It’s a relatively common dream for indie film-makers: Develop your project as a short so people can get a taste of your vision and build on your initial success to create a feature-length version.
Jacob Mulliken isn’t stopping at a single feature, however. His zombie action/comedy Meltdown is growing into a trilogy.
Mulliken said the project’s roots go back to 2012 when Meltdown began as a thirty two minute short filmed in Pittsburgh, Pa during the first week of August. The short was filmed on a shoestring budget of $1,200, all of which was accumulated through the organization of a Zombie Carwash held in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.
With the short completed, Mulliken set about promoting it in hopes of gaining fans and funding to expand the project. Along the way, he picked up the 2014 Pittsburgh Filmmaker of the Year through RAWartists, an organization that highlights the works of independent artists in various cities across the globe.
The attention helped Mulliken secure a budget of $50,000 for the feature film version. In addition to financial resources, Mulliken also worked with local government officials as well as civic and business leaders to get perks like filming permits, locations and the use of emergency service vehicles for his film. One supporter of the film let the production use his 70-acre property in Colorado, going so far as to allow Mulliken to burn down an old house on the land.
“Ultimately, the goal of the production was to attempt a community based approach in an art form that often excludes members of the community during its conception,” Mulliken said. “The goal was met and the production, crew and cast were accepted by both communities that supported the film. Not only was the production given its own day, but it was given resources that would have ordinarily cost tens of thousands of dollars.”
While Meltdown is contemporary production, Mulliken said he wanted to create something that hearkened back to an earlier era.
“The Meltdown feature was conceived in the style of classic 80s style horror,” he said. “The characters, the cinematography, color correction, score as well as the practical special effects are all inspired by that particular decade’s style of drive-in horror.”
Mulliken said his film is far from a straight-ahead horror film, calling it a “stylistic mix of Clerks, Shaun of the Dead and the Road Warrior.”
“What separates Meltdown from a typical Zombie film is its pacing,” he said. “The film begins before the outbreak and jumps two years after the four lead character’s escape to show how the creatures, known in the film as Howlers, have evolved as well as the characters.”
Meltdown follows Zeke, Callie, Les and Hunter on the eve of Hunter’s 29th birthday as they share in a few drinks on a seemingly dull day in their hometown of Somerset, PA. The day takes a turn for the worse as everyone they have ever known are suddenly transformed into aggressively murderous flesh eating freaks. The four comrades are forced to hack and slash their way through the reanimated corpses of their closest friends and loved ones, only to find themselves on the precipice of a post-apocalyptic wasteland littered with monsters and the looming threat of their fellow survivors.
Meltdown was distributed through Gravitas Ventures and can be purchased through various cable and on-line platforms like iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Playstation, Verizon and Insight.
With the first film now complete, Mulliken is currently writing the sequel Meltdown: Dead Man Walking.