Most hardcore zombie fanatics will be familiar with the brilliantly gruesome book series Zombie Fallout, written by military veteran Mark Tufo. It is currently in the process of being turned into a TV series, and a music video was made to help attract potential investors.
The books are so damn awesome and the music video was so damn crazy that I decided to talk to Mark and his producer, Brad Thomas, to find out how the very promising series is shaping up.
Dread Central: So, this is based on Mark’s book series?
Mark Tufo: It is. The beauty of having a director like Brad Thomas on board is not only is he very talented in what he does, but he is also a fan so I know that the translation to film will be as close to the original as is possible.
Brad Thomas: Yeah, Mark’s got a long group of books. He’s most popular for Zombie Fallout. He’s now going into the tenth book in that series, and I’m working on a production deal with him, and we have the rights to all of his catalogue, and we’re gonna be pitching it to Hollywood.
For Zombie Fallout, we’re very excited to be releasing kind of like a music video teaser, as kind of like a launch, going into development… So I contacted him [Tufo] and I’m working directly with him; in the teaser we even have him starring as the main character, Michael Talbot, just as kind of a fun fan nod because we’re still in the early stages… we haven’t completed all of the casting or anything like that, so just as a fun way to introduce the character. We thought, “Who better to introduce the main character and play the main role than the author himself?”
So he flew out from Maine to California, we had a fun shoot, we invited fans, all of his superfans, it was supposed to be something really small, just iconic scenes from the books that his fans would know, just as kind of a fun trailer, and then it turned into something bigger. We ended up doing a whole music video out of it, and he ended up having about thirty of his fans coming in from all over the country. They flew in from Texas, Maine, Ohio, and Michigan. They had a meet and greet with him, and they got to be zombies.
DC: Why a music video?
MT: Music evokes a powerful bevy of emotions and it is our sincerest hopes that this video makes people fall in love with this project that we are so passionate about.
BT: You know, it’s just a fun way to get Mark’s name out there as we go into development. As you know more than anybody, there’s a ton of zombie and horror stuff out there to compete with, and we really wanted a way to make us stand out from the crowd. And wanted just a fun way to introduce Mark and his brand to people who may not know him yet. So we have a new artist who did a kind of Marilyn Manson version of “Whip/Nae Nae.” It’s gotten a ridiculous amount of hits on social media… I think the rap song has about 600 million views, so we did a fun take on it, kind of like a heavy metal version if it, and I wrote a zombie slant to that song. So just a take on the fact that the show doesn’t take itself too seriously and that we’re having fun with it, we got the fans involved. Our main goal is to introduce everybody to Mark, his work, and Zombie Fallout.
DC: How does this compare to shows like “The Walking Dead”?
MT: They both have zombies; other than that we’re vastly different. I’m sure Brad [will bring] up the “True Blood – Walking Dead – Modern Family” analogy so I don’t want to double up. The main character, Michael Talbot, is a street smart, sarcastic man who has the ability to break tension at the most random times throughout the books. This has the effect of making the viewer/reader in one moment terrified and in the next laughing out loud.
BT: Obviously I’d love to be compared to them, because they’re such successful shows. We’re kind of a mix between “True Blood meets Zombieland meets Modern Family.” It’s about a modern family in the zombie apocalypse and how a real group of people would go through it. It keeps the horror true to form, but out main character, Michael Talbot, is sarcastic, Bostonian, an ex-Marine, germaphobe, who has watched every horror movie, and read every book, and prepped himself for this all his life. Then, when it finally comes, it doesn’t turn out like he expected. So there’s definitely a lot of comedy in it. He’s a very blunt character, he says things without thinking, and I think people relate to that. Mark based a lot of the characters on his own family and what he knows, so he’s really making it very relatable. So the fans, he’s got a huge fanbase, and they connect with it because they feel like the characters are acting as they would act. In a more real sense. It’s not so dramatic. You still have the tension, and it’s still a real fight for survival, but it kind of allows you to breathe every once in a while, to get a break from the tension and laugh a little bit.
DC: Because Mark’s books are so expansive, are you hoping that the series will also run for a long time with the possibility of expanding into other mediums?
MT: The books are currently in print, ebook, and audio format and very shortly will be making it onto the pages of a graphic novel series (which I can’t wait for). It is my sincerest hopes that we have a long and successful series run wherever we should find a home.
BT: Definitely. With Zombie Fallout, it’s such a big series that some of the characters don’t even get introduced until later books. You may have seen that in other comic books and novels, like how in “The Walking Dead,” Negan’s not being introduced until right now, and everybody has been waiting and waiting and waiting for that.
Mark’s world of Zombie Fallout is so big and expansive, and the characters are so great, we didn’t want the film version of that, so we’re going for a series, and Mark’s got a really expansive history with books. Not only is he famous for Zombie Fallout, which is what we’re driving for, but we’re in talks with him for his whole other catalogue. He’s got a whole line of books that feature the same character, Michael Talbot, he’s got a book about the zombie apocalypse through the eyes of a bulldog, he’s got one called Timothy about a possessed psycho clown living inside a zombie. So all these connect, and there’s a lot of crossing the gap, a lot of Easter eggs, so a lot of the fans will be excited, and we should be able to go wild with it.
He’s got an amazing lycan series called Lycan Fallout, he’s got an alien series called Indian Hill, it’s outrageous. So Zombie Fallout has a huge fanbase, and they’re the ones who are supporting it. I get non-stop requests about certain scenes, and they’re really particular about what they want see.
DC: Are you favoring practical zombie effects over CGI?
MT: I’m a fan of both; however, after seeing the work of Michael Spatola I don’t know if CGI can beat that.
BT: You know, it hasn’t been decided yet. For the formal trailer that we did, we used practical effects. I was able to work with Michael Spatola, he runs the cinema make-up school here in Los Angeles, the number one school in Hollywood. He’s famous for Return of the Living Dead, for Terminator, he’s been doing movies for years. So he had an amazing team come in, and we lucked out. So it was really great for everyone.
In terms of gore, the show will not be toned down. It’s very realistic and gory and gross, and he’s the kind of guy who will swear. It’s not afraid to get down and dirty and hardcore. So whatever network we end up on, it will have to be a network that will allow us to play it as it is in the book.
DC: So, when can we expect to see “Zombie Fallout”?
MT: Honestly, the sooner the better!
BT: We’re currently talking with networks and investors, people like that. I don’t have an exact date on it yet, it’s just the impact of the fanbase, and the show as it starts to regress. We’re kind of in the early development stages right now. It’s really about asking how you make a zombie story stand out these days, because there’s so much out there. So we want to be different and original. We have a sub-category, where one of the main characters is a vampire, and her goal is to track town and kill all the Talbot clan, and there’s a zombie queen who controls all the zombies, and we’ve got some telepathics, and there’s a supernatural vibe to it. There’s just a lot of angles with the story that allow it to have a lot of time.
Our thanks to Mark and Brad for their time! Learn more about the Zombie Fallout books and series here.