Your recent film Romeo
& Juliet vs. the Living Dead - of all the plays William Shakespeare has
and Juliet is probably not the one that suggests
"zombies" the strongest. What made you choose this one anyhow?
It's actually the inappropriateness of the zombies that makes it the perfect
vehicle. Shakespeare's Romeo
is really more about the
cancerous nature of hatred than a tale of perfect love. However, it has taken on
the latter meaning in our culture's lexicon. Our film is about deconstructing
and satirizing the adolescent romantic relationship between Romeo and Juliet. It
is also about goofing off for 83 minutes.
question from the opposite point of view: What convinced you that a story
of undying love would work within the zombie genre?
Have you ever experienced undying love? It's a lot like gangrene.
making your movie, what amount of research did you invest into both the Romeo
and Juliet- and the zombie-backgrounds of Romeo
& Juliet vs. the Living Dead?
Jason Witter, and I were both already versed in Shakespeare, so there
wasn't much research needed on that side. I did sit down and watch Night
of the Living Dead before the shoot, but stylistically the film is
more inspired by the 80's teen films of John Hughes. You can see
Shakespeare's influence very clearly in his work and it gave our costume
designer, Jess Jones, the chance to play some serious dress-up.
Shakespeare's play, Romeo
& Juliet vs. the Living Dead lacked one main character's
(Romeo's) complete dialogue (for obvious reasons). How hard was that to
Not difficult at all. Despite Shakespeare's obvious command of
language, like all good writers he built his characters with action.
Cinema doesn't require dialog and, arguably, neither does theatre.
was produced several times during the silent
film era and no one had trouble following the plot. Although, we couldn't
resist transferring some of Romeo's lines to Juliet at key moments.
"I am fortune's fool" -- etc.
Apart from the obvious (zombies), a major
change to the play is Romeo
& Juliet vs. the Living Dead's ending, which is weirdly
fitting. How did that come about?
The changes in the final
act stem from our reinvention of Mercutio as part of a love triangle. He's
largely taken from Pretty in Pink's Duckie and offers a counter
point to Romeo's obsessive and fickle affection. The ending also addresses
the often asked question, "If Romeo is already dead, how do they kill
themselves at the end?" I can't say much more without giving away the
and Juliet has experienced quite a few modernizations and, er,
genrefications over the years, Tromeo and Juliet and the gun-crazy
1996 version that made Leonardo DiCaprio a star being the most prominent.
Would you like to talk about a few of the other Romeo
and Juliet-updates, and what sets yours apart?
that's to say nothing of the many modernizations and genrefications done
on stage. Reinventing Shakespeare is nothing new, from West Side Story
to Titanic (speaking of DiCaprio), star-crossed lovers from
different worlds and the belief in love at first sight is one of the most
consistent myths of our culture. What sets us apart is that we utilize
that myth without reinforcing it -- that and we're a Romeo
in which all the Montagues are zombies in the style of a John Hughes 80's
teen rom-com. Baz using guns doesn't seem that extreme anymore, does it?
can you tell us about audience reactions to your film so far?
We had a great opening at the Edinburgh Film Festival. It was a packed
house and they laughed in all the right places. Beyond that, I think we
need to get out in the public eye more before I can really tell what the
mass audience reaction is. So far, I've heard opinions all over the map,
but it's a pretty small sample of people who have seen it thus far.
only in my opinion, Romeo
& Juliet vs. the Living Dead features many weirdly fitting
references to 1980's cinema, be it concerning choice of music, outfits or
sets. Was that at all deliberate, and why?
because I grew up in the 80's and I needed to get it out of my system.
That and Hannah Kauffmann looks great with her hair crimped.
How would you
describe the humour that carries your film?
Absurdist and often juvenile. Somewhere between Shakespeare
and a Zucker, Zucker and Abrahams movie.
A few words about your co-writer, co-producer and lead Jason Witter?
This isn't new ground for him. Before we started Romeo
& Juliet vs. the Living Dead, Jason had
just made a film called Hamlet the Vampire Slayer and had produced
many Shakespeare mash-ups on stage. There's a humor and sensibility in the
film that is very much born from some dark recess in his brain. I think he
likes Shakespeare for the dick jokes -- which there are many. Seriously,
we didn't just come up with all of that out of nowhere. The Bard loved
What can you tell us about your leading lady Hannah Kauffmann?
She's a talented actress who showed a lot of patience for the nonsense
of independent filmmaking. And not "independent" like two
million dollars and working for scale, but "independent" like a
crew of four people and swapping green goo during love scenes.
A few words about the rest of your cast and crew?
It takes a special kind of person to work on a micro-budget film. These
were people with day jobs filling in where they could. Our heart-felt
gratitude goes out to them all.
Let's go back to the beginnings of you career: What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on
I have a BA in Media Arts and a minor in Theatre from the University of
New Mexico, but that's a history and criticism program. My production
training is on-the-job. I started in film by taking an elective in
college. When something clicks, it just clicks. I worked my way through
the ranks of freelancers and now I'm a professional editor in NYC.
& Juliet vs. the Living Dead, you have made quite a few
shorts. Why don't you talk about those for a bit?
And those are just the ones on IMDB! I like to keep busy. You can't
grow technically or artistically without working. The best of my old
shorts is Date 1.0. You can see it on our website
or on YouTube.
Also, you have only recently premiered your latest feature Chase
the Slut. What can you tell us about that one?
It's the story of a good girl with a bad reputation. Chase Russell grew
up in a small town where she was unfairly saddled from an early age with
the label of slut. In a self-destructive spiral, she allowed it to
define her life. Now, in her twenties, she's desperate to move away, but
doesn't have enough money. When her rich best friend, Tibb, bets her that
she can't seduce the son of a local minister, Chase leaps at the
opportunity to win some quick cash and move on with her life. However,
breaking down religious barriers and bedding him proves more complicated
when Chase develops feelings for the young cultist.
I've also read you have recently completed another short with the
wonderful title Plush: A Most Gruesome Tale of Cuddly Horror. You
just have to say a few words about that one!
Kathy is a mature,
professional woman who still sleeps with her cuddly teddy bear Vincent.
One night, when a burglar invades, Kathy's home comes alive with magical
surprises. To his horror, the intruder learns that not everything is as it
seems and Vincent may not be so cuddly after all. It's a throwback to
traditional creature puppetry. I loved those films growing up and I wanted
to work with practical effects as much as possible. CGI just doesn't have
the same feel.
We're very excited to announce that Plush is starting its
festival run at the Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival this coming
weekend. We've setup a Facebook Fan Page at
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Any other films you'd like to talk about, any future projects?
We're hoping that the short version of Plush will generate some
interest in a feature version, but obviously, it's a little early to get
excited about that.
Directors who inspire you?
Just about anyone can inspire me. Sometimes it's a well know filmmaker
and sometimes it's an unknown I catch at festival. In fact, the unknowns
tend to be more inspiring because they show how you can take limited
resources and make something personal and captivating.
Your favourite movies?
Depends on the mood. Most recently, I saw an old print of Alien at
Brooklyn Academy of Music. The very definition of a cinematic experience.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
I can't say that I've ever seen a movie that I deplore. But then, I
haven't seen the Sarah Palin documentary.
Your/your film's website, Facebook, whatever else?
& Juliet vs. the Living Dead is available to rent or buy from
iTunes and you can
buy the DVD from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B005H45LCQ/researmytras-20
Thanks for the interview!