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An Interview with Alek Gearhart, Director of Ridge War Z

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2013

Films directed by Alek Gearhart on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new film Ridge War Z - in a few words, what is it about?


The horrors and brotherhood that young men experience in war - any war.


Having been in the army yourself - is any of Ridge War Z based on personal experiences or actual battlefield accounts (apart from the zombie stuff of course)?


Some is based on personal experiences in dealing with frustration with leadership and long hours. I have never been in combat personally. A major influence on this project was Eugine Sledge's book With the Old Breed and how he described the horrors of war.


Basic question: Why zombies, is that a subgenre at all dear to you, and why (not)?


It is not particularly dear to me but we wanted this to be about a war that would remind people of the modern war that is going on currently in Afghanistan without directly portraying that war. We had no real budget and needed an enemy for our boys to fight that would be a metaphor for the horrors of an unseen enemy.


Any other sources of inspiration when writing Ridge War Z?


The Forgotten Soldier - Guy Sajar's memoir about serving as a German on the Russian Front, and With the Old Breed by Eugine Sledge about the horrors he experienced in the Pacific theater of WW2.


Of all the characters in Ridge War Z, who do you identify with the most, and why?


Perez - not for his bravery nescessarily but for his faith in Jesus and attempted kindness towards his buddies.


How would you describe your directorial approach to your story at hand?


Realistic. Our goal is to make it feel as realistic as possible. For this one we had a vision but had numerous people drop out of the filming. Nearly all of the roles that people played in the film were supposed to be played by other individuals. But when we made this we has no clout and had to depend on the time available to friends and family. So in the end the approach was to finish it no matter what or who we had.


At times, Ridge War Z gets quite violent and bloody, so for the sake of all the gorehounds among my readers, do talk about your gore effects for a bit!


Honestly we had so few people and resources that we mostly just used after effects and hamburger meat for the gore you saw.


What can you tell us about your key cast, and why exactly these people?


Dominique Bell and Manuel Eduardo Ramirez are great actors and are really the only ones with acting experience. The others Such as Travis and Dane O'Leary (Briggs) are good friends of mine who know what it is like to be in stressful situations. Dane was in the Navy and works as a fire fighter for the forest service - Travis works as a hotshot for the US Forest service. Kyle Gordon basically plays himself flawlessly - he was my chainsaw partner when I was a hotshot for the forest service, and some of his outbursts and comedy in this film are based on things he does and has done.


A few words about your locations, how easy/hard to find were they, and what were the advantages and challenges of filming there? And what can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


We filmed in Phelan, Ca - guerrilla style. We descided we were going to make it there and without permission began construction on the large combat outpost at the top of the hill. People could see it but in order to get to it to mess with it they would have quite the hike ahead of them. It still stands today. We had no problem with people and were left alone. The war portion was filmed in 2 days - the return to the ridge was filmed in one and the type-writing stuff and narration was filmed in 2 hours. We treated the first two days as a camp-out and kept high spirits while making the film no matter who left or who didn't show up. It was a fun time filled with beer drinking and camp fires.


A few words about critical and audience reception of your movie so far?


Some people are thrown off by the Ridge War Z title and that there is limited zombies- some hate it for that. They believe that it was made to rip off World War Z but it wasn't. It was made before that film came out and is more about being a modern infantryman than anything. People are coming around and are seeing it for what it is and are enjoying it. Many soldiers can see that we kept the proper jargon and manarisms of soldiers.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


We made a successful full length fan film about the origin of the Joker called Joker Rising that was popular online. We are going to make a sequel to that, The City with Two Faces, and will then begin pre-production on a new film called Agape about 8 different stories throughout time connected by a single act of selfless love - films should be done next year.


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Germany (East AND West)

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x-rated  find Alek Gearhart at

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


No formal training. I watched a documentary about Steven Spielberg and the making of Saving Private Ryan and knew I wanted to do this with my life.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Ridge War Z?


Many short films over the years. Took a long break from it in 2008 till 2012 for army and the forest service then started to go back at it.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


Quick and un-trained by school and Hollywood.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Terrence Mallick, Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia), and Steven Spielberg.


Your favourite movies?


Schindler's List, Children Of Men, The Thin Red Line, Babe 2 Pig in the City (no joke), Magnolia


... and of course, films you really deplore?


Crank 1 - 2, Saw-series (besides the first one), Hills Have Eyes 2.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


Thanks for the interview!


Thank you!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD