Alumni film gets campus, big-screen debut

Most students don’t expect to have a feature film under their belt just a year out of college. But that’s exactly what alumnus Peter Matkiwsky did – and his original full-length feature “The Bonnie Situation” screened last Wednesday in the New Library Auditorium.

“The Bonnie Situation” (the name, as you might have guessed, comes from a chapter in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”) is the story of Peter, a recent college graduate who returns home to find that Stacey, his girlfriend of five years, has dumped him via answering machine.

Finding Peter still stuck on his overbearing, manipulative ex-girlfriend, his goofball friends take matters into their own hands, setting him up on disastrous dates and plotting to “take care of” Stacey.

Meanwhile, Peter finds a new love interest in Bonnie, a perky bartender who’s not all she appears to be.

Matkiwsky, the screenwriter, producer and director, started working on the film after graduating from the College last year.

He wrote the screenplay for his senior practicum in communication studies.

“I had a degree and a script,” Matkiwsky said. “And I thought, well, I don’t want to get a real job, let’s make a movie.”

Matkiwsky raised $27,000 and formed Poison Apple Pictures, a production company, with the help of his former College roommate Ronnie Lubischer. Lubischer, who collaborated with Matkiwsky on scripts throughout college, also plays a part in the movie.

With about a dozen New York City-based professional actors (recruited on and, hometown friends recruited as extras and a handful of production people, they brought “The Bonnie Situation” to life.

The movie was cast in November 2004, shot from February to June of 2005, edited over the summer and finished in December, a mere two days before its premier at Tribeca Cinemas in New York City.

Philip Asta, a New York-based actor who has worked off-Broadway and in a number of student films, was an automatic choice for the role of Peter. After seeing a slew of bad actors at auditions, Lubischer said Asta walked in and blew them away. “As soon as he left, we said, ‘that’s going to be the Peter character,'” he said.

Asta said this is his first lead role in a feature film.

“I read the script and I liked the flow and the pace of it,” Asta said. “Plus the fact that (Matkiwsky) was going all out.”

There were good times on the set. “Everybody else there was (a) real actor, so I was nervous at first,” Lubischer said of playing the dim-witted Eugene. “But after the first day I relaxed, everything fell into place.”

The film’s bar scenes were shot on-location in Hoboken at the Tonic Bar and Lounge and the Gaslight Restaurant, which Matkiwsky said generously gave them three full days of shooting apiece.

“Free beer also,” he added, “which isn’t a good thing if you’re directing.”

One thing that stood out about “The Bonnie Situation” was its high-quality visuals.

Matkiwsky attributes this to Jefferey Chu, the director of photography, and Nat Aguilar, who called himself the “rambo of lighting.” (They also had “one sound guy who held the boom mic and mixed at the same time,” he said.)

The movie was shot with digital cameras, which both cut costs and helped the editing process.

Asked if the movie had any real-life basis, Matkiwsky said that his ex-girlfriend had not seen the movie – yet.

The characters, he said, are loosely based on friends of his.

“We’d take someone we knew,” Matkiwsky said, “and say ‘how can we make him the ultimate character?'”

Poison Apple Pictures has a few more original film ideas lined up, based on Lubischer’s work as a creative writing minor at the College.

Their next project is “Lee Wang Makes Varsity,” a high school basketball movie that Lubischer describes as “off the wall.”

“It’s Bad News Bears meets Napoleon Dynamite,” Lubischer said.

“With a little John Hughes mixed in,” Asta added.

They also hope to get industry attention for “The Bonnie Situation,” which will be screened at CineSpace in Los Angeles later this month.