In the beginning there were the Zucker Brothers (Airplane! The Naked Gun). Then God, seeing as how it was not fit for the Zucker Brothers to be alone, created the Farrelly Brothers (Dumb and Dumber, Something About Mary). Now, ready or not, here comes the Bunzendahl Brothers with their independent film WILSON CHANCE, whose lead character could make Austin Powers look downright smooth.
Along with Dean Williams and his film A PEPPER FOR TOMORROW, the Bunzendahl Brothers, who are based out of Colorado Springs, CO have become instant cult celebrities in the Bond fan community. They appeared at Bond Collectors Weekend last month in New Orleans, debuted several scenes from the new picture and soon the whole event was abuzz with talk about the film. It`s a hybrid mix of WIZARD OF OZ, GET SMART, MATT HELM and JAMES BOND 007.
Justin Williford, 24, plays the lead role of nerdy box office ticket taker Willy Lance, and his alter-ego Wilson Chance. He`s also a college student, holds down a part time job and is the star of the film. At the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Williford majors in Communications and Recording Arts, with a minor in Film Studies. He`d like to major in Film Studies, but the college doesn`t offer them. He has taken acting classes in the past.
So strong is his committment to WILSON CHANCE that he was willing to sacrifice huge amounts of his personal life in order to get this film completed. When I first met Williford, I had him pegged as either a baseball player or a quarterback. I wasn`t completely wrong; he`s an expert rifleman and gave up an Olympic career on the National Mens Shotgun Team to do this film. His extensive knowledge of firearms also makes him the film crews resident expert on gun safety.
Williford works part time at the local Blockbuster on the nights he`s not filming (which is about three times a week). This job affords him the opportunity to stock up on free movies every night and study them. When I asked him what his boss thought of his desire to be an actor, Williford explained to me that not only was his boss enthusiastic about letting Williford have time off to film, he`s even in the film (he plays a bartender to whom Wilson Chance requests a Shirley Temple, “skaken, not stirred”).
George Bunzendahl, 33, is the Producer of the film and his energy, excitement and humor about the film is infectious. He gleefully admits he could `sell a ketchup popsicle to a white gloved customer` if he needed to. In other words, it`s his job to sell the film and so far he`s doing a great job of it; i`m sold. George is the “people guy”; the “mover and shaker”. He promotes the film, coordinates the days shoot and gets actors for the film. In real life, George is a special agent. Yes, he`s an insurance agent for Progressive Auto Insurance.
Jeff Bunzendahl, 28, is George`s brother, and the Director and Writer of WILSON CHANCE. Jeff`s first introduction to Bondage was a trip with his dad to see MOONRAKER when he was six years old. His love of filmmaking was sparked by, ironically, a spoof of STAR WARS called HARDWARE WARS, in which a variety of kitchen appliances were piloted. Jeff refused to play with other kids and their action figures unless the playtime included a narrative from which he could work with. By age 12, he was already beginning ot make movies.
At 20, Michael Helsley is the youngest of the bunch. He`s Korean, an Electrician on the side, and keeps in shape for his role as an assassin with a strenuous workout of Jujitsu. While all four key players assume many roles when making the film, acting is the one area Michael would like to focus on when he`s got the time to do it. He`s what they call “a natural”. That means, he`s got screen presence and doesn`t necessarily need to take acting classes.
Jeff has been Mike`s Jujitsu teacher since Mike was 14. Jeff has a 3rd degree Black Belt in Jujitsu and feels that, as Mike`s teacher, it helps him to better choreograph the fight sequences knowing what Mike is capable of. Justin Williford also took about 5 months of Jujitsu training and learned techniques that make him better able to take a fall.
The film had its genesis in a chance meeting four years ago when Justin met George in class at the University of Colorado. Justin had heard that Jeff was making some independent films and was interested in being in some. Jeff began putting Justin in a series of short films that left such an impression that Jeff was sure Justin was the embodiment of WILSON CHANCE.
LEAVE NOTHING TO CHANCE was essentially a 7 minute clip of things they`d like to do in a full length movie. It helped establish Williford in Jeff`s mind as `Chance`. That was two and a half years ago. WILSON CHANCE is the full length, feature film they`ve all been working on for the past year under the tutelage of Professor Robert von Dassanowsky (he also serves as Executive Producer and is a knowledgeable Hollywood player). While Austin Powers was a sexy agent in the 60`s but out of place in the 90`s, WILSON CHANCE`s gimmick is that the hero, Willy Lance, is too stupid to even get his dreams right. His alter-ego, WILSON CHANCE, is almost as uncool as Willy Lance is.
The Bunzendahl Brothers received a small inheritance which has gone a long way towards funding the film. In fact, it has allowed for Jeff to concentrate solely on the film without having to worry about a second income. If the film attracts enough attention at upcoming independent film festivals, the whole group may soon be able to make filmmaking their full time occupation.
WILSON CHANCE is entirely shot on location in Colorado, which also doubles for Norway; Quebec, Canada; Mexico and Germany. For one scene, the brothers received permission to use a bed and breakfast in Pikes National Forest just outside of Deckers, CO that is designed to look like a German castle.
Independent projects are no less troublesome than major, studio funded films. The only difference is the creative ways in which the brothers resolve their problems. Because the budget is small, Jeff and George were keen on finding actors for the movie that they could be sure would be committed to seeing the film through, no matter how long it takes.
For one particular sequence, the brothers called ahead to the local police department and warned them that they would be filming in the woods and invited them to come down and watch. The scene involved Chance and some henchmen shooting at one another. Despite the heads up, the 911 call center`s phone rang off the hook, with at least 20 calls from frightened neighbors claiming that terrorists were attacking the area. Filming was taking place at night and passersby could see the flash report of the guns going off from the freeway.
Actors have been known to give Jeff fits as well. One actor in particular was regularly absent from the set and made up excuses as to why he couldn`t show up. When the unnamed actor would bother to show up at all, he was usually late. Early on in the shoot he had long hair but inexplicably cut it all off halfway through. Jeff had to go out and buy the guy a wig to compensate. After much thought, the actor was simply let go and all his scenes were reworked or cut out.
Professional stunt men? Forget about it! In a variation of THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, Justin held on for dear life as he clung to the top of a Volkswagen van while doing 50 to 60 m.p.h through the Rocky Mountains, which were doubling for Norway. That`s one stunt all agreed they`d never do again without the proper safety checks in place. However…
That didn`t stop them from using a real knife in a fight sequence one day. Apparently, Williford forgot to bring the prop knife to the location shoot. Because the film is independent and made on a small budget, every days shoot is invaluable once everyone is in place. After all, most of these actors and actresses have other jobs they have to tend to in real life. Because of the uncertainty of getting everyones schedule back in sync for a future shoot, Jeff decided to have Justin use a real knife and just be very careful.
I`m curious about the film, so I ask how long will it be? About 90 minutes. Will fans be able to buy it? Yes, it should be out on DVD/VHS in late February or early March. Are there any Chance Girls in the film? Yes. That last answer gets my interest and my ears perk up. Surely the job of leading man in a spy spoof means Williford gets to be surrounded by a lot of beautiful women, right? Surely there must be a spicy story in there somewhere, right? Not quite. Although it is safe to say Chance gets the girl in the end, the kiss was a kind of “turn your back to the camera” sort of thing.
Well then, being an up and coming film star/producer/director means getting more women, right? Not necessarily. All four have sworn off groupies or potential Yoko Ono`s. This group is tight, focused and dedicated to the task at hand. Serious relationships can wait.
As for Williford, the typecasting as WILSON CHANCE has already begun. One night on the way back to the hotel after partying on Bourbon Street, I ask George some questions about his actor, Wilson. Then George just starts laughing like a mandman and I realized I had totally forgotten that his real name was Justin Williford, and had become completely absorbed in the catch phrase value of the name WILSON CHANCE. The absurdity goes even further. When Williford was picked up by campus security for a driving violation, he was so well known as WILSON CHANCE, that he was ticketed under the name WILSON CHANCE. He beat the charge anyway.
So, where do the brothers go from here? Filming is almost complete and post production will soon begin. I`m sworn to secrecy for right now, but I can tell you that the guys are getting some pretty big assistance from several key people in the Bond fan community that will go a long way towards making sure the film is a cut above the average small budget movie.
Maybe it all sounds crazy, but isn`t this what being a fan is all about? You`ve got to admire these guys for sticking their necks out so far on something they feel so passionate about. The Bunzendahl Brothers, as well as Justin Williford and Michael Helsley, truly embody the term “fandom”, and 007Forever is excited to follow the progress of their film!
Keep watching 007Forever for more news and special coverage of WILSON CHANCE in the weeks and months to come.
You can contact the guys of WILSON CHANCE at SteelShavings@netscape.net for questions or comments.