One day while in the first grade in Argentina, Lisa Bonaccorso’s mother came to pick her up unexpectedly from school in the middle of the day.
While her mother was trying desperately to get Bonaccorso to leave, the child’s one concern was retrieving the class guinea pig, as it was her turn to care for the critter overnight. Her mother was sick with worry and eventually managed to pull Bonaccorso and her siblings from the school. Bonaccorso was livid with her mother for jeopardizing her one chance to care for the guinea pig.
However, her mother had bigger things on her mind. The family would not be coming back — to the school, to the city or even to the country.
Hours before, the United States government contacted Bonaccorso’s father, ordering him to take his family and every American family he knew and flee for their lives.
The family was forced to escape the country and suddenly they were thrown into the middle of a dangerous political battle that defined Latin America throughout the 1970s.
It has been more than 40 years since that day. Bonaccorso no longer holds a grudge against her mother over the guinea pig, although she never saw it again.
Instead, Bonaccorso has set out on a journey to tell the story of her parents as they tried desperately to keep their family together and safe from the very real dangers that surrounded U.S. citizens in Latin America in the 1970s.
Bonaccorso has written and produced the script for her parents’ story, “Caught in the Crossfire.” With help via an online Kickstarter campaign, Bonaccorso hopes to direct and produce “Crossfire” as a feature film.
“I believe the film transcends time,” Bonaccorso said. “You can take the family in this film and transplant them in the Middle East, or Africa, and they will still face the same trials that they do in this story.”
The Kickstarter campaign seeks to raise $1.7 million by May 28, the bare minimum needed to produce the film. However, several big-name actors, such as Nestor Carbonell, already have signed on to star in the film.
“It’s an honor to have someone like him (Carbonell) sign on,” Bonaccorso said. “He really believes in what we’re doing, and believes in the script. That’s incredibly humbling for me.”
The script was a finalist in the 2014 Screenplay Contest at the Gasparilla International Film Festival, and won in its category at the 2013 London Filmmaker Festival.
Bonaccorso owns and operates a film production company in the Flathead Valley, May October Productions. The company opened in 2011, when Bonaccorso relocated from Los Angeles to live in Kalispell full time. A second company, Crossfire Pictures, is housed under the parent company.
Bonaccorso started in the film business 25 years ago when, after graduating from Boston University, she began a career as a crew person for productions in New York and later Atlanta. Bonaccorso dreamed of being a cinematographer and received advice from a peer in the industry who said she should learn how to work in lighting to break into the industry.
Following this advice, Bonaccorso got a job running cable as an electrician on a film production set. However, when she arrived, she found the cable was incredibly heavy and had to be carried up five flights of stairs.
“I could hardly even pick it up,” she said with a laugh. “But I didn’t want people to think I couldn’t do the job, so I just pushed through. By the end of the film, though, I could do all the work with no problem.”
This tenacity has proved to be Bonaccorso’s best quality time and time again. She worked in lighting for four years, then transferred to work as a camera assistant. Again, her reputation as a hard worker helped to get her in the door and land her job after job over the next 20 years.
When Bonaccorso started out in the industry, she was one of the only women working in film, let alone as a crew member.
“I didn’t even realize it at the time, but I was breaking ground for women across the industry,” she said.
She propelled through the ranks, working on major films such as “Rush Hour,” the original “Fast and the Furious,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” and television shows such as “The West Wing,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Mad Men.”
Bonaccorso was inspired to tell her parents’ story after she watched a friend’s documentary. Originally, she set out to record their story for future family generations, but later realized, with a helpful nudge from a friend, that the story could be a captivating feature film.
After hitting walls trying to get someone to write the screenplay, Bonaccorso wrote her own script in just six weeks, again proving her will to push the project forward.
However, the battle was just beginning.
Not only was Bonaccorso a woman trying to make it in an industry that was just beginning to accept women in leadership positions, but she was also a crew person, trying to make the transition into producing and directing.
“It’s very hard to break into the industry that way, and go from below the line to an above-the-line position,” Bonaccorso said, referring to people who go from a position where their name is listed in the credits after the movie, to a position listed before the movie starts, such as main actors, producers and directors.
So far she has made incredible strides, thanks to connections in the industry as well as contacts she made who believe in the script. Bonaccorso has also made a short teaser video based on interviews with her family, which has gleaned the attention of many who are now involved with the film.
Last year she partnered with producer Fred Caruso, who has managed and produced films such as “The Godfather” and “Blue Velvet.” Bonaccorso credits Caruso as a driving force in the success of the film thus far.
The biggest obstacle is the funding. The $1.7 million requested in the Kickstarter campaign is the minimum Bonaccorso’s team needs to make the movie, which will be shot in the U.S. and Argentina as soon as funding is available and schedules are locked into place.
For more information on the film, or to donate, search for “Caught in the Crossfire” on www.kickstarter.com.
Reporter Brianna Loper may be reached at 758-4441 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.