If the Z.O.V. film project comes to fruition, it will be a unique experience in zombie film history. For the first time filmgoers will watch the movie as though they are part of the action.
Rob Graydon, TITLE, said Z.O.V. tells the story of five people trapped in a bunker in an underground lab (Z.O.V. Labs) when a mysterious outbreak causes the rest of the staff to die and then re-animate. “What makes it different is that it’s told completely from the point of view of one of the people in the bunker. We’ll be creating a custom built camera rig and attaching it to the actor (Stephen Ryan who plays Simon),” he said. “In doing this, the audience will go on a first person ride through the eyes of someone trapped in the room as tensions mount and claustrophobia sets in.”
Like many zombie filmmakers, Graydon’s first brush with the undead came thanks to George Romero. Graydon said sneaking into a 1980 re-release of “Dawn of the Dead” ignited his passion for horror movies, although not necessarily zombie movies.
“Zombies didn’t become mainstream until years later so I only thought of zombie films as the Romero classics or bad Italian B Movies,” he explained.
What he did take away from Romero’s film was the way in which the artist was able to manipulate the audience.
“It made me really obsessed with getting audiences to react the way the artist wants them. For years I was a stand up comic and you get to see immediately how people react to things,” Graydon said. “Laughing at a comic or screaming on a roller coaster or shrieking at a horror movie all come from the same primal place and a good artist can tap into that.”
Where other zombie filmmakers have followed well-established patterns within genre, Graydon said he knew from the outset that he wanted to do something different. The problem was figuring out how to do it.
“I came up with the idea several years ago but couldn’t do it justice because HD cameras were too big to mount to an actor and still be able to see his hands or get up close with the other actors,” he said. “Then about a year ago I saw these GoPro cameras and thought to myself that ZOV might be possible now.”
Not everyone in the production was convinced that the answer had been found, however.
“My Director of Photography, Rich Mauro, was a little hesitant as the cameras have manual iris or focus control,” Graydon said. “But now the Blackmagic cameras are coming out with versions later this summer that look like they’ll be the right size with the features Rich will be happy with.”
While this will be Graydon’s first time working on a horror film, he said his background in documentary filmmaking gave the opportunity to learn from some of the masters in the genre.
“I’ve worked with the good people at Fangoria which allowed me to do a lot of behind the scenes work with people like Clive Barker, Rob Zombie, Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger and the late, great Stan Winston,” he said. “They all gave me fantastic insight into their storytelling methods and I’m grateful for the experience.”
Graydon said the movie has already been cast and the actors have been rehearsing for months.
“I planned a long rehearsal time because the camera choreography has to be very carefully staged because the film will seem (because it’s from one person’s point of view) like it’s one continual shot,” he said.
Veteran stage actor Stephen Ryan stars as Simon the main character who’s trying to hide a dark secret from the others. Actors Katherine Dickson (who has a film in Cannes right now) and Jonathan Fortes from Graydon’s previous film ‘La Soledad’ star as Lydia and Javier. Kutcha plays the mysterious Grant. Dani Bathory will fill the shoes of Janis and Geraldine Sweetman rounds out the cast as the mysterious, dark character known simply as ‘Suit’.
In addition to rehearsing, the cast is recording a series of webisodes for release on YouTube in advance of the filming.
Graydon said a Kickstarter campaign is currrently under way to provide the funding needed to finalize and build the camera rig and build a 360 degree set of the bunker, the corridor outside (where all the zombies are) and a lift to the surface.
“And, of course, there’s the makeup. We’re designing a cool, horrific ‘first stage’ zombie look,” he said. “All the zombies in the film are only about two hours old so they haven’t started decomposing yet so we’re making something scary and creepy, almost tribal in it’s look.”
The Kickstarter campaign can be found at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/robgraydon/zov-movie.
If everything comes together, filming will completed in July and the movie will be ready for release at Halloween. Graydon said he plans for a rather extensive post production.
“Part of the film utilizes a holographic ‘Minority Report’ style surveillance system in the bunker,” he said. “It’s an integral part of the story and will require a lot of motion tracking, match moving and rotoscoping.”