Q: You came up with a unique way of explaining how the zombies came about and took over the world… how did the whole idea come about?
It always bothered me that almost all of the zombie movies never even attempted to explain their existence. I, on the other hand, began with the premise of a "zombie plague" that devastates the planet. My very next thoughts were to try and explain this in as a believable way as possible. I started with the questions "What would cause the dead to rise? Why would they crave flesh?" Then the answer hit me. The protein diet craze! What if science created a revolutionary new diet drug that helps slow down the cravings for carbohydrates while dramatically increasing the craving for proteins. The drug "Dopatrihydrozine" becomes the largest selling drug in history worldwide. I then took that a step further. What if the drug saturated even the cells of the person taking it? So much so that even after death they still had to have the proteins. This would make them one awesome killing creature. They would think of nothing but food. The biggest source of food would be humans.
Q: And your zombies talk! Did you go about this trying it as different as other zombie movies as you could?
I don't mean to get philosophical here, but I remember reading a Bruce Lee book many years ago. The quote that stuck in my mind was "learn the rules, keep the rules, dissolve the rules". This is not to say that I purposely said "If they did this with their movie, I would do that with mine". I just tried to create a whole New World from the ground up. I gave my zombies a whole set of new rules. Some can talk, some can fight, and some can run. Just as in regular society you have people with different skill levels and different capabilities. For instance, our zombies are light sensitive. I actually consulted a scientist, who is also a wonderful actor, Karl Gustav Lindstrom. He explained (I am paraphrasing a lot) that this could happen if the skin lost all of its pigmentation during the transformation. I needed our zombies to be light sensitive so that the "Dregs Society" could exist and be able to scrounge to pay off Adam and the "Upper Class". So sometimes it is necessity that dictates the story and other times it is inspiration.
Q: What is your background and influences?
I have been involved with television production for many years. I wrote my first screen play about ten years ago. This is our third motion picture as a company. Although we may develop "Dance With a Vampire" into two movies. My influences are very wide ranging. There are three movies that probably influenced "Zombie Planet" the most. The first would be Carpenter's "Escape From New York". I really liked that style of hero, so Kane became that kind of 1980's throw back sort of hero. Frank Farhat, who plays Kane, really brought the character to life. He was cast perfectly for that role. Next would have to be Spielberg's "Indiana Jones Trilogy". Just for the shear fun of them. The final would be, of course, any of George Romero's "Zombie Films". He really created the genre as far as I am concerned. Even though I made some changes, I still started from his base.
Q: Zombie Planet has a huge cast-how did you go about getting your principal actors and all of the extras.
A lot of hard work. If I remember correctly the final count was near two hundred in the cast! We had two different casting calls and the Kentucky Film Commission headed by Dian Knight was a huge help. The calls helped with most of the extras. We tried to be very careful in casting our principles. I knew Frank Farhat was Kane as soon as he walked in. Karl Gustav Lindstrom is such a nice guy, but when he read for the character of Frank he totally became the p#%%@ that the character was supposed to be. Chris Rose had an intelligence about him and a vast acting resume that brought out the believability of the Dr. Warren Character.
Matthew Shore was cast as Tom after he actually sat down and pretty much explained how he thought the character would behave. This can be risky, telling a director how you think his character should be played, but he was right on the money. Mari Stamper has one of those looks, and attitudes, that show she can be very good at heart, but very bad when she needs to be. She was perfect for Adam's main girl. I think Fran Rabe, as Dr. Warren's semi wife and Frank's main foe Mary, was dramatic but subtle. Fran got to be wicked with that knife! Rebecca Minton added our pathos and explained the suffering that the world has endured. We also worked hard to create several memorable villains. Jon Shelton and Jim Marshall as Stiletto and Ralph are just fantastic I really think those characters will become cult classics! We even have a pro football player, Oliver Barnett in a great fight scene at the end of part II! Mike Shouse as Valentino and Mike Van Zant as Gardner also turn in some solid evil performances. The reason I tell you all of this is to give you a small insight into what goes into casting.
Now, about the casting process: Most casting agents make their minds up the second the person walks in the room. Don't fall into that trap. Sure, sometimes you know it's right, but other times, think about it and explore your options. When casting the role of Adam everyone had one person in mind. I thought he was very good but I also thought the character needed a different sort of edge. The more I got to know Matt Perry the more I realized that he was who I wanted for Adam. The response was immediate: "He is too nice of a guy!" and "He can't play a villain this evil!" That was just it, I knew our Adam had to be charming as well as very deadly. Matt was friendly with a great personality but also would work at learning Adam's lethal side. He and Frank began training for the fight scenes with a world class instructor, Mike O'Donnell from Four Seasons Martial Arts in Lexington KY. He worked with them for months!
Stick to your guns when making your movie. Casting is all-important. Pick your crew and Producers very carefully also.
Q: How did you manage to get the abandoned city look in the city streets.
Sometimes, such as when Kane enters Southern City in the beginning, we actually shot in Downtown Lexington! We were very careful to only use angles that blocked out traffic and as much live action as possible. We spent a lot of time on the location search and I think it paid off very well. The best find was the "Dregs City Location". We found an area that would let us dress the sets and not bother us at all. It was a wonderful location. Adam's Lair was another marvel of set building. Steven Zimmer is the producer of the new motion picture currently in production called "Shadows Light". He had a building downtown. The first two floors were his nightclub "The Blue Max" the top floors had not been used in probably 50 years! This is where we built Adam's Lair. The process was very long and dirty but the results on the screen are well worth it. Our construction crew was just great.
Keep in mind that you can do anything we have done! Surround yourself with talented people. Surround yourself only with people who really want to make movies. Experience is not as important as drive! Most of our crew was novices when they started but became a very tight crew very fast! Let me give you a couple of examples. Tammy Bonilla had never run foam before we began production. She ended up running foam better than some of the experts! In all she ran hundreds of appliances and full zombies. Another would be Douglas Campbell, we needed a technical expert and luckily we found him. With over twenty years production experience he brought vast knowledge. Whenever we would have a technical problem he was there or a phone call away with the answer. It is these types of people who give it 100% and beyond! There are lots of "movie makers" out there who really want just the title without doing the work, avoid them. They usually take care of themselves eventually, though. You know the saying "When the going gets tough they will get gone!" Another piece of advice is never let anyone tell you "We can fix it in post" Strive to get it right the first time on the set if possible. "We can fix it in post usually means "I am just to lazy to work right now".
Q: Who did your Makeup effects and what was involved with coordinating all of that, as there are quite a few effects scenes?
Again, we trained most or our effects crew. First we began with latex appliances then moved very quickly into foam rubber appliances. Zombie Planet has no "Store bought" appliances in the entire movie. There is nothing wrong with store bought if your budget calls for them. The Woochie Brand appliances are very good. But, if you can custom fit your zombies, it will look much nicer. The process is very long, but well worth the effort. You need to learn plaster and alginate casting, foam rubber cooking and many painting techniques. We were fortunate enough that, half way through the filming; a really wonderful makeup artist named Nate Freeman came along and even added more to our techniques. David Workman headed up the effects crew. Linda Goforth was chief makeup artist; Xyliena Praeter and Sven Granlund rounded out the team. Many people helped them apply the makeup over the course of the movie. Several of the makeups took three to four hours to apply! The props were just as impressive! Ronda Baker built several weapons and well as one of the finest props I have ever seen "Fifi"! Darrell White was our master prop builder and was responsible for the large props such as "Adam's Throne" the "Dregs Lair Door" and hundreds of other items! These people are great! That again goes back to what I said about surrounding yourself with talent!
Q: What were the most difficult scenes to shoot?
Two come to mind, one is "The Death Festival" scene. The shoot was long and very grueling. Frank Farhat and Michael Van Zant had worked with Mike O'Donnell for weeks, and now the fight had to be shot. They did take after take, from angle after angle, for 18 hours straight! The crowd was on their feet cheering also for 18 hours. But we got it, and I think it is a wonderful action sequence. The second one would come from the sequel "Zombie Planet II" We shot on hot summer days on a bridge in Frankfort, KY. We were very fortunate that the city closed the bridge for us to use. The weather was so hot and the fight between Kane and the Cheney was incredibly intense! This is a beautiful fight scene. Mike O'Donnell plays Cheney and wait until you see what this guy can do! We shot for two consecutive weeks on the bridge and the results are very impressive. I can't give it away but you are going to be shocked at this scene! Every scene has its own special challenges. The best thing I can tell you is what I was told about making Zombie Planet from none other than Bruce Campbell himself. I had the good fortune to meet him. I asked him what advice he would give us about making Zombie Planet and he said this: "Preparation! Preparation! Preparation!
Q: The movie is very open-ended, so I assume you had a sequel in mind from the beginning? What happens in the sequel?
I knew the story of Zombie Planet was too long for one picture. We had created this world of the future and this takes time to develop! This is one of the reasons that "Zombie Planet II" is much faster paced, I think, than the first one! The characters are now developed the story is set and now we can finish the story arc! You will see new characters including a "Zombie Scientist"! The fate of many of the characters will be played out. The world does actually hang in the balance! Zombie Planet II is completed and the final edits will take place in the next few weeks. I wish I could say more, but I think the story has some very unexpected turns that I do not want to give away! I am confident that everyone will be surprised in one way or another by Zombie Planet II!
Q: How can people order the DVD?
Copies will be available very soon! We are talking with two different distribution companies. If we do not sign with them we will self distribute. That would mean Zombie Planet would be available on our website and or from Amazon in the next three weeks or so. Zombie Planet is coming very soon!