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Interview With Guy Pigden Director Of I Survived A Zombie Holocaust
By James Whittington, Saturday 23rd August 2014
Zombies are in short supply this FrightFest, luckily one movie, I Survived A Zombie Holocaust has enough of the shambling dead to fill a number of movies.
We've been lucky enough to chat to the director of this blood-splattered shocker, Guy Pigden.
HC: Is it true that I Survived A Zombie Holocaust is your first full length feature?
GP: That is true, in the past I've done a few low budget shorts and a lot of Web content. I've written for other producers and tried to get few TV shows off the ground, but this is my first feature.
HC: Where did the idea for the movie come from?
GP: The idea came from two things. Obviously I'm a huge fan of zombie films since I started playing the Resident Evil games. And at 19 I was writing my first Zombie script, which had a much different concept (Demons possessing dead bodies to work for the government). But within this other film the characters stumbled across a director and his assistant filming a Zombie film as real Zombies attacked them. And it was just one scene, but that idea stayed with me. A few years later I was watching television late at night and came across a straight to DVD film I think starring Casper Van Dien, which had New Zealand subbing for America. There where all these New Zealand actors pretending to be American, and all these locations that to me where obviously not America. They were probably shooting in NZ to save money, but that whole concept was really interesting and funny to me. So I kind of expanded out those two ideas and combined them to become the first treatment for ISAZH.
HC: Did you find it difficult to balance the horror and comedy elements?
GP: Yes absolutely. Tone is always very difficult, because if things are too funny there's no sense of jeopardy and you stop caring about the characters, but if they're too serious, you lose that sense of fun. I also have kind of a weird sense of humour where I enjoy slapstick as much as I do satire. So in the edit it was a real juggling act trying to walk the finest of fine lines between the two. I'm still not sure we got it quite right.
HC: Did you base any of the outrageous characters on people you’ve met during your time on film sets?
GP: The characters are more based on film making folklore than anyone specific. But certainly behind the scenes is often just as fascinating as anything going on in front of the camera. In a way you have to be somewhat larger than life as an actor, that's why people want to watch you onscreen.
HC: How did you go about casting the film and did you already have people in mind?
GP: Well I wrote the two leads Wes and Susan with Harley and Jocelyn in mind, as I'd worked with them a lot over the years and knew what they were capable of. But the other cast were just people that auditioned and blew me away. Some are from Dunedin where we shot the film, and I also travelled to Auckland (New Zealand's largest city) for auditions. We didn't have a casting agent so I was auditioning everyone personally which was a great experience because you could see what people were capable of first hand. I was very lucky to assemble the cast I did. I'm very proud of them all.
HC: Did you have much of a budget to work with?
GP: Well the short answer to that is is no. We had the most modest of budgets and people say that you should work to your budget, which is true. But we definitely broke this rule. Every day was a real battle just fighting against our own limitations. And this battle continued in post production and subsequently it took us a long time to complete the film. And a lot of those constraints would have been alleviated if we'd had a little more money to solve problems.
HC: Did you use much CGI in this movie?
GP: Yes, there was quite a lot of VFX work in the film although I hope it's not too obvious, I initially wanted to have everything done through practical effects in the film. Unfortunately a lot of those practical effects didn't work exactly as we wanted, which meant they had to be added to in post.
HC: If you were to do it all again what would you change second time around?
GP: Hmmm, that's a good question. I'm assuming this would be under the exact same circumstances. I think I would trust my instincts more, if I felt something going pear shaped I wouldn't be so quick to trust other people's assurances that it would be alright. But I think mainly I'd have a more well thought out post production workflow.
HC: So are you a big fan of the zombie genre and if so do you have a favourite?
GP: Yes I'm a huge fan of the Zombie genre. It's very difficult to pick just one. Of course Shaun Of The Dead has really set the bar high. I of course have a soft spot for Braindead which is fantastic. But I think if I had to pick a film that is not quite so obvious it would be Return Of The Living Dead. Way ahead of it's time and I was really trying to capture some of that same feel in ISAZH.
HC: Are you nervous the film is showing at FrightFest?
GP: No I don't think so. I mean I really hope people enjoy the film and respond positively to it of course. But I started my career in London working as a runner at 19. And I used to go to Leicester Square to catch films with my friends and so to have my first film screening there is just a wonderful honour. I'm just sad I can't be there in person. But it's really fantastic.
HC: Zombies, which are best: walkers or runners?
GP: Well that's a tough question. The problem with runners is they are so dangerous there's likely no hope for the living in the long run. And hope is important. Walkers on the other hand are sometimes so slow it's comical and often begs the question, why not just casually walk around them? And that does deflate the tension. So I think The Walking Dead have got it just right, their Zombies are not so slow as to be easy to always avoid, but not so quick that us humans have no hope at all.
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
GP: Well I have a couple of things in the works. But I've just completed filming on my second feature called 'Older' which is actually a drama comedy, similar to early Woody Allen stuff like Annie Hall and Manhattan, you can see a trailer and find more details at www.oldermovie.com
HC: Guy Pigden, thank you very much.
GP: Thank you.
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