Your film Vs. the Dead
- in a few words, what is it about?
Phil Pattison: A careless government experiment that brings the dead back
to life lands
in the hands of a vagabond tattooist who in turn mistakes
it for a delivery of
tattoo pigment. A group of young hooligans find themselves
answers and try to extinguish a really bad situation after
one of their
buddies becomes infected.
Jeff Beckman: Yeah, pretty much that,
the stereotypical government mis-handling of a lethal military test
project (cause we all know by now even more than in the 80's that
governments are useless and would mishandle shit like this) leading to a
seemingly contained outbreak, with a few kids looking for answers and fighting
for survival... age old tale, yes?
the Dead is a zombie movie. Is that a genre especially dear to
you, and your favourite zombie movies? And whast kind of zombies do you
personally prefer (classic voodoo zombies vs the flesh-eating variety,
slow- vs fast-moving ones, ...)?
Phil: I became a real fan of the genre when I first saw Dawn
of the Dead when I was 16. Then a friend of mine gave me an uncut copy
of Day of the Dead. That’s when I started paying attention to the
director of these
films and realizing that there was a whole entire
sub-genre of zombie
specific movies. I had been enthralled with the Friday
the 13th-, Nightmare
on Elm Street-, and of course the Texas
Chainsaw- series of films (TCM
being my all time favorite movie)
that I had never
explored the George Romero- and Lucio Fulci-classics sitting
right next to
everything else I was renting [Lucio
Fulci bio - click here]. Then of course, the zombie
film that really
kicked my love for the genre into high gear was Return
of the Living Dead. It was the first time I found myself laughing at a
horror film while
still receiving copious amounts of gore and a kick ass
soundtrack to boot!
Jeff: Personally, I was a bigger fan of the slasher genre, even
great exploitation sleaze flicks before zombies... but I found ourselves
writing about zombies, as it has a far greater connection to society and
politics... social dilemmas, far easier to make fun of, too.
What were your main
sources of inspiration when writing Vs.
We definitely weren’t trying to re-invent the wheel but
at the same time, we
wanted the root cause of the virus to be spread in a new
and creative way.
Jeff being a tattoo artist himself, we decided to tie that
angle in to the
storyline without it taking over the entire story. Also, a
lot of the
characters were loosely based off of our own friends (some
unknowingly played themselves in the film) which made it
easy to write.
Jeff: When we wrote it i would say there was no
inspiration - well maybe the fact that I work in the tattoo industry and
there are dirtbags everywhere, but it was written with nothing else in
mind... shooting it, maybe we wanted a "return of"-feel... street trash, feel something dirty for sure.
You have written and directed Vs.
the Dead as a joint effort. How easy/difficult was it to make this
film with each other, how did you first meet, and how did you come to the
conclusion you have to make a film together?
I met Jeff through my friend Curtis who had been tattooing
me at the time.
Curt was the drummer in Jeff’s band HAYMAKER and was
Jeff’s tattoo shop SINKIN’ INK. I forget exactly how
it came up but I was
getting tattooed at the time when we came up with an idea
to shoot a short
splatter flick over a weekend using my shitty MINI DV cam
and a case of
beer. I expressed that we might want to plan it out so
that we don’t waste
any time, i.e. actually writing a script instead of
winging it. So that’s what
we did. We spent many late nights travelling 20 mins
outside of Hamilton
to the 5th
Wheel Truck Stop where we found all the inspiration needed
fuel the ideas behind Vs.
However, our little
blossomed into a 98 page script.
Writing with Jeff was very easy. We both knew what we
wanted in the
story and found little confrontation on ideas. We were
writing a script that
he and I both enjoyed and that’s all that mattered to
Jeff: I met Phil thru mutual friends, we talked about short
films, did a few and then decided to jump right into a huge project,
finding ourselves in over our heads for the most part... there was head
butting, some verbal battles but once it started rolling it went alright I
think, with the help of a ton of others too... it was one of the hardest
things I have ever done, I mean I've done some big projects, like a 30
hour (in progress) tattoo, or a 12 hour painting, but something that takes
2 years to even get somewhere with, it was hard... we fought for this
thing - no money , relying on actors who where not being paid, long days
and nights - it was hard as fuck... learning experience, when we do
the next flick it will be better, quicker and easier... I hope.
is unique within the zombie genre inasmuch as your zombies only attack
people who they hated when alive - now where did that idea come from?
Again, we weren’t trying to pull the wool over anybodies
eyes but we
wanted to be unique in other ways. We wanted to create a
purpose for the
attacks and take away the randomness that is derivative in
Jeff: For me it was a break down of life, I got into punkrock
when I was 14, had a mohawk, studded jacket, boots... now this was before
bullshit stores like Hot Topic, or bands like Blink 182, it was quickly
appearent to me that people hated me... just cause I looked like a goof,
so I hated them, and we hated other people for the way they looked (mods),
they hated us, skins hated them... there was this defined line of hatred
that I grew up in and fought about and lived with.... so the idea of
zombies attacking only people they truly had deep rooted hatred for, the
one thing they remembered... it was a no-brainer (no pun intended).
What's unusual for a zombie film is that your movie is carried by
a bunch of strong characters. Would you like to elaborate on that?
Not sure I understand exactly what you mean... when we wrote the script
the "friends" were more like a group of kids you would have hung
out with growing up, the nice kid, the quite one, the asshole, and the
responsible one... that's the chemistry for almost every childhood
"klan" I ever knew of. Kind of had that in mind when writing it,
almost a Monster Squad all grown up.....
few words about your principal cast?
I can’t say enough about everyone in the film. We had NO
everyone still came out and still put 150% into it (well,
Everyone was having a blast shooting Vs.
the Dead and that is what
was all about, having fun without the typical movie set
Jeff: Really good people, we were lucky enough to have full-hearted awesome people involved, this movie was on the verge of never
seeing the light of day, but knowing how hard the cast all worked it made
us, well, mostly Phil, keep on pushing... till someone believed it was
worth it., we owed it to everyone, not just the principal cast, involved
to have this out there...
Stupid question alert: Jeff, you are a tattoo artist - so how high
is the level of realism in the film's depiction of the filthy tattooist?
And as a tattooist, have you ever thought about spreading a zombie virus?
(Told you it's gonna be a stupid question.)
Jeff: Hahaha, well of course Scratchy Dan is a little extreme
when it comes to "scratchers" (what we in the industry refer to
basement tattooers or kitchen wizards), but of course I have seen my share
of people very close to Scratchy Dan's type... I think there have been
times we thought about creating a virus thru pigment for those special
type, the tapout boneheads, dudes that bring shitty printed photos of
"The Rock" for reference - some kind of problem solving plague
that would end the questions "does it hurt?", "My buddy says
he knows someone who'd do it for 20 bucks!" and "Have you ever
done this design before?" (referring to Zhe Rock's tattoo) or even the
inevitable "Why are tattoos so expensive?" Yeah, we'd create a
virus for those types if we knew it wouldn't affect the rest of us out
A few words
about the film's central conflict, punks versus jocks - and whose side are
I’m not going to lie. I played high school football
myself, however, I never
correlated with the "BRADSTERS" of my team. I
had zero interest in
becoming part of the biggest dickhead clan in the city. I
with the punks, although I never considered myself either.
Phil, a few words about your production company,
Nictophobia Films was started with my friend and fellow
Christopher Harrison [Christopher
Harrison interview - click here] in 2009. We had both worked with each
the past 12 years on several different projects including
his first feature
which I produced in 1998.
How did you get into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you ever receive any formal
education on the subject?
I’ve always been a fan of filmmaking ever since I was a
kid. And yes, as
cliché as this sounds, I too had a video camera given to
me as a young
boy and made schlocky films with friends using ketchup as
yadda. I did go to film school here in Ontario. First I
College for illustration/graphic design then I enrolled in
the Film and TV
program at Niagara College here in Ontario. In fact, my
good friend Andrew Coutts was the editor of the last 2
installments of the Saw-series and edited the highly anticipated film
The Day. Nictophobia
Films' first project, The Man Who Loved Flowers (Stephen
short) was also edited by Andrew.
Any future projects, both
independently and with each other?
Films) have just finished a film called Devil's Night starring Danielle
Harris (Halloween 4 & 5, Hatchet 2) and
Shawn Roberts (Diary of the
Dead, Land of the
Dead, Resident Evil 3D), which we
are promoting at this years Rue Morgue Festival of Fear in
Danielle Harris will be in attendance with us signing
directed and I edited the project. Chris has also written a
horror/thriller entitled The Mummers. It's currently in
the hands of some
high profile producers and agents. We're hoping to be in
this project in the fall/winter this year. Chris and I are
also producing a
stage adaptation of Night
of the Living Dead in Toronto
pre-production). Jeff and I have always talked about
writing another project
together and possibly someday we will. Vs. the Dead 2 perhaps.
I feed my family by tattooing people, it's all I know, so film making,
especially after realizing what goes into it, will be a pastime. Right now
I have no time to pass, so hopefully one day I would love to do something
else, I've been taunting phil to do a slasher flick... or a coming of
age/aggressive skate punk movie... would love to do that too.
Directors who inspire
John Carpenter, George A. Romero, David Lynch, Don
Hooper, George Lucas.
Jeff: Carpenter. Carpenter and John Carpenter...
Oh, and that Raimi fellow.
Your favourite movies?
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1 & 2 (Tobe Hooper), The
Thing, Return of
the Living Dead, Dawn
of the Dead, Eraserhead, Halloween,
Phantasm, Poltergeist, Planet
from the Black Lagoon, Night
of the Living Dead, Warriors, Escape From New York, Star Wars-Trilogy.
Jeff: Big Lebowski,
Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Friday the 13th Part 3, Creature from the
Black Lagoon, H.G, Wells - The
... and of
course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
The Rocky Horror Picture Show … let's be frank: all
musicals suck! But
this one takes the cake. Twilight (for the record, never
saw any of them…
the commercials were enough of a turn-off for me). Shitty
TCM and Rob Zombies Halloween 1 and 2. I could go on but
Jeff: I don't want to sound like a typical cynic
here but I truly with all my heart despise almost every remake over the
last 10 years, the Friday the 13th-remake is such a huge pile of shit, along
with the Texas Chainsaw remakes, they look good, then it becomes this
failed MTV-turd, and you think it's gonna get better, then they get worse,
and when you watch it again for whatever stupid reason you would do that,
the second time it becomes clear a lot quicker of how truly shitty these
movies are... no humour, no clue of nostalgia, stupid fucking date
raping underwear models trying to act like they're being graded in some
whacky high school drama class, these movies that Micheal Bay backs are
the cancer of cinema... how many more pieces of shit-wrapped-in-money-remakes are they gonna throw at us????
Imagine these cocksuckers like Micheal Bay said, "Hey I have a bag of money here,
let's find a
starving dark script, a equally poor, hungry director, an ugly cast of
decent actors and make a fucking good movie for 1 tenth the cost of what
it cost to feed the shit heads in Transformers"... What do
you think would happen? Something better than anything we've been forced
to see over the last decade.
Facebook, whatever else?
(we is broke ass filmmakers but a Vs.
the Dead site is
Jeff: No website, well... sinkin-ink.com,
that's my studio, and that's
all I got.
Thanks for the interview and the interest in this project. All
Thanks for the