Thomas Demos and Marvin Aguado are taking their love of horror films to Nicaragua.
In August, the duo with deep Miami Dade College ties—Demos a film production professor at North Campus and Aguado an alum of the film program—plan to shoot a full length movie, Poneloya, using an all Nicaraguan cast in León.
Poneloya is the story of a young doctor who falls for a beautiful girl from the Nicaraguan town of the same name. The couple tries to escape an evil supernatural force after learning that a local legend forbids their love.
“It is a completely exotic location with awesome production value that is just a two hour flight away from Miami,” Demos said. “We hope to make a mark in Nicaragua and inspire other Central American filmmakers to tell audio-visual stories about their amazing cultures.”
Aguado, who is from Nicaragua, originally came up with An American Werewolf in London-esque storyline of a young American backpacking through Central America before deciding on the final script. The pair say they took inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and the teen slasher film I Know What You Did Last Summer to create Poneloya, which Aguado describes as a more “artsy” approach to horror filmmaking.
Demos and Aguado first linked up at North Campus several years ago. Aguado, who earned his bachelor of applied sciences degree in film, TV and digital production from MDC in 2016, was Demos’ student.
Eventually, Aguado, 36, got his start in the business as an audio engineer at a post-production company called Music a la Carte, producing national ad campaigns in a multi-studio facility.
Demos gained experience working for Rakontur, a Miami based documentary production company founded by Alfred Spellman and Billy Corben of Cocaine Cowboys fame, before he started teaching at MDC in 2011. Despite the new opportunities, Demos did not lose his love for filmmaking. He has directed several short films in the past seven years.
Aguado and Demos worked together on several of those short films, including the sci-fi, mystery thriller Star Child, which Demos directed in 2015. It was featured at the 2016 Miami Film Festival.
They soon discovered they worked well together and eventually got around to creating Poneloya.
“As we started talking to people and recruiting for the film, we always get an ‘oh that’s cute’ kind of reaction,” Aguado said. “It took us a while to get people to take us seriously and show them what we were doing.”
Aguado and Demos also encountered several stumbling blocks in putting the Spanish feature film together.
“One specific problem with pre-production was writing the script in English and figuring out how to translate the screenplay accurately into Spanish, using believable Nicaraguan slang,” Demos said. “We first had the script translated from English to formal Spanish by a professional translator. Then, some of Marvin’s Nicaraguan family members revised the Spanish version to give the dialogue a believable Nicaraguan flavor.”
Casting also affected elements of the story.
“We had a casting call, about 100 actors,”Demos said. “Some actors were so good, we created new characters for them, creating a more dynamic plot.”
One of the bigger changes centered around the main character. After holding auditions in Managua, Nicaragua in May and meeting with local actors, they decided to recruit an all-Nicaraguan cast. The male lead was re-written to be a young Central American doctor who travels to Nicaragua to complete his medical internship.
Despite the challenges, Demos and Aguado reveled in the opportunity to create a movie for the big screen.
“Most people just starting out think they make a full-length movie immediately,”Demos said. “Most famous directors started out with short films. It’s a matter of taking those ten to fifteen minute stories and stretching them to an hour or two.”
Poneloya will be shot throughout August. A release date for the film had not been selected when the paper was sent to the printer.