"Zombies Anonymous" opens with the main character, Angela, being shot in the head by her jealous boyfriend. Shocking? Yes. However, that's just the beginning. You see, the characters in this film inhabit a world where the living and the dead co-exist. So, for the rest of the film, Angela not only has to deal with the fact that she is now dead, but also the fact that most of the non-zombie population has anti-zombie feelings...
"Zombies Anonymous" is one of the best indie horrors of the year and it won various awards to prove it. We can't say enough good things about the film, as it delivers on gore, on humor and on story. Originally called "Last Rites of the Dead", "Zombies Anonymous" comes from writer/director Marc Fratto and Dead Harvey had the chance to discuss the making of the film with him.
Tell us about the idea behind “Zombies Anonymous”.
The idea came up while I was shooting my first movie, Strange Things Happen At Sundown. It was not too long after 9/11, and the U.S., and particularly New York, was still kinda reeling over the whole thing. Middle eastern people had it kinda rough in the U.S., and I remember there was a news story about some guy who shot some poor Arab dude who was just working at some store. I remember commenting to a friend at work about how some people are always looking for a new group to channel their hatred towards, and that's where it started. The original script was far more serious. I wrote a second draft that toned down the 9/11 parallels and added more humor to it to lighten it up... I still wanted to capture some of that post 9/11 angst in the movie, though, with the scenes of decapitations and pro-zombie terrorism.
How did you go about securing financing and what was the approx. budget?
We had a few people throw us some cash for the movie, but the majority of it was financed by my poor visa card.
What did you shoot on and how long was the shoot?
We shot on the Sony Hdr-fx1. The shoot was about 35 days long, but it was shot on weekends over the course of 5 months. We started in Late February 2005 and wrapped principal photography at the end of August.
The gore was fantastic, talk about the special effects.
It's funny, cause a lot of the gore had been cut for the North American release. The overseas version will be even bloodier. There are some really graphic decapitations in that version, including scenes where heads are placed on sticks, with the eyes still moving around. It's really cool stuff. The gore was supplied by Anthony Pepe, who has tons of fake body parts and guts just lying around his workshop. He also did some amazing zombie makeup too. The special effects budget was a large part of the overall budget.
The acting was another high point. How did you go about getting your actors?
Most of the actors had been in my first movie, and a few were newcomers. We found most of our actors through Backstage Magazine, and just auditioned the shit out of them until we found the best actors we could find.
The film was very “big” in idea. Talk about making such a big film and on a low-budget.
Locations and characters usually don't cost as much as you think. Most of our locations were free, and most of the actors worked for little or nothing other than food. On a really low budget, it's usually harder to have fewer locations and fewer actors, because you really need commitments from people. Especially when you're shooting on weekends over the course of 5 months. There's nothing more devastating to a low budget production than relying on one location for the entire shoot, and then having that location fall out from under you during production.
After it was all said and done, what would you have done differently?
There were a bunch of scenes that were trimmed from the last half of the movie, by the distributor. I completely understand why they were cut. In the original hour and 45 minute version, there was a lot of plot exposition to get the characters into play for the big finale. In the 90 minute North American version, the version you saw, most of those scenes are gone so the film moves along really quickly. But there are definitely some questions raised, like why does the Commandants hair change length and color; what happened to Malcolm; and why does Angela turn on the zombie cult in the end? I would have loved the opportunity to have been able to sum up those lost 15 minutes into a 2 minute montage so that the film still moved fast, but those questions were answered. But the good news is that the foreign release version will be the full directors cut, so it will be kinda cool to have those two versions floating around.
Until that version is released, though, I posted up those missing scenes on youtube at http://youtube.com/user/insaneorama since they never made it onto the deleted scenes portion of the dvd.
Talk about the festivals. What was the process like, how did the film do and what did you learn from that experience?
We were in one in New York, and one in Rhode Island, but we didn't get too crazy with festivals. We used those two festivals to get more of an audience reaction and then re-cut the film before looking for distribution.
What about distribution? Are there any lessons that you would pass on to other indie filmmakers who’ve just finished a film?
We had gotten a few offers from distributors that we had sent to early on, but Wellgo's offer was the best, and they seemed to have the biggest reach, which was what really made us want to sign with them. They did an amazing job promoting this movie.
Where can people find out more about “Zombies Anonymous” and, better yet, buy a copy?
Blockbuster, amazon.com, netflix. I'm sure an online search should turn up a number of retailers that have it.
What’s next? Do you have any projects in the works?
I just finished a script not too long ago, and i'm currently working on a second script. Nothing I want to reveal just yet, but we're going to be looking for major funding for the next movie.
For more information on Marc Fratto and Insane-O-Rama Productions, you can go to their site here or his Myspace page here. To buy your copy of "Zombies Anonymous" off Amazon, click here.