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The Headliner


Chad Allen is a stand-up comedian trying to find his voice and break out of the Omaha scene. As he works on material and his career, Chad Allen also finds himself working on his relationships with his ex-wife, manager, best friend, adult daughter, and a potential love interest.

When the career opportunity of a lifetime presents itself, Chad Allen has to decide which is more important: advancing his career or being there for the people that need him.



Tony Bonacci is an indie filmmaker based in Omaha, Nebraska. He's been making short films and music videos for nearly 20 years. "The Headliner" is considered to be his first feature project.


What makes you fascinated with the cinematic language and what was the first film project you worked on?

The thing I love most about cinema is the unique and almost magical final product you get from the modular nature of putting together a movie. Every choice you make and every person you involve brings about a distinct result.


Please tell us how "The Headliner" came to life and let us know about the process from screenwriting to pre-production and completion of the feature film.

I met the screenwriter Christine Burright and we decided to collaborate on a short film called 'The Headliner' that we ended up making in 2016. After success with the short I wanted to make a feature length version and change up the vibe a bit. Christine and I began collaborating on an idea and she took it from there. She worked through drafts and had a final all ready to go when Covid hit. We sat on the project, and I began pre-production in 2022. We shot the movie in December of 2022, and I finished pick up shoots and editing by the end of 2023. Now we're in the middle of getting it into the festival circuit. 



"The Headliner" features some of your favorite Omaha comics, what inspired you to work on this particular genre? 

I've always been into standup comedy but had gotten more obsessed within' the last 10 years. When I was thinking of what I might like to do for my first feature, the idea of doing a story about an aging standup comic still trying to make it in the Midwest really appealed to me. I could relate to a struggling midwestern creative person and playing with the idea of this type of character appealed to me. Then when my screenwriter Christine Burright took it from there, she liked the idea of surrounding him with strong women who challenge him to be a better person. 


What was the most challenging aspect of working on an indie feature film?

To me the most challenging aspect was producing. I produced my movie myself so just having to put together every aspect myself was insane. Also working with a low budget is always a challenge. Luckily, I have great connections in Omaha, NE so it made things a bit cheaper and easier. 



What is it like to produce and direct a feature at the same time?

It's absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done. Working on all the producing aspects while maintaining the creative side too can sometimes be chaotic. The excitement and rush of it all kept me going through. 


What is the most creative aspect of directing a project for you?

It's hard to say on this movie because I shot, directed and edited the movie myself. So, on this specifically I'd say probably casting and setting up shots. Everything is pretty equal though when you're doing a lot. 



What is your next film project and what are you currently working on?

I just finished cinematography on a music video for the band Cursive. Working under the director Travis Stevens from Los Angeles. 


Why do you want to make films? 

I want to make films mainly because it's fun. It's the art form I've done since I was a kid. I remember seeing the movie 'KIDS' at 2am on HBO in my grandma's basement when I was young and just being in awe. Wondering what the hell is this? Is this real? It was one of my first experiences with how cinema can be a transformative experience. I'm inspired by a lot of different movies though. As an example.... 2 of my early favorite movies were also 'Heavyweights' and 'Hook'. Haha. I have a mixed variety of movie interests. 




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