Exclusive: Michael Bartlett Talks The Zombie Diaries 2
This week World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2 was given a DVD release in the UK (for our US readers the flick is getting a home release on October 11, 2011). In anticipation of its release, we recently caught up with director Michael Bartlett to talk about the project and get the lowdown on what’s next for him and Zombie Diaries writer Kevin Gates.
Check out our Q&A with Bartlett below, and look for more on World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2 (review here) soon!
Dread Central: Let’s go back to the beginning. How did you and writer Kevin Gates team up to create the original Zombie Diaries in 2006?
Michael Bartlett: I first met Kevin Gates in 2002, when he found my filmmaking blog, MakingTheFilm.Com, whilst searching for locations for his first feature. Kevin invited me to come along for a day to his shoot, and we hit it off - both growing up hugely influenced by horror movies and having the same taste in genre cinema.
I then found out Kevin lived across the street from me. Kevin came to work as a camera operator on my short film, Mnemosyne, in 2003, and the working relationship we had was great. I always knew we'd end up working together on a feature; and as fate had it, that feature was the first Zombie Diaries.
DC: Can you talk about where the initial story inspiration came from for the original Zombie Diaries (review here)?
MB: I saw a film entitled "Ever Since The World Ended", which can be best described as a 'Post-Apocalyptic Documentary' - I really wanted to improve upon this film and make something that explored the world after a post-apocalyptic event. However, I did not feel it was very commercial. I thus thought it made sense to introduce zombies into the equation. I pitched the idea to Kevin as "Night of the Living Dead" meets "Blair Witch", and he immediately responded.
I thought the idea would work better as a short, as I wasn't convinced it would work as a feature, but Kevin recommended making the film as a feature split up into three parts - so it was almost like three separate shorts that were inter-related. I think some people found this a little confusing with the first film, but overall I think the film still stands as a very original and 'thinking man's' horror film about survival in a post-apocalyptic world. The zombies are just part of the setting - it was never about them.
DC: How did you guys mix things up for the sequel in order to keep things feeling fresh for the genre fans out there?
MB: We chose to tell the story in a single narrative as opposed to a non-linear, fragmented style as per the first film. We also were able to elevate the casting due to having a budget this time around.
I made my top two selections for each role and then organized group casting for the callbacks. This way we were able to see how the potential cast interacted with each other and choose the best group as a whole. Phil Brodie took charge of his group - he was a natural leader, and as such he was the perfect choice for Maddox. We were very lucky with the actors we got, and keep an eye on Phil. He's going to go places. I think he'd make a perfect James Bond, actually.
DC: After you and Kevin finished the first Zombie Diaries, had you given any thought to making plans for a sequel?
MB: It became very apparent from critical reviews (audiences were split) that there was an appetite for a second Zombie Diaries film. If truth be told, I really did not want to do a second film so soon. I said to Kevin that we would be better off making another film first. I was scared that narrow-minded industry folk might start thinking Kevin and I were only capable of directing "shaky cam zombie movies" so I did everything in my power to get something else off the ground first.
Kevin and I even had an offer on the table to make another film, but I stupidly talked Kevin out of it as I felt it wasn't very commercial. I have always been the kind of filmmaker who is wary about making films that don't make a profit. In retrospect I wish we'd taken this opportunity. However, after many false starts on our other projects, and numerous kaleidoscopic encounters with time-wasters, we ended up in a position where we had no choice but to make Zombie Diaries 2. Kevin had a nice script that had been doing the rounds, and soon a bidding war broke out between two UK distributors.
We decided to shoot the end of the film in a conventional style, just to prove we actually can make films outside the cinema-verite way of filming.