Screamfest LA 2013 Exclusive: Filmmaker Howard J. Ford Talks The Dead 2: India’s US Premiere

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screamfests - Screamfest LA 2013 Exclusive: Filmmaker Howard J. Ford Talks The Dead 2: India's US PremiereWith co-writer (with brother Jonathan) and director Howard J. Ford’s zombie epic The Dead 2: India set for its US premiere on Wednesday, October 9th, at 7:00 pm in Los Angeles at the Screamfest Film Festival, read on for our exclusive chat with the filmmaker.

Produced by the Ford Brothers, The Dead 2: India stars Joseph Millson, Meenu Mishra and Anand Krishna Goyal and revolves around an American engineer who teams up with a surviving orphan street kid to trek three hundred miles across the stunning but deadly rural Indian landscape to the now infested slums of Mumbai in order to try to save his pregnant girlfriend.

“We knew The Dead 2: India would have to be much bigger in scale,” British filmmaker Ford told us of the project’s ambitious scope. “It’s a natural progression for a sequel, so there are larger scale scenes in this time around. We basically approached the writing by breaking one of the script-writing commandments; we just wrote what we wanted to see without keeping an eye on the feasibility of actually shooting it, but at the same time Jon and I insisted that it wouldn’t suffer from ‘sequel-itus’ and just be a bigger version of the first one. We both really wanted to create a multi-layered story and to also keep the little details that mattered and the connection between the characters.”

“We also wanted to have subtlety,” he continued, “and to allow the film to breathe in areas, and not just be bombarded with effects or head trauma! Yes, there is some of that in there, for sure, and hopefully some scenes people will find hard to watch, but we also wanted serene moments, moments where the characters and audience can think. We like films that are more cerebral, and we think horror audiences are way deeper than non-horror fans realize, so there are some threads to the plot that require a bit of contemplation and thought. It’ll be interesting to see how that is received. We can’t please everyone, but no matter what people think, they won’t have seen a film like the The Dead 2: India before.”

As for the setting the film in India and the (apparently harrowing) challenges pertaining to filming in that locale, “India is an incredibly beautiful place, that’s why we chose it,” said Ford. “After [shooting the first film in] Africa, we needed to take The Dead 2: India a step further to take people to a place they had not seen the walking dead before, and India seemed the most beautiful and fascinating and spiritual place we could think of. And it is. However, those that have been to India, and who have not just looked at the lovely travel brochures, will know it’s also an incredibly challenging environment. Bustling to the extreme in the cities, harsh conditions in the rural areas, and in-between the populace all drive like they all want to die!”

“It can be too much for some people,” he offered. “We did have some quitters halfway through [production], and a lot of our crew felt that it was the hardest shoot they had ever done, but of course, having worked on The Dead in Africa, and endured near-death from malaria, knife-point muggings and gun-point corruption on a daily basis, it was, relatively speaking, much easier for Jon and I. We did, however, get threatened by local goons, had stones and cow dung flung at us whilst trying to shoot in some villages, had a dog drop-kicked at Jon, our local female fixers got threatened with sexual violence, and our lead female actress, newcomer Meenu, was constantly told by young male villagers, often ones who had been made up as zombies, that they were going to ‘have her,’ and that they would take her into nearby fields, etc., at any moment. This would sometimes transpire in-between takes, which got annoying, so she would have to be locked in a vehicle, sometimes with our lead actor Millson, wielding his prop gun for ‘real’ protection! That and a bit of ‘Delhi Belly,’ which initially put our FX guy down for a whole week upon arrival, and heat so extreme in the desert that it became hard to move after sunrise, let alone take a shot that might have some artistic merit, and you have a rough overview of how much fun we had canning this movie!”

With the American market saturated in zombie films/series, we queried Ford on what unique aspects The Dead 2: India intends to deliver.

“Well, if anyone’s ever seen an apocalyptic zombie movie set in India starring an American, can they please let us know? I’d love to see it!” Ford laughed.

“There is plenty new about The Dead 2: India,” he expounded. “We made a point of pretty much only choosing locations that had never been used, even in a local Bollywood movie before, so you’re getting a unique journey into the unseen, and apart from a couple of the bigger palace and fort locations that have been seen in other movies like The Dark Knight Rises, it’s all unique to The Dead 2: India. We have intentionally used some familiar plot elements, like the forbidden relationship between a local girl and our foreigner, and while we have seen this before, we haven’t within a zombie context. That was interesting to us; to have things like the overpowering local father whose major concern in life is pairing his daughter up with an arranged marriage, we all know this scenario… but have zombies ever turned up during that? We did also want to put some themes and nuances from The Dead: Africa in there, and also some links from part one that those who liked it might appreciate, but we felt we wanted to take people somewhere new, and so it was also important to us that you would not have had to have seen The Dead to enjoy The Dead 2: India. It’s a bonus in places, for sure, but The Dead 2: India needed to stand on its own.”

As for his thoughts on the US premiere, “I’m really excited about Screamfest premiering us there in LA,” said Ford. “We made this film primarily for the US audience. They are the audience as far as we are concerned. That’s why our movies star American characters, even though we are Brits. We grew up with a love of American movies, and we were inspired mainly by US-made films. Also, we can be so cynical here in the UK, and people here for some reason can be very uncomfortable with some of the more tender character moments in films, so I’m not sure how ready people are for the themes of The Dead 2: India that mix horror and a love story elements, but it seems to us that US audiences are more open-minded to new things like this.”

“The film sometimes wears its heart on its sleeve, so to speak, and that’s not particularly British,” Ford concluded. “Of course, it won’t be for everyone, but we can’t wait to see how the film plays in the US, and I’m personally really looking forward to meeting some folks at the festival. Jon and I also remain incredibly grateful for all the support we received for The Dead in America. Without the support of our American audience, The Dead 2: India would not exist, and we would not have gone on another epic journey to make this sequel. We put our hearts and souls, not to mention our very lives, on the line once again to make this film in a place no other filmmakers on earth will dare to shoot! It’s extremely unlikely that there will ever be another film like this again. I hope the audiences enjoy it. We’ll soon find out!”

For more on Screamfest, which runs October 8th to the 17th at the Laemmle NoHo 7 (5240 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601), visit Screamfest’s website, “like” Screamfest on Facebook, and follow Screamfest on Twitter.

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Written by Steve Barton

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