A Case Study
Narrative | Dramatic Features
Film Name: The Bunny Man
Date: Wrapped principal photography on July 25, 2020. Finished post-production March 31, 2021
Director: Bobby McGruther
Producer: Mark A. Yajcaji, Chris Van Houten, Bobby McGruther
Writer: Bobby McGruther
Cinematographer: Joseph Flannery
Production Company: Red Skies Studios, Image To Reality Cinema
Budget: Approx 250K
Financing: An angel investor, and credit cards
Shooting Format: Digital
Screening Format: N/A
World Premiere: N/A
indieactivity: What is your film about?
Bobby McGruther (BM): The Bunny Man is about a small, fictional, New England town that gets terrorized by a serial killer once every 20 years. The movie starts in 2010 during The Bunny Man’s reign of terror. The police fail to stop him, causing our main character, Sheriff Deputy Lincoln Brewster, to suffer some serious PTSD and leave town. The main chunk of the movie takes place in 2020 with the Bunny Man returning, but he’s 10 years early. He signals that he’s there for Lincoln, who is now living, isolated, in a small cabin in the Pocono Mountains. So Lincoln comes back to town to face off against the Bunny Man. It’s loosely based off an incident that happened in Fairfax County, Virginia back in the 70s, but we modernized it and changed the location to a fictional town to give us more creative freedom.
Tell us about the festival run, marketing and sales?
Bobby McGruther (BM): We finished post production on March 31st so we are just submitting it to festivals. We did one online festival, Cult Movies International Film Festival, and it was a finalist for best feature, best feature horror, and best poster. But as of right now it’s just a lot of waiting to hear back from festivals.
Give the full Official Synopsis for your film?
Bobby McGruther (BM): Northsilver Massachusetts is a small quiet fishing town, with a dark secret. Every 20 years, a hatchet wielding lunatic dressed in a bunny suit, hunts down and kills 7 people, the 7th one always being someone under the age of 18, then disappears without a trace. But in the spring of 2010, he was almost caught for the first time, by a young Sheriff’s deputy named Lincoln Brewster. Being severely traumatized by his brush with the Bunny Man, Lincoln marries his partner Lizzy, and leaves town, to live out the rest of his life, isolated in a cabin, tucked away in the Pocono Mountains. Things are peaceful until 10 years later, the Bunny Man returns to Northsilver, this time with a personal grudge to settle with, the now former Sheriff’s deputy, Lincoln Brewster, luring Lincoln and Lizzy back to Northsilver, to relive the nightmare once again.
Development & Financing?
Bobby McGruther (BM): So the script started as a project in college. I and a few other students would create content for the college TV station. It was Halloween season and we all had to make a 5-10 minute horror short. So I wrote a slasher opening. I didn’t know what costume I should give him so I googled urban legends and found an article about an incident that happened in Fairfax County, Virginia back in the 70s. A guy with a hatchet wearing a bunny suit would terrorize people, claiming they were trespassing on his property. He was never caught. So I put my killer in a bunny suit and gave him a hatchet instead of a knife. This short would end up being the opening to this film.
I went through a bunch of different versions of the story. One was more folk horror, one was more supernatural, I even played with the idea of a found footage type story. But I didn’t like any of those so I sat down and thought about why I loved slasher movies and decided to write kind of an homage to the low-budget slashers from the 70s and 80s that I loved. I shot the opening of the film in 2014 and as I tweaked the story made other films, but always kept The Bunny Man in mind. Once I finally had the script I reached out to Mark A. Yajcaji, who’s the executive producer (he also plays the town sheriff in the film) that I had a story I liked and that maybe we could finally make this film.
So we started planning, casting, trying to find money, locations, luckily we had an angel investor come through, and Mark and I also put in some of our own money. We were supposed to shoot in April 2020 in Southern New Jersey, then covid hit and we had to delay. It got to the point where I thought we weren’t going to be able to make the film. We finally got the OK from the state of NJ to begin production in July. We had to follow a lot of new rules, rules, which now are normal.
Bobby McGruther (BM): I had our schedule and locations booked for April, but covid shut us down. Once we had the 100% go to shoot, we had to move fast, I had to go down to south jersey and look at all our possible locations. Make sure the locations for each day could carry over to July, and make any adjustments/recasts/replace crew due to scheduling change-ups. Once we had our schedule locked, I and my AD had virtual meetings with the crew and went over storyboards. We got on location July 5th and rolled the camera on July 6th. We shot 5 days a week and had weekends to decompress. Every night, me and my AD, Chris Van Houten (also served as a co-producer on the project), would go to our hotel and huddle over my small monitor and watch the dailies.
It was hot out so we had to make sure Joey Shehta (the man in the bunny suit) was always near ice and had water. Shooting a movie that takes place in the spring in 95-degree heat is a challenge. We wrapped on time and on budget. We predominantly shot on a campground on Barnegat Bay. The grounds are large and we build most of Northsilver there. It was almost like having a backlot.
Once I got back home to Brooklyn, I took a week to myself, then started editing. Mid-September, I had an assembly cut. It didn’t have finished visual effects or sound but it was enough to send to Chris to give notes. I did about 3 more cuts then we locked the picture in late November, then sent it off for sound mixing, design, and scoring. While the sound was being finished, we did some ADR, nothing too crazy, just looped some lines that didn’t come out on set. I also worked on the color grade and had two digital artists come in to do the CG effects. Then on March 31st, we had our final cut and I started submitting screeners to film festivals.
Festival Preparation & Strategy?
BM: Right now we’re getting ready to start festivals. Actually just now as I’m talking to you, I just got an email saying we got into Catskills International Film Festival. This will be my third film that’s played that festival. We also did an online one in the UK, Cult Movies International Film Festival, and it was a finalist for best feature, best feature horror, and best poster. We definitely utilize social media, using target hashtags, and talking to publications like you. We did a social media blitz for the second teaser trailer and dropped it on Easter. The entire cast and crew all posted it at the same time with the same hashtags. Since in person festivals are coming back I’m getting some festivals exclusive posters printed.
The Teaser Trailer for THE BUNNY MAN written and directed for screen by Bobby McGruther
BM: Right now just festivals for 2021. We’re gonna seek out a distribution deal after it’s done it’s festival run.
Advice from the Filmmaker?
BM: Embrace your limitations. Your limitations breed creativity. For example, for this film we did not have the budget for a lot of gore effects, that’s why not a lot of gore is seen on screen. Watch a movie like the original Halloween or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they don’t show much gore, they simply make a visual suggestion and your mind fills in the blanks.
So embrace your limitations no matter what type of film you are making. You don’t need the best equipment or big actors. Just tell your story and the more you do it, the better you’ll get. This isn’t my first film, my first film isn’t even my first film. My first films are the terrible student films that I made a ton of mistakes on because I was learning, and I continue to learn from each project I work on. You are never going to make the perfect film, but if it feels right, you’ve done your job.