Tell us a bit about the project you just completed.
Guy: It’s called I Survived a Zombie Holocaust. It’s available now on iTunes and DVD. It was one of the feature films funded by The New Zealand Film Commission back in 2011, so it’s just been completed now. So it’s taken us five years to finish the film. It had its limited theatrical run in cinemas about a month ago and now can be bought online and on DVD.
What’s the storyline?
Guy: Basically a film crew are shooting a B-zombie film out in the middle of nowhere and then real zombies attack the zombie film set. Nodoby knows what’s real and what’s not and it’s up to a young runner called Wesley Pennington to try and escape the film set with a group of survivors. It’s a horror-zombie comedy similar of brain dead and evil dead.
Where did you get the idea for it?
Guy: I got the idea when I was writing another feature film which also had zombies in it but was a lot more generic and cliché. But there was one scene where they came across a crew who were shooting a zombie film and they didn’t know that real zombies had attacked the set. It was only one scene in the film but that idea stuck with me and I thought it was a really great concept so I ended up expanding it out several years later and it becoming the film you see today.
What are some of the challenges which came with making it?
Guy: This is the first feature film I’ve directed. The biggest challenges were to do with budget. We had $250,000 which is not very much when you are trying to do special effects, gore have hundreds of zombies attack people and do all sorts of crazy eloborate set peices. So I think the hardest thing was managing that without having the resources to fully realise our vision.
Where did you film?
Guy: We did most of the filming in Dunedin, which is my home town. I was living there at the time. Mainly around Seacliff, there was an old mental asylum there which has now been torn down in it’s place is this very beautiful but creepy forest. So that is where we filmed most of it. And we filmed a few bits and pieces and a couple of pick ups here in Auckland.
Who are some of the cast and crew to feature in it?
Guy: Harley Neville plays the lead role. We’ve worked together on as part of our own company Pigville Productions for years and has several ads running on television at the moment. I’ve also worked with our lead actress Jocelyn Christian previously, who’s perhaps best known for starring in Bogan Family Films. Some of the other cast were Mike Edward who’s been in Spartacus and Shortland Street and recently the new Evil Dead TV series Ash Vs Evil dead. And Reanin Johannink, who has starred in Shortland Street; her most recent film is All Cheerleaders Die. But we had a wealth of excellent actors that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
What’s something about filmmaking that not a lot of people may be aware of?
Guy: That’s a good question. Ultimately I think one big things is people have the same expectations for a low budget film as they do for a big budget film. For the audience its all the same, so you can’t hide behind the ‘Oh I couldn’t afford to do this or that,’ so I deserve more leeway than you would give a film you went out and saw like The Avengers. But matching audience those audience expectations is much more difficult with a more limited budget. It’s much harder to do the same things they do. It’s possible. But it just requires a much higher level of difficulty and sacrifice. And I don’t necessarily think people make that distinction when thinking about going to see the film.
What’s the feedback been like?
Guy: We’ve had super amazing positive response for the most part. We played at a bunch of festivals all over the world. And we’ve had really awesome feedback. Here in NZ we’ve played a bunch of sold out screenings now, the same with Wellington, Dundein and Christchurch. It’s been fantastic to see people watch the film and respond to it. People have really enjoyed the film and it’s been great.
Who are some filmmakers you look up to?
Guy: My favourite is probably Stanley Kubrick. Then there’s Sam Raimi, John Carpenter, Robert Zemickis and of course Peter Jackson as well. I’m also a big fan of Woody Allen.
Is it hard to get into the New Zealand film market?
Guy: I think it’s tricky. There are a limited amount of opportunities and a limited amount of money. So there’s just not enough to go around for all the talented people out there to make a feature. Being part of a small industry means there’s less work. But I believe the way film technology is these days, you have a much bigger advantage than you would have had twenty or thirty years ago to make a good looking feature film now. What costs thousands of dollars now would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars at a certain point. So there are some definite advantages to making films now.
Is this your full time job?
Guy: It is full time in the sense that I spend 40-50 hours a week working on films. I do still have another job which helps pay the bills. So filmmaking certainly does not pay for a nice house or a nice car just yet. To a degree it is a labour of love but it is something I believe I can transition into full time.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
Guy: My next project is called Older, a romantic drama which is obviously very different from the zombie film. It is much more about relationships, the story involves a love triangle and what it means to sort of become an adult and how our generation of twenty-somethings transition into that role after an extended period of adolosence.