Your new webseries Dead
Kansas - in a few words, what is it about?
Kansas is a five-act post-apocalyptic zombie web-series. Our
main heroine, Emma, lives on a boring farm with her father. Her
day consists of shooting Rottens (aka: the zombies) and picking
vegetables. Meanwhile, a ruthless band of survivors, lead by
Jebediah, make a plan to kidnap Emma to sell her for a
big profit. After a wicked tornado hits the farm, Emma's father
gets bit by a Rotten. She must go out on a journey, into the unknown
to find help. Along the way she meets oddball characters
and has several run-ins with Jebediah. What happens next, well,
you'll just have to see for yourself.
zombies, is that a genre at all dear to you, and some of your genre
favourites? And what do you think makes Dead
Kansas stick out of the crowd?
Yes, I love zombie films. I love horror, sci-fi, and
fantasy too. In fact, I love all types of films. Some of my
favorite horror films include: Night Of The Living
Dead, Evil Dead II,
Nightmare On Elm
Psycho, Fright Night
I'm also a huge fan of the TV Series The Walking
I think they are doing an excellent job with the zombie genre and I love
where the show is going. With Dead
Kansas, we didn't want to copy
their style. In fact, Dead
Kansas is very, very far from Walking
Kansas is more "family-friendly". Its not
as dark and there is very little blood and gore. We also made a
conscious effort not to have cussing in it.
The reason my zombie film sticks out from the crowd, is
because we don't actually show the zombies. They are simulated via
Point Of View by the camera. The actors would react to the camera as
if it were a zombie. The POV shots are also done in black &
white, with an echo-like sound overdub. We figured the zombies would
be color-blind. To my knowledge, this is one of the first zombie
films to extensively use the POV approach.
Alexandria Lightford, Aaron Guerrero
One can't help
but notice quite a few
Wizard of Oz-references in Dead
Kansas - care to elaborate?
Yes, there are several
Wizard of Oz references in Dead
Wizard of Oz is another
one of my favorites. It's just one of those perfect movies that can
never be re-made. However, we (very subtly) borrowed from the
film. Many of the characters, locations, and plots are similar to
the 1939 film.
What can you tell us about your
co-writers and the actual writing process?
This is the
first movie I ever directed and wrote. I produced it too.
Writing the first draft went pretty quick. But we took time in going
over it, over and over again, to make it well-polished. I always had
a rough time with the middle act (Act 3 of the web-series). Emma meets a lot of new characters at that point - I think four within a
couple pages. I ended up moving Skinny's character from Doctor
Emerson's house to the Freak Show. And I moved Leo's character from
Doctor Emerson's house to reluctantly be part of Jebediah's gang. It
worked much better that way.
How would you
describe your directorial approach to your story at hand?
terms of how the shots were set-up, I was pretty firm. I
knew what I wanted and didn't want. However, when it came to the
actors, I gave them free range to change the dialogue a little bit. Dead
Kansas has a lot of characters in it. To make each one unique
was a challenge. Basically, I gave them the script and if they could
say the line in a better way, I was all for it.
Erin Miracle, Alexandria Lightford
Kansas' lead character Emma changes actress about halfway through
- so what can you tell us about that, about both your leading ladies
Alexandria Lightford and Erin Miracle, and what did each bring to the
I think both ladies did an equally excellent job as
Emma. We filmed the first two Acts with Alexandria. At the end
of the second act, she announced that she was pregnant - a few months in
actually. By the time we'd be starting the third act, I think she
would've been showing too much. Plus, I didn't want her to over
stress herself with the film. After much debate, we ended up
changing the lead actress mid-way through the movie. Erin Miracle
was our choice. They both bring different sides to Emma.
This isn't the first time an actress has been changed in a movie. In
fact this has happened in some of my favorites: Back To The Future,
Dark Knight, Matrix, Hannibal, etc. On the bright side, now there
are two beautiful women in the film!
What can you tell us about the rest of your cast,
and why exactly these people?
Making a film can be
expensive. It is also very, very time demanding. Many of the
actors in Dead
Kansas are my close friends. They are the only ones I
knew I could count on. For most of them, its their first
time out-the-door doing acting. I think they all did great
jobs. In fact, Kevin Beardsley plays two characters in the film. Can
you spot him?
I've seen Joe McQueen around at comic book conventions.
We'd always say hello and talk briefly about the scene. One day I
saw him in a documentary called Confessions of a SuperHero.
It follows several of the dress-up characters from the streets of
Hollywood. To my surprise, Joe was one of them. He played the Hulk. Joe confessed that he came out to Hollywood to become an
actor, but no one gave him a chance. That resonated with me.
When the time came, I cast him as Skinny. He did an amazing job.
Always knew his lines and gave off great emotion.
The other genre actors such as Irwin Keyes (House Of 1000
Corpses), Ben Woolf (American Horror Story: Freakshow) and Juliette
Danielle (The Room) came as a blessing. They were fans of the first
act and agreed when I asked them aboard. I was very fortunate to
have a well diverse, talented cast.
Do talk about the shoot as
such, and the on-set atmosphere?
There are many locations in Dead
Kansas. Some of them
were pre-arranged, and some of them we shot guerrilla-style around the San
Fernando Valley. Depending on how long we could film, and the
weather, determined my stress-level. The Freak Show scene (Act 2)
was shot at a circus-themed bar in North Hollywood. We only had
four hours to shoot there. In film time, that's very short. I
directed that at a machine gun rate - one or two takes each shot.
Jebediah's base was filmed at my long-time friend Adam Ledezma's house.
He also co-produced and co-directed Dead
Kansas. Those scenes were
much less stressful, because we had the time to get it done right.
Sound was also an issue. Being in an apocalypse, you'd
figure there wouldn't be any passing cars. Unfortunately, we
Kansas in the city. So as you can imagine, there'd be
helicopters flying overhead, car alarms going off, lawnmowers, people
talking, gun shots, dogs barking, etc. etc. Those sound nuisances
drove me crazy. Fortunately, our sound editor got a lot of that out.
A few words about
critical and audience reception of your movie so far?
budget restraints usually get brought up, but overall the verdict is that
people really like the film. We've won several awards from the film
festival circuit and have been on many radio shows and podcasts.
Kansas DVD was also part of the Saturn Awards gift bags.
The Saturn Awards are like the Oscars, but honor sci-fi,
fantasy, and horror films.
Adam Ledezma and Aaron K. Carter
at the Saturn Awards
the ending being open, will there ever be a sequel to Dead
Kansas? And other future projects you'd like to share?
love to continue the series. Gosh, there are just so many directions
it can go. We've talked about focusing on Jebediah and his quest for
the cure. Perhaps he becomes the hero / good guy?
got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
I've always loved going to the movies. My parents had
little restriction on what I could and couldn't watch. Naturally, I
was attracted to sci-fi and horror. When I made my way to college, I
took a lot of film theory courses. I learned a lot, but was unhappy
that they focused so much on the "classics": Citizen Kane,
Casablanca, Yankee Doodle
Dandy, etc. No offense, but I really just
didn't care about those. I wanted to learn about "my"
movies in school. I ended up having to do that on my own time.
Where I really learned about how "the industry"
works is when I was a page (aka: usher) for the TV shows. Basically,
we'd move the audience members into their seats, and took them to the
bathroom during cuts. That experience taught me more that any school
could. I was literally watching how the pros did it live.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, Francis Ford Coppola, Sergio Leone, Clint
Eastwood, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Sam Raimi,
George Romero, Wes Craven, Don Coscarelli, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley
Kubrick, John Carpenter, Tommy Wiseau ... the list goes on. There are so
many great ones.
There are simply too many to name.
Take the directors' films I named above. If you could see my DVD
collection, you'd be in awe. I tend to like films made in the 70s,
80s, and 90s. However, the rule can always be broken.
else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Yes, let's talk about the Dead
Adam Ledezma and I were in a heavy metal / punk band called Power Of
Aggression. We were active during the late-90s, early 2000s.
When a soundtrack was needed, we resorted to the Power Of Aggression
demo-tape that we
recorded over ten years ago. I think the songs still hold up and go
along great with the film.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Kansas is available for FREE on YouTube.
Check it out, no strings attached! People ask why in the world I'd
"give away" my film. I'm more interested in getting the Dead
Kansas name out there. It's not going to get noticed just
sitting on my DVD shelf. Plus, I want to show the world what the
actors and myself can do with a little ambition and creativity.
IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2177336/
Thanks for the interview!