With New Zealand filmmaker Guy Pigden’s L.A. Premiere of his feature I Survived a Zombie Holocaust screening this coming Saturday, October 18, at 10:00 pm at the Screamfest Film Festival, read on for our exclusive interview, and have a look at some stills and a trailer for the flick.
Written and directed by Pigden, the narrative of I Survived a Zombie Holocaust (according to the official synopsis) revolves around the following:
The crew of the New Zealand low budget zombie film ‘Tonight They Come!’ are filming in the middle of nowhere. The troubled shoot goes from bad to worse when key cast and crew are struck down by a mystery illness. The replacement runner, Wesley Pennington, arrives on set fresh out of film school and bubbling with enthusiasm just in time for the mystery illness to start turning zombie extras into real, shuffling un-dead zombies.
Produced by Zoe Hobson, the film stars Harley Neville, Jocelyn Christian, Ben Baker, Mike Edward, Reanin Johannink, Mark Neilson, Patrick Davies, Simon Ward and Andrew Laing.
Chatting with Pigden, he stated of his inspiration for his directorial debut (he’s currently in post-production on his second feature, Older), “I’m a huge fan of zombie films ever since I started playing the Resident Evil (video) games around fifteen, and at nineteen I was writing my first zombie script, which had a much different concept (demons possessing dead bodies to work for the government). But within that other film, the characters (did) stumble across a director and his assistant filming a zombie film as these real zombies attacked them. It was just one scene, but it was the most original and interesting part of that script, and that idea stayed with me for years. So eventually I kind of expanded out that idea to become I Survived A Zombie Holocaust.”
As for the principal photography, “The film was shot in Dunedin, which is a smallish city at the bottom of the south island of New Zealand,” Pigden told us. “It’s also my hometown,” he continued. “It was filmed for twenty-seven days over a five-week shoot schedule. We also shot a few days of pickups later on, and we filmed on the Panasonic AF100 using old Zeiss Prime Super speed lenses.”
Regarding the previous sub-genre works which he found influential, Pigden allowed, “I think the Resident Evil films were, New Zealand’s own Braindead which I love, Romero’s original zombie trilogy, and of course Shaun of the Dead. But perhaps the biggest influence was The Return of the Living Dead. It was very ahead of its time and was one of the first zombie films to introduce black humor to the genre.”
Concerning his filmic approach, “For me I wanted to move away from the shaky-cam super-human, super-fast zombies which had been done to death recently, no pun intended, and I wanted to go back to the retro 80’s style of zombie film and try and make something old feel new again. Because I’m such a fan of the genre, I was simply asking myself, ‘What haven’t I seen in a zombie film?’ And then, ‘What do I want to see? How can I subvert expectations and tropes of the genre but also pay tribute to them?’ I did not want it to become predictable so those thoughts were at the forefront of my mind both in the writing and shooting of the film.”
We queried Pigden regarding the effects, a hallmark of the sub-genre.
“The zombies’ look was created by Brae Toia, who was the head makeup artist, and Julie Clark, who is our SFX makeup artist,” stated the filmmaker. “The VFX was spearheaded by the incredibly talented Sam Scott and his team,” he continued. “The zombie look was built around the concept that all these zombies were very fresh (and) recently infected individuals, so there are no highly withered, decayed corpse-style zombies for the most part.”
Pigden is currently in discussions with several distributors regarding I Survived a Zombie Holocaust.
Screamfest runs from October 14th to the 21st.