Television programs like “Man vs. Wild” and “Survivorman” have proven the appeal of watching a man go it alone against the elements. But how insane would it be if a zombie outbreak happened while Bear Grylls or Les Stroud were filming an episode?
That’s precisely the idea Robert Palmer and Michael Weiss plan to explore with their film “I Am Alone.” A Kickstarter campaign is currently under way to fund the film, which will center around the character Jacob Fitts – a television host and survivalist. Fitts, along with his crew, Producer Adam Levine and Cameraman Mason Riley, set out to shoot the 113th episode of their popular survival show, I Am Alone. While Adam and Mason film in town, Jacob is left alone in the Colorado Rockies, only to be attacked by a zombie on the first day.
As the virus spreads through the town, Mason and Adam have to fight the infected to save their own lives. With the CDC monitoring the outbreak, Mason is picked up with all his footage and brought in for questioning.
While the story is fictional, Palmer said it was inspired by something that happened to friends.
“They were camping for a weekend and when they returned to civilization they were completely unaware of what had happened while they were away. That idea always resonated with me,” he said. “What if you just were unaware and had to figure out what is happening and in real time? That can happen to any one of us and then throw in flesh eating infected people.”
The pair behind the film project also have some ideas on how to keep the zombie concept fresh. They note that most films in the genre focus around a group of people trapped in some sort of building. I Am Alone will instead go in the opposite direction exploring a host of questions.
“What if they could come from you from all sides? What if you knew nothing and couldn’t get information? What if you yourself had contact with the infected? Would you understand how to deal with it?” Palmer asked. “The fact that Jacob only knows what he’s done on his show means he’ll continue to do what he’s done over 112 episodes before on his show. He’ll document what happens and what started out as a TV show becomes the first hand account of the chaos.”
Weiss added that a classic thriller also gave them some inspiration for the tone of the film.
“When we first thought of this movie we both said we want to see a mans decent into madness, kind of like Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shinning,’” he said. “I think the audience will be surprised. Yes, in one sense we’re telling it through a conventional vehicle but what they’ll see will be presented to them in a very different way.”
Looking at “The Shining,” a non-zombie movie for inspiration, is just one of the things that make the duo stand. Unlike many people who create in the zombie genre (whether it be novels, comics or films) neither man was introduced to the walking dead by George Romero.
In Palmer’s case, his first brush with zombies came from Wes Craven’s 1988 voodoo movie “The Serpent and the Rainbow.”
“I was young and so bored but I know I just wasn’t old enough to get it,” Palmer said. “Now, I think its a nearly forgotten zombie classic.”
For Weiss, it was Peter Jackson’s 1992 New Zealand zombie horror comedy “Dead Alive,” which showed frequently on a local television station.
“First time I saw it, it gave me nightmares, but it would be on every Friday night and Saturday afternoon,” he said. “I’d always watch it. Freaked me out!”
Although they come to the genre from different backgrounds both filmmakers have a healthy respect for the walking dead.
“I was never really a fan of Dracula or Frankenstein type creatures,” Palmer said. “They felt a little to make believe although the dead reanimating and from once was living is now dead some how made more sense to me.”
Palmer added that another attraction to the popularity of zombies as a movie monster is the audience can relate to them in a way.
“Zombies were people. They were someone who knew or wanted to know and now we never will. They are dead for all intents and purposes, but they seem very much alive, he said. “When we see someone in pain we have compassion and want to help and zombies are the one monster we cannot as much as we want to.”
Weiss said writers and directors are thinking outside the box to keep the genre fresh and updated.
“As long as we keep that up, zombies will always be in,” he said. “Plus who doesn’t like a good ol’ fashioned zombie kill?”
Part of the updating of the zombie genre has been fast zombie, used by Danny Boyle and Zack Snyder among others. Palmer said the plan for “I Am Alone” is that zombies will begin to slow down the longer they’ve been “alive.” However, he added that he feels the debate about zombie speed is unnecessary.
“The thing I find interesting about this debate is that it almost doesn’t matter,” he said. “Zombies have strength in numbers regardless of fast or slow, weak or strong. They’re always going to get you.”
Weiss, on the other hand, has a personal interest in seeing zombies retain their classic slowness.
“I must say for me those fast zombies are very, very scary. I don’t want imagine that could be real,” he said. “I’m a big guy and I kind of don’t want to be lunch, so I’d have to say I side with the slow zombies.”
Palmer and Weiss launched a Kickstarter campaign this week to fund their project and on May 3, they’ll be hosting a launch party in Montrose, Colo. where they will be shooting the film.
“The outreach from the town is so overwhelming and we hope we’re able to get the word out through all our different social media outlets,” Palmer said.
The Kickstarter campaign, which features videos, photos and additional information about the project can be found at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/abstractforces/i-am-alone-the-movie.
The project also has its own website.