Zombeavers. It’s all in the title. And given that such a title excites us here at Dread Central (but not in a necrophilia-bestiality kind of way, we promise), we figured it was high time to sit down with director Jordan Rubin to get the skinny on his upcoming horror-comedy feature.
Starring Cortney Palm (Sushi Girl), Hutch Dano (Zeke and Luther), Peter Gilroy, Rachel Melvin (Dumb and Dumber To), Jake Weary, Lexi Atkins, and Bill Burr, Zombeavers was written by Jon Kaplan, Al Kaplan, and director Rubin.
It revolves around three college girls who go on a carefree vacation of drinking games, topless sunbathing, and sexual exploration, only to find that their frolicking fun comes to an abrupt end when toxic zombie beavers try to eat them.
Evan Astrowsky (Cabin Fever), Chris Bender (American Pie, The Butterfly Effect), J.C. Spink (A History of Violence), Christopher Lemole (Blinder), Tim Zajaros (From the Head), and Jake Weiner (Leap Year) produce. Theodore Miller and Alan Pao executive produce.
Said director Rubin (a standup comedian who wrote the opening film for the 2011 Academy Awards and recently completed an animated pilot starring Mike Tyson that was just picked up by Adult Swim) of what prompted his transition to directing, “In high school I directed a bunch of short films and was a big video/photography nerd. I still am. Then I started doing standup comedy, which eventually transitioned into writing for TV and film. The writing gigs that I was being hired on started to involve a lot more directing. I found that producers often requested that I be on hand when we were shooting my scripts, as I had a good visual sense and a knack for working with actors and improvising with them to create alternate takes. When you write something, you’re seeing the movie in your head so I feel like it’s a natural transition into the director’s chair, as directing allows you to follow through on that original vision and make it all happen correctly. A big part of directing is specificity, much like writing.”
As for how the concept of Zombeavers came into existence, “I was just finishing a script with Jon and Al Kaplan, two brothers that I work with a lot,” said Rubin. “They scored the film and are both extremely funny and talented. As they were leaving my apartment one day, I said, ‘We should write a zombie movie.’ Al Kaplan said, ‘What about Zombeavers?’ I couldn’t stop laughing. I said, ‘That’s our next script. That’s the one I want to direct.’ They thought I was kidding at first, but I couldn’t have been more serious. Obviously.”
Pertaining to his interest in such subject matter, “I’m a huge fan of 80’s horror films,” Rubin continued, “the type of movies with absurd premises that take themselves completely seriously and are shot practically. Movies like John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Evil Dead, Child’s Play, and The Fly. I was excited to make a movie like that.”
Having adoration for such films is one thing, but finding financing in the current climate for such a quirky genre project is another.
“That’s obviously the hardest part about getting a movie greenlit,” mused Rubin.
“I knew Evan Astrowsky, who was a producer on Cabin Fever (so) I sent him the script, and he loved it. We took it around town and pitched it to a ton of producers and studios, along with a ripomatic trailer that I cut together. We must have gotten over twenty rejections before BenderSpink/Armory decided to make it. It’s a very specific type of film. I find that you either ‘get’ the film’s conceit, and love it, or you think it’s terrible. There’s no middle ground with a film about zombie beavers. If you scroll through the YouTube comments on our trailer, you’ll see what I mean. I live for those comments. They make me laugh out loud constantly.”
Given the recent success of “mash-ups” a la Sharknado, we asked the director his predictions on the eventual audience response to Zombeavers.
“It was fun to watch the social media frenzy over Sharknado,” Rubin stated. “I was in the middle of editing Zombeavers when I first heard about the movie; I think I first saw Mia Farrow tweet about it. I can see why people would compare our film to movies like that, but they’re not the same type of thing. Sharknado is a movie that was made for the Syfy network, whereas Zombeavers is obviously headed to the Oscars. That said, it’s been interesting to see our film go ‘viral’ as they say; our trailer got over a million views in less than a week, which I’m told is very rare.”
Part of that interest undoubtedly stems from the practical approach utilized in delivering the titular characters, and we asked the director how much input he had regarding the same.
“A bunch,” Rubin replied. “We were lucky enough to have (the company) Creature Effects (I Am Legend, The Lone Ranger, Ted) do the special effects on our film. They are a very well known company, and our budget was very small compared to what they are used to working with. But they really liked the script and did it for the love of the game. They were very cool about involving me on designing the beavers and prosthetics. I worked with them from the concept/sketch phase all the way through the model building and animatronics. Those guys are so talented. They encouraged me to come by their shop as much as I wanted to, and I took them up on that offer. I was like a kid in a candy store. They have this amazing storage room that reminds me of J.F. Sebastian’s apartment in Blade Runner. All of these old, forgotten animatronic models from different Hollywood blockbusters. In our first meeting I sat there petting an aborted alien dog fetus that had initially been created for I Am Legend. There were a lot of people who worked on this film because they loved the script even though it was way beneath their pay grade. Like Freddy Waff, the most amazing production designer who had just finished building those tremendous Apple sets on the Ashton Kutcher Jobs movie.”
Concerning principal photography, which took place almost entirely on The Disney Ranch in Santa Clarita, CA, over the course of twenty-one days, “It was an intense schedule,” said Rubin. “I was trying to force a big budget movie into a very tiny budget. I’m really happy with the way that it turned out, but it was quite a grind. The actors and the crew were all amazing, and they never complained when pushed to the limit. I’ve heard that can be rare. There was a real sense of camaraderie on the film, which made it much easier for me to direct. It also helped that the cast was coked out of their minds. I’m kidding!”
As for what’s next on his filmic plate, “I have a script that The Kaplans and I wrote which is a buddy comedy,” concluded Rubin. “We also have a great action film idea that we finished outlining recently. I’m simultaneously working on a new script which I just started. As for Zombeavers, we sold a bunch of foreign rights at the European Film Market in Berlin. Now we start looking for a domestic distributor. We are aiming for a theatrical release, ideally. It’s an exciting time!”
Desiree Stone, courtesy of Epic Pictures Group.
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