Emily Hagins appears to be a run of the mill teenager….one would never suspect that she is a young Romero in the making. She has just wrapped on her first film, a zombie picture entitled Pathogen. Despite suffering a few setbacks, she used all her resources to get it done. Now, with one film under her belt, about to make its world debut (details here) she sits poised to take the cinema world by storm. I got to talk to her for a bit about her initial inspirations (the Spierig Brothers?) to her thoughts on the genre itself. Read on, oh devoted dead, you will not believe she is only just out of elementary school!
DW Bostaph: Describe your film, Pathogen, to us.
Emily Hagins: There’s not too much to the plot that I’d like to give away, but a basic description is that when a town’s water supply gets infected and the people who drink it die and are reanimated, the films shows the effects on five middle school students, and their battle for survival.
DW: The movie was started while you were still in Elementary school. How old were you when you first began working on it, and where did the idea come from?
EH: I was in 5th grade and 11 years old when I attended Butt-Numb-a-Thon 5 and saw a zombie movie for the very first time, Undead. This is when I knew that the first feature film I would make would be a zombie movie. I had to do some research on zombie movies so I saw various other zombie films, such as The Evil Dead and the Romero classics, to create my zombie “look”. I also decided that there had to be a reason why the zombies were there so I came up with an infected water supply, which would mean that it was unlikely that anyone could survive. This was one of the things that I tried to use to make my film different from other zombie movies, along with the fact that almost all of the main characters are teenagers and act like teenagers.
DW: Have you seen Cabin Fever?
EH: Yes, I did. I forgot that also had an infected water supply. But that didn’t really create zombies, it was a skin disease. And the water in The Faculty wasn’t infected, it just helped the parasites stay alive. So I guess the idea of the water supply creating zombies has a little bit of originality to it.
DW: Are there any horror films or directors who may have influenced you with this project?
EH: Definitely Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring, which isn’t a horror movie but was the movie that inspired me to become a filmmaker. I’ve always loved films, but when I saw that movie I knew that’s what I had to do. For Pathogen, Romero’s slow moving zombies inspired my zombie look. I couldn’t stand the running zombies in the new Dawn of the Dead. Also, I didn’t realize it at the time when I wrote it but The Faculty did inspire some aspects of the project, such as the water supply being a major factor and all the main characters being teens, but in Pathogen the students attend a middle school, not a high
DW: Have you seen any of Peter Jackson’s earlier films? Bad Taste or Dead Alive?
EH: Yes, I love Dead Alive and I own Bad Taste. Both were silly and fun but still kinda scary and gross. This is how I felt about Undead which made me officially not scared of horror movies.
DW: You had received a film grant to produce the film, but then ended up losing some of your equipment when it was stolen. How have you financed the rest of the film, and how much did the theft set you back as far as the development of the film?
EH: The grant mainly helped supply an editing program and some hard-drives and neither of those were stolen. What was stolen that related to Pathogen was a small digital camcorder which we hooked up to our boom mic (really a paint roller with a mic taped to the end of it, but hey, why spend $200 on a big plastic stick?). That was a problem when we had to go back for pick up shots and couldn’t record sound separately. The sound has been a big problem and I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. Also we had a computer and some of my personal electronic equipment, and my wallet (with all of the business cards people in the movie industry had given me) were stolen.
DW: The cast and crew were made up of parents and friends of yours? What do your family and friends think of your film making aspirations?
EH: The original cast was made up of friends of mine, but as the project progressed and I moved on to middle school, almost the entire cast changed. But we all became friends. My mom and dad both had parts, my dad was a researcher in scene 1 and my mom was a zombie. Without my family and friends’ support, I have no idea where Pathogen would be.
My family and friends have been very supportive, especially my mom. She always knew since I was a baby and would watch movies over and over again that I would grow up to be somehow involved in movies. She bent over backwards to make sure that I could finish Pathogen. She also did most of the zombie make-up. Harry and his dad also helped me by giving me a ton of zombie make-up for my 12th birthday. I thought that was funny because, while other girls are getting real make up for their 12th birthdays, I’m getting gash prosthetics and bottles of fake blood. Also Rebecca Elliott, who is a local indie filmmaker, let me film a behind the scenes of a horror/suspense film she was producing. I learned a lot from that. She also showed up as PA for some of the shoots and also plays the part of Sue. There are lots of people who have inspired and helped me along the way, these are just a few.
DW: Horror Films get a bad name for all of the violence in them, and I saw the trailer for Pathogen which seems to suggest the film does not shy away from the blood and gore. Has there been any concern raised over a person as young as yourself writing and directing such acts for a film?
EH: I haven’t heard of anybody who has a problem with me making a zombie movie. If there are, I would like them to know that this movie does not mean that I’m going to go off killing people or that I have any sort of issues like that. I don’t want anyone to think violence is cool in real life, but in movies it can be important to the story or symbolic of human nature. Actually, real blood and guts makes me queasy. In fact, I am a vegetarian and a pacifist.
DW: Are you planning to do more films in the future?
EH: Yes! Pathogen was so much fun, I can’t imagine doing anything else. But I don’t want people to categorize me a horror director, because most likely my next film will not be a horror movie. But I might return to the genre in the future.
DW: Your film is going to premiere at the Drafthouse (where Butt-Numb-A-Thon is held) and is getting a full plug from the AICN crew, courtesy of Harry Knowles. How did he come to get involved, and how freaking excited are you about all of it?
EH: Harry is a friend of mine. My grandfather in Pennsylvania sent us the money toward my movie career. My mom and I decided to rent the Drafthouse to screen the movie to celebrate how much hard work was put into it by everyone involved. Harry’s support and kindness has been very wonderful and I am grateful that he posted about the screening.
DW: I have to thank you for now getting all these ideas into my 13 year old daughter’s head. I have to hide my video camera or I may never see it again. Would you like to see more films by young writers/directors?
EH: He he he! Yes, definitely! I love to see films by young directors and writers because in my opinion, as long as you have the passion it doesn’t matter what age you are to succeed!
DW: What scares you?
EH: Spiders, science, and the government. *shudders*
I shudder to think where a young girl who has the capability to pull a film together at the age of thirteen will go in her cinematic career. What were you doing at thirteen? How many of the great cinema legends of our time began with home films? Stealing pieces of coats, making flying saucers with pie pans, or getting buckets of blood for your birthday! The love of the genre, and of film runs deep, and those of us who get the bite don’t ever see it heal. Emily Hagins got bit, the infection set deep, but this pathogen has a diagnosis that will only get better with age.
Check out the film’s official site right here, and keep your eyes on Dread Central for more info!
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