jennifer Bonior, Cleaner Than Most


CleanerThanMost Poster

Cleaner Than Most by Jennifer Bonior

Showing at 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 24, as part of the Nashville Film Festival Tennessee First Shorts program

How would you describe your film?
Well, it’s weird and dark but definitely not boring. I mean, there’s a hooker, some fried chicken, and a lot of blood. What more could you want in a 15-minute short?

What challenges did you/your crew encounter while making the movie?
You mean on top of the typical challenges every crew faces? Everything . . . every part of making a film is a challenge but that’s why I do it. Especially, with no/low budget films, it always seems like everything goes wrong. “Oh you mean we can’t get that annoying beeping from the alarm to turn off because our location connection disappeared?” It happens, you adapt and make it work; challenges keep things interesting.

What attracts you to the medium of film, as opposed to other forms of art?
The collaborative nature of it, without a doubt. Every crew you are apart of whether it’s a film, TV show, music video or whatever, that crew becomes your family. Films are not easy to make; there are long hours, intense labor is usually required, and they are a mental workout. Even if it’s a one-day shoot you’ve got to want to be there because it’s hard work. It’s like there’s an unspoken understanding that everyone present at that moment is there because they want to be, because they want to help make something great.

What inspires/influences you?
“Inspiration is everywhere” is something my high school guidance counselor used to say. And as much as I hate to validate that overly optimistic statement, it’s true. For instance, I love to study films and often get discouraged when I watch something great. “Why didn’t I think of that?” is my usual response. But then I realize how stupid it is to be depressed about something I had nothing to do with and I get motivated to go make something great of my own.

Are there any particular genres you favor over others?
Weird I know, but I like to walk out of a film feeling like I just took the SATs. I want something that stimulates and challenges me; sometimes that’s a crazy psychological thriller and sometimes it’s the latest thing from Pixar.

In the process of film-making, how much of the creativity is found in production? How much improvisation do you find on set?
I feel like improvisation is a necessity in all parts of the filmmaking process. You have to have an open mind; things change constantly in pre-production, on set and in post and if you aren’t ready to go with the flow, alter and adapt, you’re gonna drown. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a producer, I like things to be laid out perfectly but nothing, NOTHING ever goes to plan.

CleanerThanMost shooting

How did you learn your craft?
I know people say that film school is not a necessity to make it in the film industry but it sure helped me. You, of course, learn best with actual field experience and film school introduced me to the people that took me under their wing. It was a safe environment for me to experiment and learn, plus getting to play the whole “film student” card was pretty nice . . . I miss that card.

On what projects are you currently working?
Well, I just recently shot a short film with an all-female crew called Embalmer’s Gray about a female embalmer whose ex-boyfriend winds up on her table. I love short films and will probably always continue to make them no matter what, but at the same time I am looking to transition more into feature films. Right now my first feature film, Worm, that I produced with Untrademarked, a company some college friends and I started, is screening opening night at NaFF. At Untrademarked we have already started planning out what we hope our next feature will be, so keep your fingers crossed.

What would you say of the place motion pictures have in our culture?
Film and TV are everywhere and I love it. Our culture is saturated with content from the medium and I think it has allowed a lot of people to share their voice. We are getting to the point that anyone, anywhere can create a video and anyone, anywhere can see it. It’s kind of exciting the possibilities that creates.

In terms of motion picture production, what would you like to see from the state of Tennessee? What advantages does the state currently have, and how do you think it could improve?
My favorite thing about making films in Tennessee is how friendly everyone is, not to say that everyone in LA or NY are mean, cranky a**holes, but there is definitely a sense of Southern hospitality here that translates into the way we make films. The one thing that I wish Tennessee had more of though was a built-in support system for low budget independent films. Student films and bigger budget films have found a good home here, but those of us in that awkward middle child position are craving our parents’ attention.

How long have you been working in motion pictures?
Professionally? I’m not sure I’d consider myself a professional even now but I’ve been messing around with cameras, editing software and all that since I was in high school. A freshman English assignment introduced me to a camera and my fate was sealed.

What themes do you like to explore in film?
Oh, that’s a hard one. I don’t really ever go into a film with a specific theme in mind but I can definitely see a pattern in my work. I love awkward and quirky characters that are incapable of being normal and I love a good sad ending.

What advice do you have to aspiring filmmakers?
I’m not sure I’m qualified to give anyone advice about anything but I do know that I force myself to abide by one rule when it comes to my career: don’t wait, make your film now. Don’t wait for an opportunity to fall in your lap, create one. If you have an idea for a film, go make it. The only person that is ever going to force you to make a film is you.

What do you see as the future of film?
There are more opportunities now than there have ever been for filmmakers. The availability of cheap equipment and self-distribution is making it easier for people to make independent films that can compete against bigger budget films. There’s definitely a shift afoot, but who knows what’ll happen.


About the Author

I'm a contributing writer for the Murfreesboro Pulse. I'm also a filmmaker and a founding member of the MTSU Film Guild. My interests include screenwriting, producing, coffee, beer and philosophy. I'm a huge fan of films, particularly horror, action, science fiction and crime.

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