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Muldoon interviews FearNet's "Zombie Roadkill" director David Green and screenwriter Henry Gayden!!!

Hey everyone. Muldoon here. So Fantastic Fest was as kickass as ever this year and I got to see a ton of great films that I just wouldn't have been able to see otherwise (or even know about for that matter). One of the films that I really dug was ZOMBIE ROADKILL. All I knew going in was that it had Thomas Hayden Church and it involved zombie roadkill... I didn't know it was a web-series for Fear Net. To be honest, I don't think I've ever watched a web-series, so I didn't know what to expect for that screening. It screened interruption free like a short and rocked my face off. The story follows a group of college kids who accidentally run over a squirrel that returns to life (along with other woodland creatures) and seeks it's bloody revenge. I really dug the short/web series and hope to catch it this week when it premieres tomorrow over at Here's ZOMBIE ROADKILL's director David Green and screenwriter Henry Gayden. We chatted up where the story came from, how Ghost House and Thomas Hayden Church got involved, and a lot of other cool stuff.

Muldoon: Hey David.

David Green: Hey, how are you?

Muldoon: Good, good. How are you doing today man?

DG: Good, good. Henry’s here, too. Henry Gayden: Hi Mike.

Muldoon: Hey Henry, what’s going on?

Henry Gayden: Not much. I’m a little out of breath, so just know that’s not normal. It will go away, I just got here.

Muldoon: Cool, so I’ll just kick this off with our first question unless Henry you need a second to catch your breath first?

Henry Gayden: Go for it. Jump in.

Muldoon: So first and foremost, where in the hell did you guys come up with this story? Just where did the concept behind ZOMBIE ROADKILL come from?

Henry Gayden: I pitched it, but I think he actually came to me with the… It was sort of like the title that started the basic idea, but really I don’t know… [To David] Where did it come from? David Green: Well a friend of mine, named Barry Curtis, and I were shooting some ideas around and we had an idea… We had seen so many zombie movies about obviously humans getting infected and destroying people, and we thought it would be really cool to see animals getting sick or getting an animal virus or something. Then I think I came to Henry and we came up with the idea. It might have been the title “Zombie Roadkill” that… We just loved the idea of animals that could bite people and rip their flesh out. Henry Gayden: And they would burrow inside your skin and… sorry.

[Everyone Laughs]

David Green: So animals that bite you and really mean it, I guess. So that’s kind of where the seed came from and we started going back and forth about things like the rabbit in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL and how awesome that was and the idea of an animal starting to eat you, then devouring you, then you’re like a skeleton after five seconds of this animal being on you. So that’s where the first seed started and we just knocked that back and forth and got a kick out of it. Henry Gayden: Yeah and that was the genesis of the killer animal idea. We really worked out a lot of different possible storylines for it which were absolutely insane, but that’s where it came from.

Muldoon: So had you always envisioned this to be a web series?

David Green: Actually when it first started it was going to be a ten minute short film that I was going to direct as a sample to show some of my old employers from SPIDER MAN 3, which is where Henry and I both met… We were both assistants on SPIDER MAN and they were kind of like “Alright big shot, what do you want to do next? You say you want to be a director, why don’t you prove it?” So I had this challenge to make a short film and we thought ZOMBIE ROADKILL was going to be that short film. Henry Gayden: We actually wrote a ten-minute shot and did test footage for it. David Green: That’s right, Henry wrote a short script for it and it was going to be a short, but at the time one of the executives at Ghost House pictures named Aaron Lamp, who’s a friend of mine that worked on SPIDER MAN 3 as well, he’s a really good guy and kept challenging me the whole time saying “How are you going to do this movie with all of these animals? It’s got all of these puppets in it, what are you going to do?” So we went out in this parking lot and shot this one-minute test of the squirrel that attacked my best friend Daniel Hartley and just kind of… I’ll send it to you. It’s just a little clip basically of this taxidermy squirrel attacking the shit out of someone in the back of a parking lot. We did that instead of just shooting the animal against a wall to make sure the mechanics could work. It turned out to be more fun to do an actual edited sequence. So that’s what we did and what ended up happening was that the guys at Ghost House ended up seeing it and they had a deal with Fear Net where they produced web series. Fear Net really dug the idea and they kind of gave us the opportunity to expand it. Henry Gayden: It was just weird, because we had this ten minute short that we tested a lot of time, tweaking the story and making it work with an act structure and then they are like “Okay, we want to expand this by three or four times and we want to give you eighty times as much money,” but it was pretty incredible and then it just blew up from there.

Muldoon: If you were looking to impress people with this thing, I think you succeeded. I loved it when I caught it at Fantastic Fest a week or so ago. I know you were there for the Q and A after it screened, but were you in the audience watching it with us?

David Green: Oh yeah. Henry Gayden: Yeah, nervous as hell.

Muldoon: What did you think?

David Green: It was awesome. I was puking blood.

Muldoon: You should have gotten that on tape for your next movie…

Henry Gayden: It was an amazing reaction. It was really fun to be in that crowd. It was the first time we had actually seen it with a crowd. David Green: And the Austin audience was just the best. It was the best reception we could have asked for. Henry Gayden: When I got out to LA, I would go to concerts and now I don’t because I’m old and I don’t spend money, but no one dances in LA. In Austin everyone dances and it’s the exact same comparison in the theater. Everyone was just having a great time. It was really fun. David Green: The other cool thing about it was it’s a horror comedy, so this movie lives and dies on scares and jokes basically, so… I’m not going to say it’s infectious, but it’s cool to be in an audience with a big sound system and to see what would otherwise be on the web shown in front of an audience and actually have the opportunity to scare the crap out of people.

Muldoon: The movie’s funny, it’s got cool kills, interesting kills and… I don’t I’ve ever seen a psycho dear attack someone quite like that either. It was definitely memorable. So Ghost House got you squared away with Sam Raimi and all of his crew loved it and got the Fear Net thing set up, I think it’s safe to assume that’s how you snagged Thomas Hayden Church. Is that the case?

David Green: Yeah, I had met Thomas on SPIDER MAN 3, because I was an assistant to one of the producers and part of my job… Thomas is such a great guy. He’s very lowkey and very approachable and such a great dude, which is very apparent in watching him in movies, so he doesn’t have an assistant or anything, so once in a while like very rarely Thomas would ask a favor of my boss and then my boss would be like “David, go do it.” So I would occasionally drive Thomas around in the golf cart or get him lunch or whatever he needed really and we just got to know each other and he was just a really cool guy. Early on he was like “David, you’re a pretty good PA, but I’ll never be in one of your movies. Don’t even ask.” He was just really cool and funny about the whole thing.

Muldoon: So something changed his mind.

David Green: I knew him enough to feel comfortable to ask him to be in it, even though he’s a big star and hard to approach.

Muldoon: And David Dorfman also has got a nice long list of work he’s done. I thought he definitely pulled his own with Church. He’s not your typical zombie killer/victim type guy.

Henry Gayden: He brought a fantastic amount of nervous energy to that and really… Something Dave and I really cared about was injecting this kind of gory story with a little bit of heart. This isn’t like a Cameron Crowe movie, but like a little bit of feeling and Dorfman really brought that to his character and made the ending with the girl, and I wont say what that is I guess, but a really sweet twist.

Muldoon: The ending is definitely “unique” to ZOMBIE ROADKILL. I loved it.

David Green: Thank you man. And he was the right age and the right type. I definitely think actors fit the roles they are cast in in their personality types too, and David is a great guy and really smart. Henry Gayden: He’s actually a genius. Were you there for the Q and A? When they revealed that he graduated from UCLA at 16?

Muldoon: Yeah, I didn’t know if that was a joke or not, because that’s… that’s pretty amazing.

Henry Gayden: He has a huge collection of ancient and contemporary maps. He majored in geography. He’s been acting since he was three and graduated from UCLA at 16, yeah he’s definitely getting into his own life outside of the way he portrayed Simon.

Muldoon: It’s not just Thomas Hayden Church and David Dorfman, I think everyone in this felt pretty real.

David Green: Thank you bro, that’s really cool.

Muldoon: So how long of a shoot did you have? It felt like a good chunk of the film is filled with practical effects, which I can only assume took forever.

Henry Gayden: How long do you think it took? What did it look like?

Muldoon: I’d say a week and a half, two weeks. I know it’s still a short film, but when you have that many effects where you splatter blood on a person and then have to reset back to one, that could easily eat up a lot of time.

Henry Gayden: That’s all to David’s credit. David Green: We actually had five days to do the entire thing, which was really hard for me because all of the shorts that I had done in the past were like “Just show up at 10 in the morning, we’ll be done by 4, and we can have a margarita at lunch and it will be fine.” This was my experience with a real crew and a real budget and real schedule and deadlines, so it was really tough, because if you were to flip through the script, you would see that every page has a big gag on it, like someone’s head explodes or there’s a squirrel that speaks English or a gag that would normally take half a day on a normal movie… In certain situations we had just minutes to get some of these things done, but we had a really great crew and everyone was working really hard and they were all pretty enthusiastic about the project. Our DP, Eric Gustavo-Peterson was really great and pushed his crew really hard and the creature effects guys were also really… They knew what we were getting into from the get-go and everyone read the script and was like “Five days? Are you nuts?” But everyone was really cool and they all helped us get it done quickly and efficiently.

Muldoon: So this was one of the bigger shoots you had directed, do you have anything else in the pipeline? What’s next for both of you guys? I really dug the film and sincerely can’t wait to see what you guys have planned next.

David Green: Thank you. Henry Gayden: We’re going to do a two hundred million dollar feature in our minds… I don’t know. I think there are a lot of ideas that we are working on together, but we don’t have anything set in stone right now. David Green: Yeah, I have just been spending the last week in my house drinking alone, but yeah in the short term I think I’m going to do some short form things for and then in the long term Henry and I are working on new ideas together and we’d love to make one of them happen. Henry Gayden: And hopefully come back to Austin for it.

Muldoon: David, I checked out some of the stuff you have up on your website and dug a lot of what you’ve put up. I think you’ve got a fresh style, but still play homage to some of the greats. The whole time I was watching ZOMBIE ROADKILL, EVIL DEAD 2 came to mind along with quite a few other movies. Can you list off a few filmmakers you think have influenced your style?

David Green: I definitely grew up on BEETLEJUICE and GHOST BUSTERS and EVIL DEAD 2 and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. When we started talking about this idea, it was just an energy I think that made us laugh a lot, an over the top quality. The gore and the practical gags in EVIL DEAD 2 definitely got me excited and got all of the creature guys really excited, because with the creature guys I know EVIL DEAD is the main reason that those guys got into the creature business, so that got them all excited too. Henry Gayden: SHAWN OF THE DEAD is a really great horror comedy that came out recently. We didn’t really reference it while we were coming up with this, but there just aren’t that many great horror comedies around. BLACK SHEEP… I don’t know if that worked, but I feel like RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and I love EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD 2… We definitely loved the laughing dear head… David Green: Yeah, the laughing dear head in EVIL DEAD 2… Henry Gayden: We love that stuff. You were spot on in seeing that.

Muldoon: It was fun an energetic. Now I got to see the whole series in one sitting, but the first episode premieres tomorrow, correct?

David Green: Yeah. Henry Gayden: The first two actually.

Muldoon: How many episodes are in that? As a whole it’s between 30 and 40 minutes, right?

David Green: It’s 30 minutes with credits and yeah, the first episode ends with the skunk running after him. Two picks up with the skunk chasing him and that episode ends with the door locks coming up.

Muldoon: How many episodes total?

David Green: Six episodes.

Muldoon: How often are each of the episodes coming out? Is it going to be like two or three a week leading up to Halloween or anything?

David Green: It’s actually going to be a week straight of ZOMBIE ROADKILL starting Monday October 4th, tomorrow. Henry Gayden: So they will all be out by Friday.

Muldoon: Oh okay, that makes sense.

David Green: And after that, they are going to put the full 30 minute version, the one that played at Fantastic Fest without any breaks on line I think the following week. It’s supposed to maybe go on their TV channel whenever that goes up, because Fear Net has a TV channel, but I don’t know about that.

Muldoon: Cool, well guys as I know I’ve said a lot, I really dug your stuff. I think ZOMBIE ROADKILL was probably one of the highlights of Fantastic Fest for me.

David Green: Thank you man. Henry Gayden: Thanks a lot.

Muldoon: Cool, well I think those were about all the questions I had.

David Green: Thanks for taking the time to interview us man. Henry Gayden: I’m flattered enough that you want to talk to us.

Muldoon: I’m sure quite a few more people are going to be looking to talk to you guys after they check out ZOMBIE ROADKILL. Hopefully we will get to see more stuff from you both sooner rather than later.

David Green: Thanks man. Henry Gayden: Thanks.

Muldoon: Bye.

Readers Talkback
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