LitM The Zombie-Apocalypse genre seems as popular as ever with various films, TV series and video games out there. Why do think people are so fascinated by zombies?
Kevin I think we're all zombies really. We move from queue to queue, wander shopping centres aimlessly and exist in humdrum 9 to 5 jobs. We've all said at times we feel like a zombie today, so people can identify with them. Place that into a fantasy context where you have to shoot them in the head and people love it. We had no end of people volunteering to be extras in World of the Dead.
LitM What can zombie fans expect World of the Dead to bring to the genre?
Kevin If you haven't seen the first film, it doesn't matter. I wrote the script so it works as both a standalone film and a sequel. Of course, people who have seen the first film will know a little more about some of the characters. But there's a lot more action, lots more blood and importantly lots more zombies! It's a post-apocalyptic road movie as the group of soldiers try to make it to the coast and their only escape – a boat out of England. In their way stand hordes of the walking dead and vicious bandits instilling their own law and order on the country. It's unlike the first film in that it follows a single narrative structure.
LitM Kevin, how did you and Mike meet?
Kevin We first met in around 2002 when I stumbled across Mike's blog www.makingthefilm.com and found out he lived in the same town as me. I dropped him an email and soon found out he not only lived in the same town, but the same road as me – literally across the street! We soon started collaborating on a short film and then of course, The Zombie Diaries.
LitM What made you decide to direct the film together?
Kevin We'd worked together and got on really well, plus we lived in the same town, so it made the collaboration that much easier. But we did originally envisage three directors for Zombie Diaries, one for each segment. However we couldn't find someone to fit the bill for the third story, so we worked more closely together on this one and it turned out the best of the three. If you watch the original Zombie Diaries, 'The Outbreak' segment is the one that is by far my favourite.
LitM What are the benefits of having two directors on set at the same time?
Kevin It was vital on World of the Dead, because I was attending to camera duties as well as directing. We would block the action out together and then during the take Mike would concentrate on the performances and I would concentrate on the photography. It worked really well.
LitM What are the challenges of having two directors on set at the same time?
Kevin There are only challenges if the two directors want different things from the film. Mike and I always seem to have this shared vision and know what each other is thinking and what we both want from a scene. So it is only beneficial to us.
Mike Yes, we are blessed in that we think the same way about things – we joke that we have a psychic ability. I have known others who have tried co-directing, and sadly none of those collaborations have ever worked out. It normally ends up with people falling out. It makes working with Kevin a pleasure and although we are more than capable of working on our own, I always look forward to our joint projects.
LitM If you were surviving a zombie-apocalypse, what would be your weapon of choice? Why?
Kevin Having read Max Brooks's excellent Zombie Survival Guide, I'll go for an M1 Carbine. They may be old, but they're reliable. You don't need a rapid fire assault rifle when dealing with the living dead.
Mike For me it's the chain-saw. I even have a bumper sticker on my car encouraging people to follow me in a zombie apocalypse – it has a big orange chain-saw as the graphic!
LitM Do you play video games? Do you have any zombie themed favourites?
Kevin Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare is the one for me on the PS3. Hours of fun riding through the wild west on horseback blasting the living dead in the head!
Mike Nocturne. A brilliant game made by Gathering of Developers in 2000. Also Flesh Feast released by Sony. A little gem of a game. Also released around the same time. I haven't played video games since I got married, as otherwise the marriage would be over.
LitM Which films/directors have influenced you?
Kevin There are two key films and two key directors for me. Night of the Living Dead directed by George Romero was such an influence on me at a young age. It was a seminal horror movie and an inspiration to countless filmmakers to pick up a camera and have a go at their own horror movie. It's one of those films I'll always put on once a year and enjoy as much as the first time I saw it. The other film is John Carpenter's The Thing. I still think this film is untouchable in the annals of horror/sci-fi and still stands up incredibly well today. It marked the high point in Carpenter's career that I don't think he has come close to emulating since then.
Mike I also have two films that really influenced me when I was young. I use the term influenced to mean films made me sit up and notice the style, and the film-making, and it's something that contributed a lot to my development as a director. The first was Martin by George Romero. The second was The Vanishing (The original Dutch version). There is something about the immersion and pacing of these films – they draw you in and put you right there.
LitM Are there any nods to these influences in the film for fans to look out for?
Kevin Although World of the Dead is indebted to Night of the Living Dead, the other influences are from more varied sources. Viewers may well spot references to Schindler's List, The Road, Deliverance and even Planet of the Apes. It's important the influences are subtle. Often these days the nods are too obvious and protracted and descend into fanboy parodies.
Mike I would go a step further and say that there are way too many fanboys directing films these days – maybe 95% of all horrors. I think Eli Roth spent more time mimicking shots from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre than he did tying to make an original contribution to the horror genre. You cannot deny the commercial power of these derivative films, but it reminds me of 3D. Is there any substance there? I don't see it. I have only seen one film in the last 12 months that I would term Original and Bold, The Divide by Xavier Gens. A masterpiece of horror.
LitM What attracted you to shooting Zombie Diaries in a documentary style?
Kevin It was naturally an economical reason for the first Zombie Diaries film, but it also allowed an unparalleled realism, certainly for a zombie movie. We wanted to make movie with a very dark atmosphere to it and the video diary approach really enhanced that feeling. We shot Zombie Diaries before the explosion of 'shaky-cam' movies like Cloverfield, REC and even Diary of the Dead. We had just announced a preview screening of Zombie Diaries when Romero announced Diary of the Dead was going into production. The subsequent wave of these movies only helped us and bred a new sub-genre that is now a commonly accepted approach to feature film making.
LitM The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill is billed as your next release for 2012; What led you to another documentary project?
Kevin The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill is set around the true legend at Clophill village, which is only a few miles from my home town. There are stories connected to black magic, animal sacrifice and paranormal activity. It was a project I'd wanted to do for years, but it was about finding the right approach. After Zombie Diaries I thought it would be good to take a similar documentary style, but this time to do something that was totally real. So we set up interviews with witnesses and experts, assembled a small documentary crew, including Mike and myself and spent a long weekend investigating the legend in depth, filming everything as we went. We found out that Clophill really does live up to its sinister reputation. The film is currently in post production and will be out next year.
Mike A big drive behind doing this film was the fact that Kevin and I were starting to get a bit fed up with all the in-fighting and game playing that was going on just to get ourselves in a position to make World of the Dead. Kevin came up with the idea of The Paranormal Diaries in early 2010, because ultimately we both know what makes a good film, and it's exciting to be able to just get the fuck on with it, rather than pissing around with inexperienced people who don't have a clue about the industry (normally with a Job Description of 'Head of Development') who take ages to get anything done. So, I took it to a financier that I know and who trusts me, based on my track-record with investment-profit ratios. He liked it. He wired the money a few days later, and Kevin and I went off and made the thing; no nonsense. It was by far the best time of the year (I enjoyed it much more than World of the Dead) and Kevin and I already have lots of interest from Sales Agents. The best part is we are free to sign what we want with whom we want, when we want. I've seen half the film already (Kevin is still editing it) and I can only describe it as the perfect Halloween film.
LitM Which is your first love; directing; acting; or writing?
Kevin Writing and directing go hand in hand for me, but the writing process is my first love. Mainly because you are boundless at the start, you can perfectly visualise your film and the world it exists in. Directing is, of course, a huge passion, which presents the challenge of bringing that vision to the screen. On a low budget you are always having to compromise and it's a hard fought battle to maintain that vision all the way to the final cut.
Mike For me, directing comes the most naturally. I find it hard to focus on the process of writing and rewriting a script, especially when the process spans several years and several producers, all of whom have a different opinion. For World of the Dead I actually did the entire sound mix and most of the sound design with one of our post supervisors, Michael Guy Ellis. I didn't take a credit for it – but it is a classic example of how you end up performing many roles on low budget productions. It was gruelling and made tougher by additional time restrains placed on us by The Weinstein Company. Directing is a completely different skill, and despite the stress placed on you from the weather, it is by far the thing I'm best at.
LitM The first Zombie Diaries movie was a low-budget production; how did you overcome the challenges of making a horror movie on a shoestring budget?
Kevin It was ultra low budget and the only thing we spent money on were the special make up effects for the zombies as they had to look good. We used an unknown cast, but got some cracking performances. There are so many good, but unknown actors out there and it's such a pleasure to discover them. What we did though was not to try to make a Hollywood movie as that wouldn't have worked. We had to use the low budget to our advantage at every opportunity. The film was therefore shot on consumer DV camcorders and edited on our home PCs. It doesn't get much more low budget than that! But that only served to heighten the sense of reality. The rougher the look, the better!
LitM What were the most memorable moments for you during the making of this movie?
Kevin It was such a cold winter and we were shooting outside in the snow for most of the film. The atmosphere is what I remember fondly. We were in this isolated village in Surrey called Frensham for most of the time and practically cut off. So it really felt like we were in another world in this snow covered wilderness. The real world seemed so distant for those few weeks and it was a real escapist adventure. That sense of atmosphere and adventure is what I'll remember most.
Mike The best memory for me was what I labelled my Children of Men sequence. One hundred zombies. Half a mile of terrain. Multiple Effects. One take. We needed an entire day to shoot that sequence, but it is one of my favourite in the movie. The worst memory is of the cold. It became so hazardous that I started to lose the feeling in my hands one day and then shortly after went down with a flu bug. The non-stop 19 hour days made it a lot worse. Our production designer, Mike Bell, is a veteran who has worked on all kinds of budgets, and he ranks World of the Dead right up there with regard to gruelling shoots.
LitM What have you learnt from your experiences as filmmakers?
Kevin Being an independent filmmaker, you have to be multi-skilled. On World of the Dead I was the writer, co-director, director of photography, camera operator and stills photographer. Anyone who is making a low budget movie needs to have many skills, otherwise you are forced to rely on other people to achieve what you want. On a bigger budget film, that is of course the way it works, but one important thing I have learnt on low budget film-making is never rely on anyone but yourself to get the job done.
Mike On the flip-side, we have tried to get a big budget film off of the ground over the last few years, a time travel film called TIMELESS. Our experiences have been much the same as a lot of other filmmakers I have known, which is sadly that when you start making films where you rely on other people in some capacity (Producing, financing) you meet a lot of time wasters. There is also miles of red-tape and game playing, especially if you have signed options to help get your foot in the door. It's bruising, but it makes you much, much smarter and switched on to how the industry works. I'm a lot less polite than I used to be because I have come to realise 99% of the industry are cold blooded, lazy and have never even seen the envelope, let alone tried to push it.
LitM Are there any plans for a third in the diaries series?
Kevin I wrote the script for World of the Dead in such a way that it sets up a third film. I am currently writing a new walking dead movie, which exists in the same sort of world as Zombie Diaries, but isn't related. However, it all depends on the interest in doing a third Zombie Diaries film. If World of the Dead goes down well, then there may be a third and possibly final film in a trilogy.
LitM Thanks so much for taking the time to get Lost in the Multiplex with us. It has been a real pleasure to see firsthand the enthusiasm you have for the genre. We wish you all the best with The Paranormal Diaries and hope you will come and see us again when it hits the screens.
World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries is available to buy on DVD from 27th June.