September 2, 2012

A LITTLE BIT CASEY WALKER: An Interview with the director of A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE


Interview with CASEY WALKER
(director A Little Bit Zombie)

Before Kickstarter and before Indiegogo, there was a little site called MyMillionDollarMovie.com.

Created by director Casey Walker, one of the earliest trailblazers into the world of online crowd-funding, MyMilliondollarmovie.com went online in 2006 as a way for Walker to raise funds for a feature film. For as little as $10, donors could become a producer on his movie by purchasing a frame of the finished product. Five years later, Walker had secured enough funds to begin shooting his feature film debut, the highly entertaining zombie comedy A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE, which is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

I recently caught up with Walker at the Anchor Bay booth at Fan Expo Canada 2012 in Toronto. We talked about the trials and tribulations he faced making A LITTLE BIT ZOMBIE, the appeal of zombies in horror and comedy, and the changes he's seen in the online world of fundraising.

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Director Casey Walker
ZED WORD: Well, A Little Bit Zombie is out, and I loved it. But what has reaction been from other zombie fans?

CASEY WALKER: It’s 50/50. People who don’t like zombie movies really like it. People that are true fans of the genre seem to like it. We, you know, get a lot of positive and a lot of negative. I never can tell who’s the most hardcore zombie fan. It’s not like they rip open their shirts and have fucking Romero tattooed on their chests

ZW: Well, maybe here [FAN EXPO]

CW: Well, yeah. Here it’s possible. So, I think people like that’s it’s a different take on the whole [zombie] thing and there’s a lot of unanswered questions that let your imagination go. And it’s fun. All we wanted to do was entertain people and have fun. And I think we succeeded there.

ZW: That was the main goal, then? Not to make a horror movie or a horror-comedy, just make a fun movie?

CW: We just wanted to make a fun movie. So when people go, “Oh, you screwed up in that genre. You didn’t get that side of it right,” we’re like, “We succeeded in making a good film and that’s all we wanted to do.”

Poster art and tactical zombie hunting van on display at Fan Expo 2012
 ZW: Well, the fandom will always find things to pick apart. 

CW: Oh yeah! That’s the thing with the internet. It gave the voiceless a voice, but we’ve had a couple of reviews from…..they’re not even reviewers really…..but just people who had an opinion who've sat down and written brutal hate. I read them too. I find it funny. Wow, you put so much time into hating this; what else could you have done? You know what they say, no press is bad press. It’s getting us out there.

ZW: The thing I really like about A Little Bit Zombie is the comedy aspect. There’s so many different types of comedy. There’s slapstick, gross-out, irony, comedy of errors, and word play. Did you ever find directing comedy difficult?

CW: No, but it is not easy…to do right. I like to think I’m a funny person. I got a good sense of humour. Comedy’s timing, so it’s just a matter of keeping your eye on that all the time. When it’s right, it’s right and don’t fuck with it after that.

ZW: Is that easier to do since the production is independent and you don’t have studios sending you notes or talking in your ear saying, "Do this," or "Change that!"

CW: Yeah, we were allowed to determine what we thought was funny and not a panel or a group or the comedy meter in some exec’s office.

ZW: I assume it didn’t go to a test screening.

CW: We did a focus group screening because the editor and I were in it for so long we needed a little perspective.  The notes we did get out of it too, we did make changes based on the audience’s reaction. Not so much in the comedy but to some things that were unclear and some stuff that turned out to appear misogynistic. That wasn’t our intention, so we cut that stuff out. I think it’s good when you’re in that process to get a few people in a room. It helped us make it better.

ZW: Were there any notes you got that you completely disregarded?

CW: Oh yeah. Some people just don’t understand the process. They'd say, “Oh, I’d really like to see a sex scene.”

ZW: WHERE ARE THE BOOBS!

CW: There are boobs in there. You just have to look for them. They’re in a spot you wouldn’t expect. The stuff like that – I’m not going to go back and shoot a sex scene. It was that kind of ridiculous feedback that we said, “No thanks. We’re ignoring that.”

ZW: On the zombie angle of this, do you find zombies scary?

CW: Oh yeah. I’m more terrified of that because it’s something human. You can’t reason with the horde.

Penelope life cast by Chris Bridges of Gaslight Studios at Anchor Bay booth during Fan Expo 2012
ZW: And at a place like Fan Expo you get a sense of that mob mentality

CW: This is one of those perfect places. I guess I contain my fear in crowds. I don’t really like big crowds. I have that “What if” mentality.

ZW: You going to scale up the bottom of this zombie truck and hide up on top there?

CW: Definitely. They made me disconnect the battery so no one could drive it away, but I think I could hook it up pretty fast. If the virus spread through here, I’d definitely cut a big swath through the horde before they got me.

ZW: If they’re so scary, why do zombies lend themselves to comedy?

CW: Good comedy comes from conflict. You see people get bitten in movies and a lot of times they hide it from people. It’s a fearful thing. All of a sudden they’re just dead, people are sad, and they come back and bite someone. But I think there’s something really conflictual about the nicest guy on the planet dying and at the worst possible time in his life –

ZW: Or maybe the best, depending on how you look at it.

CW: They’re really like this is kind of no big deal and trying to brush off such a major life-altering moment. I think that’s where a lot of the fun comes from.

The only thing in the movie that sucks: an animatronic mosquito from A Little Bit Zombie
ZW: Let’s put yourself in the context of the movie. If you were a little bit zombie, how would you handle it?

CW:  Oh, I wouldn’t handle it too well. I’d probably embrace it and I’d just be done.

ZW: Would you embrace it and shed off your human side and go out there and eat people?

CW: With the whole indestructible aspect I’d probably go get into some trouble before I went down.

ZW: Casey Walker Gone Wild on the Zombie Side?

CW: [laughs]

ZW: It’s been a long journey from fundraising to release for A Little Bit Zombie. If you were to crowd source funding today, would it be easier or harder than when you started raising funds with mymilliondollarmovie.com?

CW: Now would be easier because there’s a lot more tools and there’s a lot of people who have tried and succeeded and tried and failed, and there’s a lot to learn from that that you can apply to crowd-funding campaigns now. I don’t think I personally would do it for my own project again, but I want to help some other people do it because I think it will be easier than what I did.

ZW: What were some of the struggles you found in trying to get this movie made?

CW: Oh, well, you know internet commerce hadn’t even kicked into high gear yet. Facebook hadn’t even opened up to the public yet. Myspace – no one knew what to do with it. The internet has changed so drastically in the last six years that we had to constantly keep up with change to a point where..... I wasn’t trying to make a website. I wasn’t trying to start something new. I just wanted to get money for a movie. It was a huge learning curve. I would rather have learned more about film-making than online fundraising and the legalities behind it.

ZW: But you still think online fundraising is a good tool to use today?

CW: I think it’s a tool if you know what you’re doing. Don’t go off half-cocked. It’s one of those things where you don’t just throw up a photo and hope for the best. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of execution and a team – it’s not a one-man show anymore. I think anyone that’s thinking about it should know that and do that. Otherwise, could put a lot of work into nothing.

ZW: Especially if you don’t meet your funding requirements and then you don’t get anything.

CW: I think that’s a good thing. If you have all this money but you don’t meet your goal, you shouldn’t be able to have the money because it’s just not fair to the people that have put the money in. They’re the support network, and fucking with them fucks with everyone else trying to do it.

Stephen McHattie, who plays a zombie hunter in A Little Bit Zombie, watches over us.
 ZW: What’s next? Any plans to come back to these characters and extend the story a bit further?

CW: We’ll see. I mean, I’m in this business because I get to do something different all the time. Right now, after a couple years of running with it, I’d like to do something different. As much as I love this story and these characters, I need a break. We talk about a sequel. There’s a whole honeymoon or Christmas movie aspect in there.

ZW: Oh man, the tone of A Little Bit Zombie would really lend itself so well to a Christmas comedy.

CW: That’s what we keep batting back and forth, but the writers are on a couple of different projects, and I’m looking to do something more dark in the horror world.

ZW: I was going to ask if you were going to stay in the horror genre.

CW: Doing another horror and then there’s a very dark Western I’m writing with someone. A Little bit Zombie was fun. Light hearted. Good comedy. I’ll never shy away from comedy. I think it’s just going to be a lot darker. We’re going to cross those lines a little further next.

ZW: Do you have plans to keep these projects within Canada? I was really proud that ALBZ came out of Canada.

CW: I am, but I’ll go where the money is. This is a business, and if someone in Kuala Lumpur’s going to give me the money, I’ll go shoot in Kuala Lumpur. I’ll go make it. I feel very fortunate I got to make the whole thing here. I’ll keep trying to because I like Canada. I love living here and love being Canadian. But, at the end of the day, it’s not easy to get movies made, especially independent genre movies. If someone’s got money somewhere else, I’ll go there.

ZW: Well, I look forward to whatever you have coming next!

CW: Cheers!

Fan Expo, your zombie survival transport is ready!