Your upcoming film State of Desolation - in a few words,
what's it going to be about?
Fathers, daughters, and the end of the world.
zombie films being a dime a dozen these days - is that a genre at all dear
to you, some of your genre favourites, and what will make your film stand
out of the crowd?
I’m from Pittsburgh,
where they practically show us George Romero’s Night
of the Living Dead in school… it’s very core to the identity of
the town, and I doubt anyone would argue it’s the blueprint for
everything that’s come after. The cool thing about the zombie apocalypse
that it combines the zombie horror element with this Road
Warrior aesthetic (which is another of my favorite films), so to me
it’s the best of both worlds. There’s not only danger from the dead,
but there’s a human element to deal with - people who, when there’s no
law anymore, become just as dangerous as the zombies. Maybe more.
I think what sets State of
Desolation apart is this very strong dramatic hook, focusing on just
two main characters instead of the usual group of 5-12
expendable/interchangeable protagonists. I think there's an honesty to our
two heroes, and to the bond that develops between them as they try to
survive. At the same time, we're dedicated to delivering all the action,
makeup and special effects that fans expect from the zombie genre.
Other sources of inspiration when
writing State of Desolation?
When we started I gave Craig Stark (Freddie) my copy of
Yojimbo to watch again. There's
a lot of that character in Freddie.
How would you
describe your directorial approach to your subject at hand?
I try and approach both the dramatic scenes and the
action/effects scenes the same way, so there's a naturalness to the flow
of the storyline. Mostly in both the writing and directing I’m
going for humanity and believability over stylization or showmanship - the
backdrops and wardrobe and makeup do plenty of that. Basically it’s all
about telling the story of two people, and what it takes for them to
survive, and not overcomplicate it by trying to show off or be gimmicky.
films usually suggest quite some blood and guts - so how far do you plan
to go concerning that aspect of your movie, and anything you can tell us
about your movie's gore effects?
Last week we got
together with an expert and did a little machete fight training seminar
with our main actors Jamie Bernadette [Jamie Bernadette
interview - click here], Craig Stark and Kaiwi
Lyman-Mersereau. There’s been a lot of work put into creating prop
weapons for different purposes - soft ones, rigid plastic ones, unsharpened
real ones, and of course versions we can stick in chests, out backs,
through heads, etc. There’s a lot of machete fighting in the film, which
I always think is more dynamic and visceral than a lot of people running
around with guns making these miraculous headshots. We have some great
effects artists on the project, including Anthony ‘Doc Death’ Eikner (Sands of Oblivion )
and Lillian Evans (24 Hours).
My battle strategy so far has been to shoot the ‘talky’ scenes early
each day, when we’re all fresh and we can take our time, and then shoot
all the machete fights and blood and gore after lunch, when we can cut loose and all have a lot of fun with it. A big part of our budget is
allotted for action and special effects - again, that’s something you
really have to deliver on in this genre and so far EVERYONE on this shoot
has gotten bloody, including me and the crew.
Your two leads Jamie
Bernadette [Jamie Bernadette
interview - click here] and Craig Stark - why exactly them, and
what's your collaboration like?
Craig Stark, Jamie Bernadette
Jamie Bernadette and I
have been trying to work on a project together for a while now, and when
this one came up it seemed perfect. Jamie’s incredibly talented,
incredibly giving and easy to work with, and the camera just loves her.
She’s also really tough, which is important because we’re often
filming under some pretty harsh conditions.
I met Craig Stark earlier this year, and in May when I started looking
around for our ex-mercenary character Freddie, I immediately thought of
him. He sent us an audition and I was convinced immediately. He’s got
this weight to his performance - this fatigue and sorrow that’s buried
down under this tough exterior - he’s a guy who’s tired of fighting,
but finds one last mission that matters in keeping this girl alive.
Do talk about the rest
of your cast for a bit!
We have some great
supporting actors on the project, who’ve all been really great about
jumping on board and have been fantastic to work with: Dominique Swain (Lolita),
Daniel Buran from True Blood,
Sadie Katz (Wrong Turn 6), Maria
Olsen from Paranormal Activity [Maria
Olsen interview - click here],
Jessica Morris from Reel Evil,
and Victoria De Mare (Killjoy goes
to Hell). There’ll be lots more casting news coming in the next
weeks, as well.
As far as I know, you're
currently running a fundraiser for State of Desolation - so what
can you tell us about your fundraising campaign, and what whill the money
go into, exactly?
a film with this kind of setting and scope is really difficult. Everything
has to be designed. Every costume has to be constructed. Every setpiece
has to be augmented or altered. You can’t just shoot everyone in jeans
walking down the street. All that is expensive and time-consuming. Add to
it all the makeup effects and gore, and then there’s VFX, which this
film has more of than any other I’ve done. So we’re hoping to raise
extra funds beyond the budget, and all that will enable us to push the
boundaries of a modest-budget zombie film and do things that will blow
people away. You’ll absolutely see it on screen. The campaign’s been
going great but we only have a few more days and we’re hoping for some
last minute support from genre fans who want to see something just a
While running your fundraiser, you're
also in the middle of production with State of Desolation - so what
can you tell us about the shoot so far, and the on-set atmosphere?
It’s without doubt the largest canvas I’ve ever had
as a filmmaker, and it’s a big challenge to deliver on the scope that
the script has. But the shoot has been a ton of fun, with a small but
hardworking crew and some really great actors and crew working very long
hours in some pretty tough and even dangerous locations. We’ve been
shooting in some locations in the Los Angeles area that have never allowed
anyone to film there before, and you can see the footage we’re getting
is pretty amazing for a smaller film.
idea when and where State of Desolation will be released onto the
general public yet?
We’re hoping to be done with post in the fall. If we
get an early pickup then it could be as soon as Christmas this year!
Any future projects beyond State
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I’m still in
pre-production on 13 Girls,
starring Sadie Katz from my last film House
of Bad. And I’m planning on shooting a Japanese Vampire film called Gaki, the Hungry Ghost later this fall as well. There are some other
projects in different stages of development that are pretty exciting as
Your/your movie's website, Facebook,
IndieGoGo, whatever else?
There’s only a few
days left to get in on the great incentives on IndieGoGo at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/state-of-desolation/x/60207
You can follow updates
on the film at www.facebook.com/stateofdesolation,
where we’ll be posting tons of BTS stuff during
filming and post leading up to the release.
Fans of Jamie Bernadette should follow
her at www.facebook.com/JamieBernadetteFanPage
I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jimtownsfilms,
and Twitter @jim_towns.
Thanks man! Always good
chatting with you.