is a short SF film that offers a 7-minute, impressionistic
glimpse into a world invaded by an army of giant war
machines. Its clear, well-imagined visuals and tight
direction go a long way toward suggesting much more
than the running time can directly depict on screen.
example, an atmosphere of fascist domination that director
Lonano creates through the use of noir, 1984-like
imagery and slogans -- along with such parallel advertising
material as that on the left -- seems to suggest that
there is an undercurrent to the scenario that takes
it beyond straight scifi adventure into a sort of metaphorical
the colossal Attackazoids themselves are very impressive
asked Brian Lonano about his spectacular glimpse into
"Attackazoids!" is a rather neat little
film with a unique approach to telling its story. What
was your impetus behind making it and why in this form?
Brian Lonano: Well, I always loved
science fiction. As a kid, I watched Star Wars,
Star Trek -- you name it. When I got older,
I started getting into the sci-fi films of the 1950s.
But the real motivation behind "Attackazoids!"
was Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.
I loved the concept of a series of short stories strung
together and, well "chronicling" the colonization
of Mars by Earth. I always dreamt of remaking the book
into a movie but I decided that instead of remaking
someone else's work, I would create my own universe
to run around in. My story is also about colonization
but done in a more imperialistic way. I watched films
like War Of The Worlds and Invaders From
Mars while coming up with the look and style of
"Attackazoids!" -- but another film that helped
inspire me was The Battle Of Algiers. "Attackazoids!"
is only a piece of the story I hope to tell. I kept
the short film open-ended to leave room to answer questions
and explore other aspects in future short films. The
goal is to make a series of shorts that could be strung
together and become a feature.
"Attackazoids!"'s lack of
traditional narrative structure -- in a genre that emphasises
narrative -- certainly makes it different. Impressionistic
and image-driven rather than character or event driven.
Do you think this will limit its appeal?
I love this question! One thing I hear when people see
the film is that they say the story is simple. I am
actually ok with the story being simple so I take it
as a compliment. A short film I really enjoy is called
"Fifty Percent Grey." It's a real simple story
about a soldier who dies and finds himself in a white
void with a TV informing him he is in heaven. It's just
under four minutes and it really showed me that I could
tell a story in that amount of time without having to
go into too much detail. On a side note, the film got
an Oscar Nomination in 2002 for best animated short,
so that really inspired me to try and make a simple
but memorable film. I definately wanted "Attackazoids!"
to be very experimental with its imagery, special effects
and story structure. I don't think this will limit its
appeal because science fiction is very impressionistic
and image-driven to begin with. 2001: A Space Odyssey
is a great film that is image-driven and its story is
simple (in a good way, of course). Blade Runner
is another great example. Not that I can compare myself
with the greats .. hehe. But no, I don't think that
the appeal of "Attackazoids!" will be limited.
You just can't say "boo!" to giant killer
The SFX range from simple impressionistic
silhouette effects to those rather spectacular robots.
How was it all done?
Two words: Jeff Jenkins. He is my effects guru and always
exceeds my expectations. When I wrote the script, I
really wasn't sure what the attackazoids would look
like. I just knew they had to have claws, a giant laser
cannon and megaphones to recite their message. Jeff
came up with the design on his own based on whatever
spare parts and scrap metal he had available. He told
me he had parts that could look like a giant laser cannon
so he told me that it would be basically a giant gun
with arms and legs. It was all done using stopmotion
animation in his garage back home with a green screen.
recently visited his home in North Carolina and saw
the attackazoid in person for the first time. It was
no bigger than a G.I. Joe doll. Looking at it up close,
he'd put so much detail and thought into the design.
I'm extremely grateful for all his hard work and incredible
talent. Check out his art at www.jeff-jenkins.com.
Tell us about the production and how
it went? How long did it take to make the film?
The script was written in March of 2008 by my brother
Kevin, my cousin Jeremy O'Mara and myself. It was three
pages long and went through about 10 drafts. In those
10 drafts the one big change was converting the lead
character from a man to a woman. The rest of the changes
were about what song to use and what exposition to show.
I began buying pieces for the miniature set in August/September
and started storyboarding. I always had a clear idea
about the first few shots of the film and knew I wanted
to utilize certain techniques in the film (running/walking
in place, use of black void, frantic hand-held camera
work, miniatures, and a "fake-set" look) when
we were writing it.
We had preproduction meetings from September to the
end of October. Our first shoot was the miniature set.
It was done in an afternoon on my dining room table.
In November we recorded the songs in the film and had
our first live action shoot. It was a night shoot on
a cold night and took 15 hours! All that footage was
the massacre portion of the film so afterwards I was
able to start stringing together shots with my editor
and I was able to start designing the sound for the
attackazoids. The animation shots were trickling in
until our next shoot in December. This shoot was done
indoors on a theater stage. It was another 10-12 hour
shooting day but we started in the morning this time.
More effects shots were coming in and the film was finally
complete in the middle of January. From script to final
cut it took about 11 months.
Don Singalewitch as "The
How did you come by the cast and crew?
And what were they like to work with? Any amusing stories?
The crew were all my friends from college. We all worked
together on our first Robot Hand Film "Electrical
Skeletal." I met Don Singalewitch when I was casting
my thesis film and from then on, I decided I wanted
him in everything I make. Don is such a trooper and
gives every take his all. Don always has new ideas to
share about his character and his enthusiasm really
inspires me to make the best film I can. Erin and Sandra
posted on Mandy.com and Craiglist for a casting call
for a lead actress, a voice actor and extras to run
from giant killer rorobts. We held auditions on weekend
in September and were very fortunate to find Jeff Christel
(Mel T. Face), Jeff Douglas (The Attackazoid Voice)
and our stellar leading lady Holly Lynn Ellis. Each
of these actors contributed so much to what the film
is today and I can't thank them enough for their great
has an amusing story about the audition. Here's what
happened from her perspective:
I read the casting notice for "Attackazoids!",
I didn't know anything about Robot Hand or Brian Lonano.
Honestly, I don't even remember submitting my headshot
and resume for it. This isn't uncommon for actors:
we submit to every project and then usually forget
about each of them so that we can remain peacefully
ignorant of exactly how often we get rejected.
Sandra (Tuerk, Associate Producer) called me for the
audition, I was half-way into my second beer on a
Friday night and had no idea what film she was talking
about, why I had to travel to New Jersey (which might
as well be Idaho to a New Yorker) or why I should
be prepared to sing a hymn at an audition for a horror
film about robots. Still I figured, "Eh, what
the hell! I've got nothing to do that weekend anyway."
entered a room full of your run-of-the-mill, post-college
film geeks: post-goth t-shirts, in-need-of-a-trim
hair styles, thick-rimmed glasses, etc. In the center
of the table, in a plaid, pressed, button-up shirt
and oatmeal-colored, Grandpa cardigan, sat a terrified
young man working so hard to disappear you couldn't
help but notice him. Clearly the director.
was first asked to sing with Don [Singalewitch, The
Preacher], who was at the audition in full costume,
down to the sunglasses, the hat, and the Bible. That
part went well enough, and we moved on to the non-verbal
portion of the film in which I was asked to respond
to horror erupting all around me while Brian clapped
intermittently to indicate another horror in another
direction. I was instructed by Brian to "imagine
the most heinous things happening all around me until
the terror builds to a point where my only response
options are to scream or to puke." I was to chose
say, 45 seconds of this, I was physically and emotionally
desperate to vomit. I opted instead, as directed,
to scream. I screamed. I screamed with all the rage
and terror of a woman who has seen too much, who knows
that her chances of survival are next to nil but who
cannot resist the impulse to help, to protect, to
comfort, to mourn all the souls perishing around her.
With all of my might I screamed.
you," said the director.
could have killed him. Instead I laughed: "How
'bout those Mets?" Subtext: "Asshole."
the audition, I called my buddy: "Hey, Hol, what's
the plan for tonight?"
handful of beernuts and a fifth of Cuervo."
I take it your audition didn't go so well?"
it went fucking fantastic. If I don't get this part,
I'm quitting forever."
Your "packaging" for "Attackazoids!"
-- a seven-minute film -- is certainly impressive. What
Thank you so much! I just love making short films. The
budgets are smaller and I have a lot of fun making them.
When I attend film festivals or watch DVDs, I prefer
to see short films over features because you can see
more of them and there's always a variety. If I try
and make a feature length film of "Attackazoids!"
I would probably pay homage to Martian Chronicles
and do it as a series of short stories and string them
together. That way I can make them all different and
unique. With short films I feel like you have more freedom
to make the kind of film you are passionate about. A
feature length project is a serious committment and
you have to be in love with it for possibly a few years.
As much as I enjoy [Lynch's] Eraserhead, I
don't know if I could invest five years of my life making
Has "Attackazoids!" fulfilled
your aims for it? What do you hope for the film's future?
If people are saying the word "Attackazoids!"
and hearing about it, I am quite happy. We premiered
at the Maryland Film Festival, which was such a great
time, and we were a finalist at the USA Film Festival's
National Film & Video Competition. Winners from
this festival get recognized by the Academy and could
be put in the running for the Best Short Film Oscars.
So for us to be a finalist in that competition is a
big step for us. I hope to get into some more big festivals
where people will begin to notice us. "Attackazoids!"
has been sent to about 30 festivals across the world
and I plan to continue submitting next year while we
start working on the next film.
What is the history of Robot Hand
Films? Who are its regular personnel and what are its
Throughout college, I made my student films with my
friends. We never officially had a company so after
college, I wanted to have a name that people would remember.
After 2005 when we all graduated we went our separate
ways and I had made a film by myself called "Casket
Climber Insect God." That prospered pretty well
but I missed working with my friends. So in 2006, Robot
Hand Films was born and we began working on "Electrical
Skeletal", which was a music video film for the
band Casket Architects. Some of my other friends from
school were brought in to help, namely Erin Horsey,
who is now Robot Hand's Producer, Gary Powell, our wonderful
Director of Photography, and Sandra Tuerk, who is our
Costume Designer and Associate Producer.
"Attackazoids!" we brought in even more people
like Amanda Roberts for the make-up effects, Matt Cenicola
for the set design, Joseph Paris to compose the music
and Adam Hark to edit the film. We all love low-tech
special effects, campy humor and gore, so the goal of
Robot Hand Films is to make short films and music videos
that are fun to make and fun to watch. These are truly
the most talented people I have ever met and I am so
lucky that they want to make movies with me.
What about your own influences? How
did you get into this business?
When I was a kid, I always wanted to be doing something
creative. At first I wanted to be a puppeteer so Jim
Henson was a big influence. Then I wanted to be an animator
and do sound effects and voice acting, but when I was
10 years old, I realized that I wanted to be a film
director. I grew up watching Star Wars, so
my love of giant robots, lasers and monsters came from
that. But probably one of the biggest influences on
the kinds of films I wanted to make was Tim Burton.
As I grew older I discovered directors like David Lynch,
Sam Raimi and Ed Wood and watched films like Forbidden
Planet and Them! Basically anything that
is absurd, stylish and has some low-tech quality to
it, I love, and it inspires me to make something.
wish I could say I was in the business. I work
in TV as an assistant editor but I went to college for
film. When I was making my student films, I realized
that only my friends and family see these movies. My
goal as a senior was to start sending my work to festivals
and get myself out there because investors and famous
filmmakers aren't going to be knocking on my door if
I don't get my work into festivals. So while I have
my day job, I make my films on the side and send them
to websites for review, festivals for possible screenings
and anyone in the industry who is interested in seeing
So, is there anything upcoming that you can tell us
about? Something even more ambitious perhaps?
After reading all the reviews for "Attackazoids!"
that ask to see more, I want to make another chapter.
I have yet to write it but it will be called "Attackazoids,
Deploy!" I want to make it like a newsreel film
from the 1940s-50s and sort of explain a little more
about the Attackazoids and why they invaded. The goal
is to answer some questions but leave the audience with
more questions. In the short term, though, I want to
see how "Attackazoids!" prospers on the festival
circuit this year.
Lonano's early films can been viewed on the Robot Hand
out the Robot Hand Films website