An interview with ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction director Kevin Hamedani (photo above) and lead actor Doug Fahl at the Vancouver International Film Festival by Willis Wong for Intermedias Review.
Wong: You’re obviously a great fan of zombie movies—ZMD references Peter Jackson’s “Dead Alive”, Romero’s “Dead” films, Boyle’s “28 Days Later”—what came first, zombie movie or political satire?
Hamedani: Political satire. I wanted to discuss my experiences post 9/11 and at first I actually wrote a serious script that wasn’t even a horror film at all and I just wasn’t feeling it. At that time I had already made a few serious semi-autobiographical low budget films. I was done with that and felt like doing something a little bit more fun, so just one morning over breakfast with a friend, talking, the idea of terrorists and a virus and zombies [came up]; at that time it was the terrorists that actually caused the problem.
W: You’ve made the most of your budget, throwing in one gag and one gore scene after another, there’s a throwaway man-on-fire in the background, there’s a lot of post-production CG. Was the filming pace frantic?
H: Yes. It was intense and insane, not enough time.
W: Was there time to ad-lib?
H: Oh yeah, Cooper Hopkins, who played Lance–I had worked with him since high school. Actually we did plays together and he improvised a lot during my stage work, so I trusted him in doing that on film. A couple of funny lines are improvisations, and we improvised certain gags. W: With the level of craziness post 9/11 and especially after the election of a black president, was it tough to out-crazy present day politics?
H: Well, what you have to do is go over the top. What was going on in the last eight years was so absurd that if we didn’t have an absurd film, it wouldn’t have been good enough as a satire about that period, kind of like “Doctor Strangelove”–’There’s no fighting in the war room’, all those little lines, the guy riding on the nuclear bomb–that was a reaction to the idea that we could actually kill ourselves with this one bomb and that was when people were actually starting to realize that. The fact that Middle Easterners were being beaten up in cabs or stopped because of their last name, for me growing up being exotic pre-2001, ‘Oh you’re Persian–that’s so cool’, and then overnight, all of a sudden my neighbors who I grew up with stopped waving at me when I would drive home from work. That to me was so unbelievable and so absurd that I knew the film had to go as far as it could in terms of the gore being just ridiculous because that represented the violence in the time. I knew I had to make fun of everybody from the white characters to the Iranian characters because I thought everyone was at fault.
W: Right, nothing’s sacred, even the schoolteacher turns into Rambo.
H: Yeah, she turns into a conservative type, and that happens in politics.
W: Well, speaking of gore, there’s the face-peeling and the eyeball-eating scenes–was there anything cut out, left on the cutting room floor because it was too over-the-top?
H: There was a zombie eating a foetus. If I didn’t have to compromise, it would be in there.
W: There’s a comic book series that shares the same name that might be turned into a Hollywood movie down the road. Is there room for two “ZMDs”? H: No, you can’t have two films with the same title. We contacted them because I wrote the script prior to that comic even existing. The script was started in 2004 and we didn’t find out about the comic until post-production. We were editing and then every week we’d do the research to find out if anyone was talking about us and then we found out this comic existed. Our lawyers contacted their lawyers saying, ‘We need to discuss this, one of us needs to change the name, let’s just sit down and talk about it’, and they didn’t contact us. I think they thought we were like a mini-dv, little low budget in-your-backyard kind of film. I think that they just thought not to bother, and we tried our best to contact them, so OK, we’re almost done with our film and this is the title we had from the very beginning, so we kept it. We were even considering changing the title, so we were thinking of additional titles. We were open to all that but they didn’t even contact us so we’ll see what happens when their film comes out.
W to Doug Fahl: How did you enjoy wielding a shotgun, blood splatters–was it a new experience?
Fahl: Yeah definitely, the whole film-making experience was new. That was my first film; I had previously done commercial work. It was a complete blast.
W: A total dive into the genre.
F: Yeah, once I was cast I was a little nervous, like am I going to be able to do this action stuff, you know?
H: Really? You were nervous?
F: Well, I mean a little bit. I’m nervous on any project, like am I going to be able to pull this off convincingly? But once I got on set and realized even though it’s fast paced, the pace is very slow. You have plenty of time to prepare for your scene as you’re waiting around, but the gore, the blood, although it’s sticky and uncomfortable and cold, I enjoyed every minute of it. Even waiting around for hours it’s exciting.
W: Was the majority of the movie shot at night? How did you handle the schedule?
H: I love it.
F: You just get used to it. You’re all on the same schedule. When they say it’s breakfast it’s really midnight and lunch is at 3 am. The town, we shot at Port Gamble, one little block, and that became our home for a month so It just felt like the street was our hallway and the post office was our kitchen. We had the run of the town and it was very exciting. You could take a stroll down the street, watch the shooting, go over to the graveyard and relax.
(Intermedias reviewer at VIFF 2009)
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