The world of indie horror has seen an onslaught of zombie films lately and, quite frankly, I'm cool with that... mainly because I love the zombie genre and, also, because a lot of them are pretty f'ing good. Now, I don't think people are just aching to make zombie films, I think there's more to it than that. I mean, first off, they're probably the easiest sub-genre to make and secondly, it's tough to f up a zombie film. The only problem is, when you're flooded with zombie movies, you better be able to stand out ...and I think "Forever Dead" does just that. As soon as I saw this crazed rabbit escape from some suspect labratory and wander off into the woods on a mission to bite people, I was sold. Oh, and from there, you'll get all the low-budget blood, guts and gore you need. That rabbit keeps showing up, too... although he doesn't look so good by the end of the film. "Forever Dead" comes from the extremely talented Christine Parker, who is also behind the upcoming "Fistful of Brains". She's doing some great work in the world of indie horror and Dead Harvey had the chance to discuss her film with her...
Tell me about the idea behind “Forever Dead”… what made you go out and make a zombie flick?
It actually started with a short film we did the year before (2004) called Second Death. Me and a few of my classmates from our Television Production class were inspired by our teacher Joe Wilson who said he’d help us make a short zombie film if someone would come up with a script. I wrote a script about 6 people trapped in a creepy old house surrounded by zombies and Joe directed it and edited it for us. We had so much fun and really felt the story needed to be explored more extensively. So I wrote the prequel to the story Forever Dead. This time I bought my own equipment and ultimately ended up as Director and Editor for the movie. You can see excerpts from Second Death at the beginning and end of Forever Dead.
How did you go about securing financing and what was the approx. budget?
Financing was initially what I had in my bank account. No one in this movie was paid so that wasn’t an issue. We mainly needed to pay for food for cast and crew, equipment, makeup, and lots of mini dv tapes. Darrell Parker who is a good friend of mine and a fellow filmmaker came up with the idea of raising money on ebay by selling credits for the movie. This turned out to be an excellent idea and we raised about $2000 dollars doing that. We still keep in touch with all those guys and some of them have followed us into our next project, Fistful of Brains, and have continued to contribute.
What did you shoot on and how long was the shoot?
We used a Canon GL2 and shot it all on Mini DV. It took us about 8 months of weekends to shoot with is a total of around 32-35 days.
One of the highlights for me was the gore… “Forever Dead” was filled with it AND it looked great. I especially liked the various ‘Romero-esque’ stomach’s being ripped open. Tell us about the effects. Which were your favorites and how were they achieved?
Well our FX guy Bill Mulligan should really be the one to tell you all about that. He was absolutely amazing, the stuff he did with nothing really. I have to say the stomach rip with that guy running out of the woods was my favorite because it just looked so real! Bill used a lot of foam gelatin for this movie because it looks very realistic, it’s reusable, cheap, and lightweight, and not as irritating as latex is. He made a pocket with plastic wrap that he stuck to the guys chest and filled with all sorts of stuff. Then he covered it with a layer of flesh colored foam gelatin. Covered is with a shirt and it looked just like his own skin. It ripped really well too. We also bought hog casings at the local butcher shop and stuffed them with a mixture of cherry pie filling, brownie mix, cherry jello mix and caramel syrup. I’m told it was fairly tasty! Some people actually think we bought real intestines and innards from the butcher shop, which is a pretty high compliment.
I couldn’t get enough of the puppet rabbit. Any reason there was a reoccurring rabbit theme? Where’d that idea come from?
Well let’s just say I’m a big Monty Python fan. A lot of people loved the rabbit and I wish we could have used him more but he was a bit of a stinker. We kept him in Bill’s freezer and thawed him out whenever he had a scene. By the end of the shoot he was looking pretty nasty!
There were a lot of characters in the film, which you rarely see in low-budget films. How did you go about managing such a big cast and not have any glaring continuity problems?
That was pretty difficult coordinating everyone’s schedules etc. It was made more difficult when one of our lead actors Patrick Loree who played Lupus quit halfway through the movie. We’d shot the last half of the movie first fortunately so I had to rewrite it to cover the fact that he wasn’t in it. That’s why you see a lot of POV stuff and just hear his voice. I had taped our first read thru so I had him reading the lines and used that. We also used a fake Jeff Shemp for a lot of stuff. The first shot of the movie with him in the car and entering the building was someone else. Everyone else was great. They were all really committed to the movie and a lot of them had worked with us on Second Death so I never had a problem with people not showing up or not knowing what was going on. When you find a good group of people you stick with them. Many of them continue to work on our projects and I’ll keep using them until the get sick of me.
Let’s talk about the scene where you blocked off traffic, had all the cars piled up and, generally, caused havoc. To me, it would seem like an impossible scene to pull off when you’re a low-budget production. How’d you do it?
Again Darrell helped us out. He’s always looking for good locations. And found this cool dead end road that had been cut in half when the highway went through. There were no houses or traffic to deal with. We contacted the DOT for Moore County and got their permission to shoot for two days. They even gave us some roadblocks to use just to make sure no one interfered with the scene. Didn’t cost us a thing.
After it was all said and done, what would you have done differently?
Oh a whole lot of stuff. I would have shot in frame mode so it looked less like video. I would have not gone so overboard with the filters and effects. I would probably have cut back on some of the gore so people weren’t numb to it by the end of the movie. But that’s what first movies are for, learn from your mistakes and make a better one the next time.
Did you enter any festivals? If so, how did that go and what did you think of the experience?
Yes we did. We put it in the Ava Gardner Film Festival in Smithfield and won the audience award for best Narrative Feature. Of course that was a great experience. We also showed it at the Atlanta Horror Fest. Didn’t get to go to that one but we heard it was well received. Last February it showed at Connooga in Tennessee. I have to say that’s been our best experience so far because we actually got treated like celebrities. We got the luxury suite and a free table at the Expo with the other celebrities. We did a lot of panels on filmmaking and FX. Made a lot of friends. It was a great time!
What about distribution? How’s that going? Are there any lessons that you would pass on to other indie filmmakers who’ve just finished a film?
Distribution is going great! Brain Damage Films has been very good to us. We had an excellent turnout at both of our DVD release signings at Sam Goodys in Sanford and Suncoast Video in Cary. I would say make sure you specify that it has to be a stand alone release if it’s a feature. Also put a limit on how long they can hold onto it before releasing it. We had them release it within a year of getting them the files. Also make sure your files are really well organized!
Where can people find out more about “Forever Dead” and, better yet, buy a copy?
You can visit the website at theforeverdead.com or go to our company myspace page where I’ve chronicled the making of Forever Dead in numerous blogs myspace.com/adrenalin_productions. You can buy copies at Amazon.com, Suncoast video, FYI, and Sam Goodies. You can also get it through NetFlix, Blockbuster Online, and Best Buy online. Or if you’re really poor it’s a pretty popular torrent download.
What’s next? Do you have any projects in the works?
Oh yes we have lots of stuff coming up. I’m in post production now for our latest feature Fistful of Brains. We’re premiering it September 27th 2008 at 9pm at the Ava Gardner Film Festival. It’s a horror western and once again we were very lucky to have some of our old e-bay friends help us out with the financing. Check out fistfulofbrains.com or myspace.com/fistfulofbrains. In our spare time we also did a short film called Getting a Head in the Movie Biz about a special FX guy (Bill Mulligan) who loses his mind trying to make the perfect head for a low budget horror movie. We’re also premiering that one at Ava Gardner. We have another short we’re doing for one of our contributors/Executive Producers this winter and we start production on our next feature A Few Brains More: Summer of Blood in 2009. It’s a continuation of Fistful of Brains but takes place in the late 1960’s. We’re really hoping someone will throw a substantial amount of money our way this time so we can actually pay people. And I really need a new camera!