Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This time I’m so happy to be able to talk about THE BATTERY, a new zombie film that I feel will be something horror fans will be talking a lot about over the next year. I’ve seen the film twice and plan on checking it out again soon, which is not something I can say about 90% of the new zombie films out there today.
Director and star Jeremy Gardner was nice enough to talk with me about the film. Gardner will be appearing at a screening of THE BATTERY in Orlando on Wednesday (that’s tomorrow!) and if you love indie horror, you’d best get out there and see it. You can find more information about the screening on THE BATTERY’s website here and on EventBrite here!
Here’s how my conversation with Jeremy Gardner transpired…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): OK, I am here with Jeremy Gardner, writer/director/star of THE BATTERY, which I just saw and was blown away by. I have to say, I see a lot of zombie films out there and not only is this the best zombie film out this year, it’s the best in quite a few years that I’ve seen.
JEREMY GARDNER (JG): Aww, thank you so much!
BUG: What first made you want to make a zombie film? I mean, there are a ton of zombie films out there.
JG: Well, I want to say I love zombie movies, but then I have to take stock in how many zombie movies that I actually like. And there weren’t a lot. So I decided to write something I could do on a miniscule budget, so the people I borrowed the money from could laugh it all if it didn’t work out. And I don’t know, I couldn’t get zombies out of my head. It actually started as an audition video that I was going for a social media project. And it was just a little three minute video of two friends documenting their life during this post apocalyptic world, but then I kept on expanding it, and expanding it, and I just wanted to keep it out in the woods and very green. It was very languid and poetic environment and I thought I’d never seen a zombie film like that, so I decided to make one.
BUG: I really liked it that you didn’t choose to make the world of THE BATTERY filled with decimated city streets and the typical post apocalyptic world. It feels almost like a travelogue sort of film highlighting beautiful landscapes and environments of New England.
JG: Yeah, part of that is the setting. It was beautiful filled with all of these colors of greens and these rolling hills. But the other part of it is the budget. I knew that if I wanted to do a movie for $6,000 I would have to do it in the woods. I couldn’t bomb out city streets. It made more sense for the characters to go where there are not people. So it made sense in the story and made sense with the budget as well.
BUG: I’ve read a bit about the low, low budget you had to work with. This film was said to have been made for $6,000. Was that before advertising and things like that? What did that $6,000 cover?
JG: It was $6,000 to get it in the can, as they say. And there’s probably been another three or four thousand added just in travel, editing, advertising, so it’s probably reached around ten.
BUG: There are these filmmakers that make these $100 million dollar bombs out there. Now that you’ve filmed this movie and proved that you can make something so good for so little, what are your thoughts on how money should be spent on films? Would you ever do a film on that low of a budget ever again?
JG: Oh absolutely. It’s a little bit freeing to have to worry about making the money yourself. You tend to not just wash away the money and toss it around so much, I guess. But it is also nice that you’re not going to screw over the people who invested in your movie. That’s a really big thing for me. It was very hard for me to borrow that amount of money from people. I’m not one of those guys who can just put it on my credit card to make this. So I had to ask a few friends to throw a couple of weekend paychecks at me. And it’s really nice to know that the whole thing didn’t go belly up. I didn’t have to hear, “You son of a bitch! Why’d I give you that money!” But it didn’t sever relationships or anything like that. As long as you can write a story that is interesting on the budget you have, it doesn’t matter.
BUG: Definitely. I don’t want to reveal too much about the film, but there’s a significant portion of the film that is filmed inside of a very small car. Can you take me through the process of you making this decision story-wise and what was it like being in that small space for so long?
JG: (laughs) Well, one of the earliest ideas I had of the movie was that the first half of the film would be very wide and open and green and natural. And then at some point, you shove the characters basically into a tin can and don’t let them out. I thought that that abrupt switch in perspective would reinforce the way we see the characters and make things really claustrophobic. And I don’t know, I just really ran with that. I stuck with that concept. So I bought a Volvo station wagon off of Craig’s List for $600.
JG: One of the coolest things was Christian [Stella] my DP came up with was that once we were in the car, even though there are different scenes in the car, each of those scenes is long take. It’s not cutting back and forth inside the scene which builds tension in the scene, I think. “Once they were in the car, don’t let them out” was the basic idea. Keep the audience in there inside the car and never let them see what’s going on outside. It’s kind of like putting them in a coffin.
What was it like in there? It was disgusting. It was cramped. It was hot. I mean, I’m a big guy and it’s not like we had a false floor. It was like we were really living in the back of that Volvo for those days we were shooting, so it wasn’t fun. But I guess it kind of helped with the method acting of it all.
BUG: Another aspect of the film I really like is the differences between the two characters. They’re friends, but they couldn’t be any more different from each other. Do you think you are most like your character of Ben in the film?
JG: Hah, well, I look the most like Benjamin. That’s for sure. I still have that beard. I’m definitely goofy like Ben is, but I’m definitely not as confident or full of machismo as he is.
BUG: The other thing that impressed me about this film was the soundtrack. I thought it was amazing and I downloaded all of the songs I could from iTunes while watching the film.
BUG: How did you get all of those great bands to play for your soundtrack?
JG: That makes me feel good. I love all of those guys. It started with a location video that we shot. I was trying to convince my friend to shoot this thing in Northern Connecticut. So we took a lot of tours of the locations and filmed it and then we cut it together as a little feature. We were like, “Hey we’re going to film this scene here. Look at our locations video!” And I made it with some Rock Plaza Central songs in there. And then we put that up on Twitter and it just so happened that Chris Eaton, the lead singer of Rock Plaza Central, saw it and said, “Hey that’s cool! Are you going to use the songs in the actual movie too?” I was a little dumbfounded because I was a huge fan of this band for years and I’d seen them tons of times in concerts. It was cool that that was even a possibility.
So that started a little back and forth with Chris Eaton and it actually got to a point where one night, I was having a few beers and I got a little brave and I ended up emailing him and asked if he would consider recording a cover of Claude Ely’s “Ain’t No Grave (Can Hold My Body Down)” for the movie. So that cover, “Ain’t No Grave” was recorded specifically for our film.
And it kind of took off from there. Wise Blood actually recorded the song that the movie starts with, that kind of techno-y, electronic music. Chris Eaton suggested The Parlor, which is a band out of upstate New York who are featured a couple of times during the movie. El Cantador. All of these bands gave us this music, which is such a beautiful thing when artists can collaborate and help each other out. I mean, because I’ve had bands just flat out say, “Aww, no way, man. We just can’t see the benefit in appearing in a movie of this budget.”
BUG: I love the scene where, it’s almost like a music video where you do a little song and dance to Rock Plaza Central’s “Anthem For the Already Defeated”.
JG: [laughs] Yeah, that was a bold move too. Because we shot that. I actually wrote that scene for the script and wrote that song into it. I was a little worried, number one that we weren’t going to get clearance for it. But I was also just a little nervous about actually sending that scene to Chris Eaton. It’s like you’re singing his song in a movie. And his criticism was, “You need to turn Jeremy’s vocals up more. You need to hear him more.”
BUG: That’s great. It’s funny you say it was bold for you to email them, but you seem to have no problem dancing around and singing and hamming it up in front of the camera in that scene.
JG: Yeah, I’m a huge ham. But I’m a reserved guy for the most part in real life, but once you put a camera on me...one that actually takes footage and not just stills, that’s a whole different story.
BUG: So what’s going on next with you? I know you are touring this film around festivals and I’m sure there’s a lot of buzz right now with you making this film on the budget you were able to do it with. Do you have a project in mind for your next one?
JG: I’m really trying to get a couple of projects going right now so that we can get things moving. I really would like to let Christian Stella, my DP on THE BATTERY, write the next movie. But he’s too busy working on posts for THE BATTERY, so while he’s doing all of the post work, I’m finishing the scripts. So it looks like it’s going to be me again.
And it looks like its going to be another horror. I have this psychological horror movie about a guy who falls in love with a king cobra that everyone is afraid to shoot, but I’m obsessed with it, so we’ll see.
BUG: Are you a fan of SSSSSSS! Movie? The one about the people turning into snakes?
JG: I’m more interested in DESPITE THE GODS, that documentary about the Jennifer Lynch movie.
BUG: So is it kind of like WILLIARD with snakes?
JG: Kind of. Just imagine the guy who lives across the hall from you who has a nine foot Indonesian cobra in there with him.
JG: I’ve always loved snakes to death and I don’t think snakes have been done really well in film yet.
BUG: Would you be playing the lead role in this one too?
JG: As of now, I might keep myself in mind, but I think I might have someone else in front of the cobra.
BUG: That’s a good idea. One last question about THE BATTERY. With the way the film ends would you ever consider making a sequel to THE BATTERY?
JG: Absolutely. I already have a pretty good sketch of how the sequel would go. It would, obviously, be called THE ORCHARD. But I can't imagine unless someone commissioned it, that I could justify the time and money. Although I have also carefully considered how to make sure it could stand on its own. When I saw DESPERADO in high school I had no idea it was a sequel.
BUG: Awesome! Well, when and where can my readers see THE BATTERY?
JG: Well, hopefully, very shortly we will have the deal in place for digital distribution and will be available early in the next year and it’ll be available on all of the major ways to get that; on iTunes, Xbox, etc. And you can find out more about us on Facebook or at our website or on Twitter @TheBatteryMovie so you can find out specifics. Meanwhile, we’re doing special screenings. We’re doing one in Orlando right after Thanksgiving [Note: That’s November 28th, this Wednesday!] and another at The Foundry in New York on December 4th with the band, the Parlor!
BUG: Well, it’s been a pleasure talking with you. I feel like I’m talking with someone on the verge of becoming huge, so it’s great to talk to you now before all of that happens. Best of luck with the film. It really is one of my favorites I’ve seen in quite a while!
JG: Thank you so much, I’m so glad you like the movie so much!
BUG: I’ll be keeping you posted when and where you can catch THE BATTERY. You can get tickets for tomorrow’s screening in Orlando here. And check out THE BATTERY’s website for more info.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over eleven years & AICN HORROR for two. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be available on iTunes and soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK last year from Zenescope Entertainment & look for his exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 released August-December 2012. Mark will be writing GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES to be released in February-June 2013. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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