q & A
1. How is this zombie movie different from other zombie movies?
Answer: Many zombie movies use zombies as a vehicle to explore the breakdown of society once law and order are removed from the equation. We decided to keep it more personal between friends and explore what happens when the main character is seen as the threat by all around her. When she cannot trust anyone including herself. And explore the terror within that scenario.
2. How did we tackle the diversity issue when it came to our cast and crew?
Answer: This one is always an interesting question for us. The funny thing is my family is a very diversified family. I am black. My wife / writing partner is Mexican American. We have gays, bisexuals and transgender in our family. And we have white in our family. So to us it is all normal and it usually comes across in our writing without us even thinking about it. When we decided to have one of the couples be gay, it wasn't because we were trying to show diversity or check a box or have it be some elaborate plot point; it was just how we saw it. As for our crew, we have people from all walks of life. Our Executive Producer is half Japanese, half Italian. I am a black person from New York. My wife is Mexican American from the O.C. My other producer is black born and raised in L.A. The rest of my crew are a mix of blacks, Scottish, Irish, MidWestern White people, and Chinese. But honestly until I had to answer this question, I really hadn't notice as I all I see are people.
3. What is your favorite horror movie?
Answer: I'm old school so Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddy terrified me when I was younger because no one could prove he didn't exist to me. And when my Mom tried by saying he's not real, I kept telling my Mom to stop saying that as that is what the parents said in the movies before Freddy got those kids. In order to stop being afraid, I had to learn all the behind the scenes of Nightmare on Elm Street, including the actor who played Freddy, Robert Englund, how the special effects were done, and everyone who died in the movie was alive and well, off doing other movies. This one movie not only scared me out of my mind but made me very interested in knowing about the movie business. Well that and Star Wars.
4. What is your favorite horror game?
Dead by Daylight. Simple concept. Four players trying to escape. One player act as a killer and hunt down the other four. Because there is no AI, only human players, it leads to an element of unpredictability not found in other games that must follow a set path (even if multiple paths). This leads to a more frightening experience as you never know how it will turn out.
5. Being that you're black and your wife is Mexican American, why is your cast all white?
Answer: Well to clarify, the actress playing the daughter is part Samoan, but I do see what you mean. The funny thing is in our mind we originally had the character Claire as black and her husband George who was named Jorge at the time as Mexican American. But as we went through our casting process, Violet Smith completely won us over with her take on Claire and Shaun Paul Piccinino captures the spirit of George so excellently we couldn't imagine it being anyone else. And with a tight schedule, as we both have regular 9 to 5 jobs and a small window to shoot the movie, everything had to move fast. So since there was nothing in the script or story that would make us need the character to be a specific race, we decided not to hold back production because we saw a character as one race but got another, especially if the essence of the character remains intact. And we wouldn't want to. That is not how diversity works. At no point should we limit opportunity for another who is deserving of the role. Instead it should open opportunities for all people to tell all types of stories. Now if the story requires the character to be a certain race (like in my next project where the main character's whole persona is that she's a young black woman from LA), then yes, it would be an injustice to not find the actor who can fit those requirements. But if no requirements are needed, then no manufactured requirements should be mandated. Instead we should make it available and accessible for all. And usually more often than not, you get a diverse result, which is what happened for us behind the camera.
6. How long did it take to complete?
Answer: We had a rigorous shooting schedule. We had to make a complete movie in 16 days. It was rough but we managed to pull it off. I think the key is to have fun, laugh a lot, and treat everybody participating in the film like a rock star because they are. I think it also helped that the place we were shooting was my parents' home and her grandmother's home from my wife's side. This made it feel inviting because we literally were welcoming everyone to our home and our family. And it helped to have a cast and crew who were wonderful and great.
7. As a first time director, how was it? Do you have any tips?
Answer: As a first time director, you find you really have to rely on your cast and crew. They have to make up for any mistakes you will inevitably make. They will have to help you direct your movie because although you may have an understanding of what you're doing, make no mistake, as a first time director, you really do not know what you are doing. So the key is to make sure you hire good people who can be patient with you and assist you when needed and frankly is all around a good person. And if you pick the right people, they will usually be the ones who will assist you, never make you feel inept, and will go the extra mile for you, knowing you are learning the ropes. The good people would want you to succeed because they will succeed with you. Thankfully, I hired well.
8. Is there anything you wish you could have done differently?
Answer: Always. Like most filmmakers you always see what you could have done better. But the truth is, no matter how much money you have, no matter what changes you make, there are always more that could be done. So the real question is when should you let go? When is it good enough? And the answer is simple, yet complex. It is good enough when you feel the audience will like it. If you genuinely feel this is the best movie you can make and you feel that the audience will enjoy it, then it is time to release it. Now again the answer sounds simple but it is complex because it is hard to tell what the audience will gravitate to. So in the end, you just have to make the best movie you can with what you think the audience would like and then hope for the best. So hopefully, everyone enjoys the film.