Your new movie Talk of
the Dead - in a few words, what is it about?
Basically, it's a news show (with commercial breaks) where the
hosts Hunt (Alexander Fernando) and Christina (Rachel Brownstein [Rachel
Brownstein interview - click here]) discuss the possible
zombie outbreak while trying not to step onto their sponsors' toes,
and thus they invite Victoria Winkelhauser (Lynn Lowry), CEO of the
company held responsible for the (alleged) zombie as well as zombie hunter
Reynolds (Paul Sutton [Paul Sutton
interview - click here]) and his zombie Lulu (Martina McClements)
to the show. Chaos ensues.
What were your inspirations when writing Talk of
News shows, actually. I always saw this one as much as a
zombie movie as I saw it as a media satire. You kow, your typical news
shows where the hosts talk about the most horrible things one minute and
about a totally irreverent, cute animal story the next, and whatever may
happen in the world, there's always place for sports and celebrity news.
And let's not forget to keep smiling ...
One actual source of
inspiration though I don't want to give away, but I'll give you two hints:
There's a reason why there's an elephant reference in the movie, and why
the zombie is called, of all names, "Lulu". (And I do have to
thank my great friend Dawn Hills [Dawn
Hills interview - click here] to get me onto this of course.)
With Talk of
the Dead being a zombie movie, is that a genre you're
particularly fond of, and what makes your movie stick out of the crowd?
behind the scenes at Talk of
Rachel Brownstein, Eddie Bammeke, Alexander
Fernando, Lynn Lowry, Michael Haberfelner
I just love horror movies in general, and while I wouldn't say I'm
especially fond of zombie flicks, I do of course love Romero's classics Night
of the Living Dead and Dawn
of the Dead, Lucio Fulci's Zombie
Flesh Eaters [Lucio Fulci
bio - click here], Italian zombie schlock from the 1980s, and
several of today's zombie movies that dare to be different ... that said,
not too big a fan of The
Walking Dead though, even if that series has helped paving the
zombies' path into mainstream - not figuratively speaking ;)
What sets Talk of
the Dead apart though? Well, I hope the fact that it's much more
satire than anything else. This is no bloodbath, and no gross-out comedy full of fart
jokes either, this is a serious attempt to say something funny.
the Dead has its roots in another (future) project of yours, There's
No Such Thing as Zombies, right? So how are the two connected, and in
what stage of development is There's No Such Thing as Zombies,
Well, originally There's No Such Thing as
Zombies was actually to be a sequel to my (zombie-less) screenwriting
debut A Killer
Conversation, and Talk of
the Dead actually was conceived back when I and the original
producers wanted to do a crowdfunder, and we figured it would be funny to
throw out a few fake commercials and clips from a fake news show to
advertise our campaign. Horror icon Lynn Lowry had already shown interest,
so it could have worked ... and then my original producers backed out -
but I already had a contract with Lynn, so I decided to charge ahead
anyways. I did drop the crowdfunding idea though and instead of diffuse
clips I collected all my ideas into one coherent short, pretty much a
concept proof. And while it can be seen and enjoyed on its own terms, it
also serves as a sort of Greek choir for There's No Such Thing as
Zombies, which pretty much plays out in front of a maybe-zombie
As for what stage of development it's in: At the moment on
temporary (intentional) hold, as even if we don't do a crowdfunder we don't have the
funds together yet. But besides the Talk of
the Dead-segment we've also shot the prologue, another US genre
veteran has shown interest to be in the movie, and once the money's in
place, we should be able to go ahead pretty soon.
have produced Talk of
the Dead together with Eirian Cohen [Eirian
Cohen interview - click here] - so how did she come on board, and
what was your collaboration like?
Well Eirian was nothing short of a lifesaver: At first, I only
hired her as an actress after the original female lead (of There's No
Such Thing as Zombies) bailed, to ask her to step in as producer as
well when the project threatened to fall apart only a month before the
scheduled shoot - and she said "yes" in a heartbeat ... wow! Now of
course, I didn't ask her totally out of the blue, we did in fact
work on an earlier project together where she was going to be producer, but while that project has yet to get
off the ground for various reasons, I did very much enjoy working with
her. Plus, I did know she has an acting school, Northern
Star Acting, so I figured she's involved in the business enough to
have the right connections to make it work - but that she did actually do
it I'll never forget her!
As to what was our collaboration like? Awesome!
One has to know this about Eirian, she has enough enthusiasm to fuel a
continent, and "It can't be done" isn't in her vocabulary, so
these are awesome traits for a producer to begin with, and that she
usually manages to make things work is about as vital. And of
course, that she seems to be into my brand of humour doesn't hurt either
director Eddie Bammeke and writer/producer
Michael Haberfelner settling creative differences
How hands-on or hands-off a producer are you actually, also
bearing in mind that you've written the script, and how much creative
control do you demand?
I do hope as hands-on as I can be.
There's one thing I don't want to be, the "producer" who sits
back in a couch and orders other people around on set while he tries to
get into the panties of the leading lady ;) Seriously, I don't mind
dragging stuff, serving people coffee or operating the boom mike if
needed, as I just enjoy being on set and being part of the filmmaking
process way too much.
As for creative control: Since I usually only
produce what I've also written I do have a clear vision. Then I discuss
this with the director, and we trade suggestions until we're on the same
page. And then on set everything's usually totally different from what we've imagined, but I let the director take over. Of course, I'll veto if
anything goes completely against the story, but that's the big exception
from the rule and has nothing to do with a powerplay but usually with
narrative reason - I mean, I probably know the story best, so should there
be an oversight, I reserve my right to step in. But I don't make a habit
out of it, as the worst thing on set is two people trying to direct
Do talk about Talk of
the Dead's director Eddie Bammeke [Eddie
Bammeke interview - click here], and what was working with him
Michael with Lynn Lowry
Well, Eddie is of course a total madman, a spitfire-cockney-talking
quite imposing guy who seems to be always laughing and/or shouting - but
shouting not because he's an on-set dictator, he just doesn't know how to
keep his voice down let alone whisper. That said, it's extremely easy to
be on the same page with him as he's very good at reading the script and
getting the most out of it, and while he may be loud when he talks, he's
also able to listen, and he can see reason if I actually veto one of his
decisions (which might have happened no more than twice though).
the Dead stars horror icon Lynn Lowry - so what was working with
her like, and how did you get her even?
How did we get her?
Well, when I was still busy promoting A
Killer Conversation, she just contacted me and asked me for a
role. And really her role as the evil CEO then fell together quite
quickly. I hadn't even written her yet when we first talked, but when I
figured we could get Lynn, thinking up a role that fit her perfectly
seemed like a piece of cake.
Working with her was wonderful. Even if the
day of her shoot everything seemed to be in total shambles (as happens on
indie sets rather regularly), and she could only understand a fourth of
Eddie's broad cockney, she was very ladylike about all of it and delivered
a spot-on performance ... and had quite some fun when we partied in the
pub afterwards. And I'm sure as a whole she found the experience rather
enjoyable, otherwise she wouldn't have asked us if we wouldn't like to do
another movie with her - First Impressions Can Kill, shooting in
less than a fortnight.
What can you
tell us about the rest of your cast, and why exactly those people?
behind the scenes at Talk of
Rami Hilmi, Sebastian Roberts, Cameron
Prudames, Eddie Bammeke, Rudy Barrow, Eirian Cohen, Michael
Haberfelner, Anne Derbyshire
God, what a great bunch that was! Rachel Brownstein [Rachel
Brownstein interview - click here] and Alexander Fernando were
perfect as the news anchors. I think they only met for the first time on
set, but played their roles as if they hosted the show with one another
for 15 years now and hated each other's guts - they were that convincing.
Paul Sutton [Paul Sutton
interview - click here] made a great zombiehunter from Doncaster
while Martina McClements gave a menacing Lulu the zombie. Eirian [Eirian
interview - click here] was great as the bickering wife, and she'll
have the opportunity to much expand that role in There's No Such Thing
as Zombies, Rami Hilmi [Rami
Hilmi interview - click here] as bickering husband and Rudy
Barrow [Rudy Barrow interview -
click here] as car insurance salesman I brought with me from A
Killer Conversation so I knew they'd be great, and they'll also be in There's No Such
Thing as Zombies, Layla Randle-Conde [Layla
Randle-Conde interview - click here] cracked me up as the
zombie-killing housewife, Reis Daniel and Marcella Woods held their own
fighting the undead, and a shout-out to our zombies J. Robert Byam, Gaffyn
Voorzta and Rosalie Bottley as well.
Why exactly these people? Most of
them sent in self-tapes so I could be deeply involved in the casting
process - but others we just knew would work out, and they did!
talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
chaos, mostly! Quite a few of our outdoor shoots got washed out and we had
to hastily resettle, we fought against early nightfall, airplane noises,
dogshit and on one occasion even bickering neighbours - but we pulled
through, and with such a great cast and crew you just have to love every
minute of it!
What can you tell us about audience and
critical reception of Talk of
Elizabeth-Mae Starbuck in The Night Monica Came Back
Really can't tell you much about audience
reception yet as we only officially premiere on October 29th at the FANtastic
Horror Film Festival in San Diego (so be there!!!), but we're
nominated for a few awards there and I hope to bring at least one home
(yep, I'll be there in person, so even more reason for you to be there), and we've
been accepted in three more filmfests so far and the reviews are all on
the positive side - so it seems there are people out there who like it
have recently also made The Night Monica Came Back - so what's that
one about, and what were your inspirations here?
At a kids'
summer camp, poor exchange student Monica (Elizabeth Mae Starbuck [Elizabeth-Mae
Starbuck interview - click here]) and their minder Pops (Human
Centipede 2's Laurence R. Harvey) die under mysterious circumstances.
20 years later Pops comes back from the dead and gathers all the now
grown-up kids from the camp to solve the mystery of his death. Things get
out of bounds when Monica (now played by Sandra Valera [Sandra
Valera interview - click here]) returns as well and claims to
never have been killed. And then a killing spree starts.
inspirations: Eirian [Eirian
interview - click here] contacted me because she had hired Laurence R.
Harvey for two shooting days and now gathered some of her students from Northern
Star Acting for two acting camps, one for teens and one for
adults, and she asked me to write a script that would include both casts
in the same movie, anything goes as long
as it was horror and easy to shoot. So I deviced a spooky murder mystery
in the Scooby Doo vein that both kids and adults could
relate to, that was full of pop culture references and general silliness
... and I can only hope I've pulled it off, but the actors all seemed to
like it very much.
Michael faces Eirian Cohen in The Night Monica Came Back
also appear in front of the camera in The Night Monica Came Back -
so what was that experience like, and did you write the character with
yourself in mind?
Well, what I can tell you, I totally did
NOT write him with myself in mind, I wrote him as a favour for Eirian who
wanted a short and easy role for an acquaintance of hers, so I came up
with bumbling Chief O'Hara, C.I.D. who probably has no more than three
lines. But then Eirian's friend dropped out and she asked me if I could
take over - through the door while I sat on the toilet if I remember
correctly. I figured I could do it as the lines were easy to learn and at
least I knew the character having written him - and he was fun playing,
too. Just hope my acting has been up to scratch :P
Again, do talk about the shoot as
Michael with Laurence R. Harvey
Totally stressful, as we had too little time for
everything (as per usual), at the outdoors shoot with the kids the weather
showed it's full range from hot to cold, to the point where the last
scene we had to shoot and had about 5 minutes before we had to leave was
to be shot in pouring rain. Indoors with the adults we at least didn't
have to fight the weather, but shoot during the day pretending it to be
night, then we had tons of dialogue to wade through, and I think I've had
at least 10 cups of coffee to stay awake during it all, also operating the
boom mike. In other words, it was awesome, wouldn't have missed it for the
Any future projects you'd like to share?
yes: As mentioned above, we'll shoot First Impressions Can Kill in
only a few days with the core group of Talk of
including Lynn Lowry (actually the film's even based on an idea of hers).
Then I hope we'll be ready to do There's No Such Thing as Zombies
soon, and also there's a short I wrote in post called A Mole Walked
Into a Bar, produced by Eirian Cohen [Eirian
interview - click here] again, but I haven't been present at that
shoot, so can't really tell you much about it. Beyond that ... we'll just
have to wait and see, but I'm definitely not done yet ;)
got you into writing to begin with, and script-writing at that, and did
you receive any formal training on the subject?
since I could write I did write little stories, I developed a passion for
that early on. Why script writing? I just love movies, and always have, so
seems to be logical, but I've also written several short stories published
in anthologies of the WPaD collective, and have self-published a novel, Bauliche
Angelegenheiten (unfortunately German language only).
As for did I
receive any formal training on the subject? Nope. I think you can't really
learn to write, what it needs is discipline to put your imagination into
words and those words into a proper structure. But having reviewed about
8,000 movies for this here site alone has probably given me the analytical
footing to identify and apply thought-through narrative structures. And what I
think also helped, as a sort of exercise I wrote two murder mystery novels
- they both weren't very great and I've never shown them to anyone, but
they taught me sooo much about narrative structure, as more than in any
other genre, in a murder mystery everything actually has to get together!
That all said
though, I have of course read all the standard books on screenwriting, but
that's more for craft than art ...
you tell us about your filmwork prior to Talk of
and The Night Monica Came Back?
Killer Conversation was my screenwriting debut, and it was pretty
much born out of this interview
with actress Melanie Denholme [Melanie
Denholme talks A Killer Conversation here] where she
just asked the general public for a script with (and I'm quoting from
memory here) no more than three characters and one location. That was in
2012, and I just happened to have written such a script 17 years earlier
(no lie) which I remembered now and pitched to her half-heartily, not
expecting a response - but she
liked it very much, and after a mere 6 weeks we (Melanie, Rami Hilmi [Rami
Hilmi interview - click here], Rudy Barrow [Rudy
Barrow interview - click here], director David V.G. Davies [David
V.G. Davies interview - click here] and me of course) were already on set in
Wales making that film that actually got a DVD release in the US. And from
then, I was hooked ...
You come from
Austria but seem to make movies exclusively in the UK - why is that?
even if that's true on paper, I'm not seeing this as exclusively, it's
just where fate has landed me I guess. For some reason, I've never been
able to find any connections to the Austrian indie/horror film community
while the Brits seem to welcome me with open arms (even if I've never been
there for other reasons than filmmaking) and seem to dig my
humour for some odd reason. But I'll really film wherever people want me
to, and who knows where the story goes next, maybe Hollywood, maybe
Bollywood, or hey, maybe even Austria ;)
would you describe yourself as a writer?
Tough one. I admit
I do like dialogue a bit too much, and I think my quirky sense of humour
shines through most of what I write, even if I'm trying drama - that's
just my persona though. But that said, I'm a rather quick writer should
need arise, I try to have things well-structured, and I try to only write
what I'd love to read, so I'm not suffering from self-doubt many writers
(better than me) do - but then even if I try to be self-critical to
constantly improve myself, I also might love my own stuff a bit too much
WPaD-anthologies featuring Michael
filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?
I can't say I'm a
fan of any particular screenwriter (though usually I enjoy the Coen
brothers stuff a lot), my influences are rather classic literature, like
Franz Kafka, Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells and the like, but I also love to
read vintage pulps, and I hope at least some of this reverberates in my
As for filmmakers, I do love Seijun Suzuki [Seijun
Suzuki bio - click here] for his weird approach to genre, the
grossly underrated Jess Franco for his delirious filmmaking style, even
when making sleazy sex flicks, Dario
Argento for his formal mastery ... and I could just go on and on here,
really, but it would probably soon bore the hell out of you.
I always say rather jokingly Star
Crash, The Heroic
Lesbos and Gladiator
Eroticus, all of which are cinematic pulps that bear repeat
viewing, feature women that are sexy and strong, and none take themselves
too seriously. That said, of course I love classic movies, from
vintage arthouse to early genre cinema, I just don't want to bore you with
another of these unnecessarily academic lists, so I leave it at that.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
just for the sake of the argument: The
Dark Knight - simply I don't get it, it isn't well written, not
that well played (though Heath Ledger is admittedly creepy), and while
it's about a guy with pointy ears barking like a dog hunting a clown
through town, it's not a comedy. Shortly put, wtf?
movies' website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
the Dead: https://www.facebook.com/theresnosuchthingaszombies/
The Night Monica Came Back: https://www.facebook.com/thenightmonicacameback/
Killer Conversation: https://akillerconversation.com/
and hit me up on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/michael.haberfelner
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
that: Be on the lookout for Talk of
the Dead, hopefully playing in your area soon ... and also for all of the
other films mentioned above :)
for the interview!