At a small Surrey studio/office, two filmmakers are busy finishing a feature movie for streaming – and screaming – on Amazon Prime Video.
The portal’s “Welcome to the Blumhouse” series of horror-thriller movies is set to include “Bingo,” directed and co-written by Gigi Saul Guerrero and co-executive produced by Raynor Shima, two of three Luchagore Productions founders, along with Luke Bramley.
Shima grew up in the Bear Creek Park area, while Guerrero’s roots are in South Surrey. Later, after they met on a set while attending rival film schools in Vancouver, their mutual love of the horror genre drove them to join forces.
Now, they’re hitting the big time with “Bingo,” which was filmed in New Orleans for three months, from January to March, and is being edited for release this fall.
“The best part of this setup,” Guerrero said, “is that because we’re working here in Surrey, our poor parents are the test subjects of all this gore, so if they react and gag, then Raynor and I will be like, ‘OK, we’re doing this right,’” she added with a laugh on the phone from their Panorama Ridge-area hub.
Co-written by Guerrero and Shane McKenzie, “Bingo” is set in the barrio of Oak Springs. The film follows a strong and stubborn group of elderly friends who refuse to be gentrified. “Their leader, Lupita, keeps them together as a community, a family,” explains a post on imdb.com. “But little did they know, their beloved Bingo hall is about to be sold to a much more powerful force than money itself.”
Oscar-nominated actor Adriana Barraza is among cast members, as is Tony Award winner L. Scott Caldwell.
“Bingo” represents the next step for Guerrero and Shima, who have shot and released several short movies.
“For us,” Shima said, “it’s such a blessing to be able to do what we want to do during these crazy times. We’re so excited to make this, and make it actually happen.”
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed filming until three months ago, and now it’s wrapped after a winter trip to Louisiana’s largest city.
“Nobody knew what the world had in store for anybody, and we’re lucky this (movie) still became a thing,” said Guerrero. “We were a bit sad at first, you know, this being Luchagore’s first movie and then COVID hits, and maybe it’s never going to happen. But it worked out, and here we are.”
Previous Luchagore films have been shot in Surrey, Shima said, “but nobody knows that.”
The story for “Bingo” was pitched in 2019 “with a couple sentences” before Blumhouse quickly gave the green light.
“From there we went about fleshing out the story, the characters and their world, what it’s all about,” Shima noted. “It was about a year of script-writing, and then COVID hit. It actually gave us a little more time to go back to the drawing board and rework the script even more.
“Filmmaking has changed with protocols and everything,” Shima added, “so we actually had to really adapt the script, because it was such a big scale that was not COVID-friendly. We had to do a lot of problem-solving on that to make it work, in terms of the number of people involved and things like that. One thing we’re really good at is problem-solving and creatively trying to maintain the structure of the story.”
Guerrero jumped in.
“Coming from the indie world, that’s no problem,” she said with a laugh. “You want small-scale? We’re Luchagore, we know what to do. And it happened so quick. We prepared in January, shot in February and in March we wrapped, and now we’re editing and have to be done at the beginning of August for the premier in September, October. It’s very exciting.”
On social media, Guerrero documented her government-mandated isolation in a hotel room upon her return from New Orleans, a city she didn’t get to enjoy much, this time around.
“It was so safe while filming, with testing three times a week, and the protocols, the system, is a whole new game for film,” she reported.
“It is New Orleans and I was a little sad there was no Mardi Gras, you know, because that would have been fun. But it’s such a beautiful city, a lively place, and everybody had smiles on their faces and the food didn’t change so I was happy,” she added with a laugh. “That made up for the all the time I had to be there stuck in my hotel room, because the routine was very strict – wake up, go to work, come back, repeat. You couldn’t do anything. Luckily, I involved myself in the New Orleans boxing club where they do boxing outdoors. That was fun to have something like that to do every weekend.”
Luchagore was founded in 2013 as a vehicle for blood-spattered film projects that have included Culture Shock, the La Quinceañera series, El Gigante and Mexico Barbaro.
Born in Mexico, Guerrero has also scared people as a longtime creator of Fright Nights, the Halloween-month attraction at the PNE.
In addition to directing, Guerrero models, acts and does voice work. She recently wrapped 35-plus episodes of an animated series due on Netflix. “Spent a whole year bringing to life an amazing/hilarious character for (a) series based on a HUGELY popular game/franchise,” she posted on Facebook. “Get ready for the big reveal sometime this year.”