“Cannes probably thought that they were buying a film from a real studio, but it was just three losers in a basement. Then we just continued to bring them out, Blood Runs Cold being our second film, which we did with a $5,000 budget. We never even attem
Sonny Laguna is a Sweden-based director who began his career with a number of super low budget films (costing between $5 and $10K) with his co-director Tommy Wiklund. He eventually got on the radar of S. Craig Zahler as he was writing Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. Zahler and the team at FANGORIA were so impressed with Sonny & Tommy’s resourcefulness as low budget filmmakers, that they handed them directorial duties on Puppet Master.
We spoke to Sonny about his career history, first few films, Puppetmaster, and his advice for aspiring horror filmmakers. Here are Sonny Laguna’s key takeaways for aspiring horror directors.
- Embrace your limitations. Sonny’s first few films were extremely low budget ($5-$10K) and had a stripped down and gritty, low-fi look to them which worked in their favor because it gave them a signature style and energy. While it’s important to maximize production value, it’s also important not to constantly fight your film’s budget.
- We’ve all seen low budget movies that pretend to be high budget movies and the result is a movie that’s disjointed and pathetic looking. It’s better to polish what you have in front of you than to work in vain to maximize a production value you don’t have. The low-fi look works particularly well for horror because it feels more realistic. The best example of this effect is in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
- Write a short story every week. This is a piece of advice that Sonny gives frequently to directors and screenwriters who want to sharpen their ability to tell stories. Bad scripts are often caused by a lack of storytelling ability, writing a story every week is a way to get bad story ideas out of your system while sharpening your storytelling skill. So start writing.
- Start small. A lot of filmmakers have big elaborate scripts and complicated storylines which can be damn near impossible to make, especially when it’s their first movie. While it’s important to dream big, oversized and overly-complicated projects can inhibit creativity because they overwhelm the director. In the beginning, the most important part is getting a project wrapped and under your belt. Sonny recommends making films with what you have immediate access to. Robert Rodriguez & Kevin Smith did exactly this with their first films. Start small and gradually work your way upwards to bigger projects.
- Find a complementary collaborator. Sonny and Tommy both have similar sensibilities but different skill sets and different areas of focus. Sonny typically works with the actors while Tommy focuses on the technical aspects of directing. This is the key to their successful partnership; having a similar sensibility but different areas of focus. This enables you maximize the efficiency of your collaboration while preventing conflicts.
Produced by Simpler Media