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An Interview with Keith Lansdale, Screenwriter of Christmas with the Dead

by Mike Haberfelner

September 2011

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You have recently written the script for the movie Christmas with the Dead. In a few words, what is it about?

 

A survivor of the zombie apocalypse wants to enjoy something from before the world went to hell, and decides to do that by creating the Christmas he always meant to have; zombies be damned.

 

How did you actually get involved with Christmas with the Dead, and what was it that interested you about the project?

 

My father, Joe R. Lansdale [Joe R. Lansdale interview - click here], the original writer of the short story Christmas With The Dead, was looking for someone to write the screenplay and I volunteered. I always wanted a chance to work on a bigger project with my father and this seemed like the perfect chance.

 

Christmas with the Dead is based on a story by your father, Joe R. Lansdale [Joe R. Lansdale interview - click here], who also executive-produced the movie. So, were you able to take many liberties with the source material or did your father keep you on a short leash, storywise? And what can you tell us about the creative process when writing Christmas with the Dead?

 


The original short story was really more of a good story idea, but there was a lot of room for growth. Iím happy to say that the original theme of the story is still there, but there was never any limitation. I felt pretty confident knowing that everything would be fine as long as the story worked. As far as the process, there were certain changes made to the story before I even signed up to write it. We had a co-star who was never in the original work and we knew we wanted to flesh out (no pun intended) the character of the wife Ella, (Kasey Lansdale [Kasey Lansdale interview - click here]). So it was like being given a lot of puzzle pieces and having to put it together without any idea of what the final picture would look like.

 

Christmas with the Dead's approach to the living dead?

 

We took our own approach, and at the same time still stayed true to the history of what makes a zombie. If youíve read anything by my dad, Iím happy to say itís Zombies, Lansdale style.

 

Your personal take on zombies, and your favourite zombie films, books, comicbooks, whatever?

 

Zombies in general are an interesting subject. Their stories are like national disaster survivor tales with teeth. Zombies are a chance to live out fantasies of trying to survive without the lasting effect of having to do it for the rest of your days. Itís a visual representation of our fear of death, and itís knocking on the door which scares the hell out of us and excites us at the same time. The classic zombie movies from Romero are certainly important, but itís movies like Shaun Of The Dead and Zombieland that I find myself watching repeatedly.

 

How would you describe your collaboration with Christmas with the Dead's director Terrill Lee Lankford [Terrill Lee Lankford interview - click here]?

 

Lankford had a lot of good ideas that made the story even better. We sat down one afternoon and went through the script and I loved the story I had written, but I really loved what came out after that day. I knew going in that this was a group project, but it was helpful that most of the suggestions being said by almost everyone involved were really good ones. Itís safe to say that the collaboration with Lankford, the actors and my father really helped make this into a fun movie.

 

I just assume you have visited the filmset every now and again. Could you describe the feeling of seeing your words come to life?

 

I think the real moment I realized it was seeing the character Ray, played by my brother-in-law, Adam Coats. When I had created Ray I wanted to make sure he was memorable, so I gave him this giant ridiculous Christmas tree hat. Walking on set and seeing Coats wearing that hat was the moment where I realized, thatís my idea, and it is right in front of me, and itís hysterical.

 

You have been a prolific writer even before scripting Christmas with the Dead - would you like to talk about your career so far for a bit?

 


I have been a journalist for five years now, working at the newspaper here in my home town and now running my own news website for the Nacogdoches County area. Iíve also worked on a few projects here and there with my father, adapting comic books and editing a short story anthology. Thereís also a story my sister and I wrote together when we were young with Dad in a collection of other authors with their kids.

 

You have also adapted several of your father's stories into comics. How does adapting a story for comicbook panels differ from adapting it for the big screen, and where are the similarities?

 

The biggest similarity would have to be the constant visualization of what you are trying to convey. That certainly exists in any sort of writing, but with comics and with screenplays, thereís a whole extra filter that the words have to go through, and that means if they misunderstand and change your idea, then that idea is lost. Itís even more important to make sure every message is as clear as possible while writing fiction in a novel, you can leave certain things up to the imagination of the reader.

 

Any future projects you'd like to talk about?

 

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Thereís a few ideas bouncing around, but nothing nailed down enough to say for sure. I do know that something will follow, but I couldnít tell you exactly what or when.

 

Writers who have influenced you?

 

Biggest influence has certainly been Dad. Iíve read more of his than anyone else, but his influence has also existed off the page as well as on.

 

And since this is a movie site: Your favourite movies?

 

This is a really long list, and I have to leave a lot out: The Back To The Future-series, Dogma, Army of Darkness, Fifth Element, Full Metal Jacket, Finding Forester, Fight Club, the new Sherlock Holmes, Mystery Men, just about everything Mel Brooks did, The Office, Taken, Shrek, Kung-Fu Hustle, O Brother Where Art Thou, Casablanca, Stand By Me, Space Cowboys, Gran TorinoÖ I could do this all day.

 

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

 

Worst film of all time is, Manos: Hands of Fate.

 

Your website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

I have my news website thatís no interest to anyone outside of Nacogdoches, EverythingNac.com.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

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
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

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

out now on DVD

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Tršume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natŁrlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

Bauliche Angelegenheiten
ein Roman von
Michael Haberfelner

 

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