#36: “Nobody Said: Wow, We’re Doing Something Revolutionary Here”: Ron Bonk on his Early Found-Footage Film STRAWBERRY ESTATES

Today’s guest is Ron Bonk, best known as the owner of the New York-based underground production and distribution company SRS Cinema. Ron started out as a filmmaker in the shot-on-video world of the 1990’s, writing and directing low-budget genre films like CITY OF THE VAMPIRES and THE VICIOUS SWEET. He went on to direct several independent horror films like CLAY, MS. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST or the tongue-in-cheek HOUSE SHARK. With SRS Cinema, he’s produced and distributed numerous other films with splendid titles such as AMITYVILLE BIGFOOT, PUPPET SHARK or COCAINE CRABS FROM OUTER SPACE.

Our conversation revolves around a found footage film Ron Bonk made in the late 90’s called STRAWBERRY ESTATES, the story of a professor and his student who, along with a medium and a cameraman, venture into an abandoned insane asylum to communicate with the dead – what could possibly go wrong? Ron made the film twice – once in 1997, and then again in 1999, for a mere $400, to capitalize on the success of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. In our conversation, Ron talks about the making of both versions, and how he approached the found footage aesthetic and its spirit of authenticity. He also talks about his first ventures into the world of filmmaking, and how his film poked fun at the conventions of no-budget films while embracing the shot-on-video aesthetic which has very much become a standard these days.

The interview was conducted in connection with our German-language podcast Lichtspielplatz, so if you speak German, please check out Lichtspielplatz episode #68, which features an in-depth discussion of STRAWBERRY ESTATES and many other found footage horror films. Also, make sure to listen to our interviews with found footage filmmakers Ted Nicolaou, Brian Leslie, Stefan Avalos and Dean Alioto here on Talking Pictures.

So without any further ado, here’s director Ron Bonk!

The mp3 file can be downloaded HERE.

Photo courtesy of Dean Alioto
Editing: Christoph Schwarz
Music: Clark Kent

Christian Genzel works as a filmmaker and journalist. He has written and directed the psychological thriller DIE MUSE/The Muse plus several music videos and short films. His mystery short CINEMA DELL' OSCURITÀ was nominated for the 13th Street Shocking Short Award in 2017. He is currently working on a documentary on cult filmmaker Howard Ziehm called FINDING PLANET PORNO. As a journalist, Genzel has been published in/at Film & TV Kamera, Celluloid, 35 Millimeter, GameStar, Neon Zombie, gmx.de and the All-Music Guide. He has conducted in-depth interviews with numerous filmmakers, musicians, game designers, and others.