1) First off well done on such a fantastic film. How did you feel the world premiere went at frightfest?
HOWARD: Thanks a lot! It was amazing seeing the film on that 55ft screen and the reaction after was amazing. It was so gratifying to hear that so many people had understood what we were trying to do with the film and also felt the emotion we were going for. We are very grateful for the generous reactions we’ve been seeing emerge online. Someone alerted me to one comment about someone being so tense in some parts they were squeezing their partners hands harder than when they gave birth!. Ha. It’s an amazing thing to feel support from the true fans of the genre as Jon & I are fans too and that’s who we made the film for! It was also really weird being banded around in the press afterwards having cameras shoved in our faces and doing autographs etc. Bizzare!!
JON: Thank you very much! I felt the premier went really well! I was watching the audiences reactions and was very happy to see they jumped in the right places and seemed to be really involved in the story. Many people came up to me afterwards to say how surprised that they had became so emotionally involved in a Zombie movie! They just weren't expecting that!
2) When the creators of the Best Selling Computer game Resident Evil 5 decided to set the game in Africa they were barraged with complaints, Did you get any Criticism for also setting THE DEAD in Africa?
HOWARD: Great question and it’s a sad reality that even a small number of people might try and twist the sentiment of the movie like this. We have a great many friends in Africa, some were also involved in this project and in fact I recently mentioned the small amount of reaction we had had in this respect to them and they found it ridiculous and actually had a hard time believing that people could misunderstand the movie in this way. Luckily, everyone who has seen the film so far can see that we actually portray the African characters in the film as strong characters with high morals – more so even than our American lead who is more of a flawed character and learns good lessons from the African people he encounters.
JON: There are always going to be a small minority who complain and try to take the moral high ground about this sort of thing. The fact is pretty much everyone who has seen the film knows nothing could be further from the truth. The underlying theme of the film is about how people from different cultures can forget their differences and unite together for the good of all.The locals in Africa are proud people who were so pleased to be making a film that is purely about entertainment and doesn’t patronise them with the usual "look at the poor starving Africans" routine. They actually told me this on many occasions. They wanted the opportunity to show the world that they too could be part of a movie which can work internationally, and then maybe pave the way for more to be made over there, which would really help the local economy. HOWARD: Also, I must add that 2 of the most famous zombie films of all time – ‘Night of the living dead’ ‘Dawn of the Dead’ – set in the US of course – the lead male is Black and he happens to have to battle with lots of zombies, most of whom happen to be white. Of course there is absolutely nothing controversial in this unless you are someone who looks for that sort of thing – you can find negativity in anything if you are inherently negative. ‘The Dead’ happens to be set in Africa – it is set in Africa as we wanted a beautiful landscape in which to set our film – a place that was very open (traditional huts that are vulnerable and not with big cities where a situation like this can be contained) and an environment that is harsh, hot, dry and not so easy to survive unless you have a lot of supplies. It also makes dramatic sense that the main character is as ‘foreign’ as he can be to this land so it is unfamiliar to him in every way. Africa was the perfect place, and naturally Africa happens to contain many Africans and I hope that your readers agree that it would have been morally wrong for us to portray the African locals as anything other than black!
3) You seem to have gone back to the basic style of slow zombies, why did you decide to use slower zombies apposed to the more modern faster Zombie?
Jon: It's funny i always saw the modern running Zombie as the more basic one, because when the Zombies run it always becomes an action scene at the cost of suspense and ultimately horror. When the Zombies are creeping up on you there is a much greater scope for the tension to be really cranked up, Don't get me wrong i also like some of the running zombie movies but in my book the slow ones are much more scary. Besides if we all decided that vampires were now able to operate in the light and they no longer needed to be staked in the heart etc it would ruin the fun a bit by destroying the myth! In effect they would no longer be vampires at all. Howard: Also, we wanted ‘The Dead’ to be a journey movie that is also as reflective and poignant as it is horrific . Its party about loneliness and death stripping away all of the things that life has to offer us and the fact death is creeping up on all of us no matter how far away we think it might be and stylistically running zombies would have killed the mood to say the least! I remember having dreams as a child that must have been set off by hearing my heart beating whilst lying in bed – I would hear the sound as footsteps creeping up on me. I would imagine that I was far away from this ‘creature’ and be slightly comforted that it was at least moving slowly so I had some time but I also felt that if I slept for too long no matter how slow this thing was it would eventually catch up with me and it was a horribly terrifying thought!
4) You told the fans at Frightfest that during filming of THE DEAD you were faced by many dangers. What kind of dangers did you face? and how did this effect filming?
JON: The problems severely effected the filming! We all became ill especially the lead Rob Freeman who contracted full blown malaria. I myself was diagnosed with malaria, we were robbed by the local police on many occasions! Howard was mugged a knife point right at the start. The shipping company at Tilbury Failed to ship our equipment so we had next to nothing with which to make the film for the first five weeks! The set got hit by a tornado which destroyed one of our 35mm movie cameras! Then things rapidly got worse from there! Lol
HOWARD: Outside of the local African people we encountered in the villages who were such open and honest people, its hard to get into words how horrific it was trying to get ‘The Dead’ in the can. I also felt so personally responsible as Producer/Director and many times I felt the additional wrath of anger from a frustrated cast and crew who were so far out of their comfort zone it was unreal. After Rob Freeman got out of hospital, I even offered him a way out – he could fly home and we would re write the script so he died early on but he simply would not quit! He’s got to be admired for that! Everyone became ill at some point, including the African members of our cast and crew and they were as fearful and frustrated as we were when we were held up by police for money. Some people call what we faced corruption, some might say its people using their position to do what it takes to get food on their families table. I don’t know the answer but I can tell you that its incredibly inconvenient when you’re just trying to stay on schedule! Some of the things that happened have caused us to seriously consider that the production has been cursed and there was so much horror in making ‘The Dead’ that i am writing a book about it, documenting every single painful incident that happened. This will hopefully be released with the film.
5) How did you create such a harrowing zombie tale? and what films inspired you?
JON: Thank you! There are so many films that inspired us which include the more obvious ones ie Dawn of the dead, Fulci's movies, And a great almost unknown film from the mid seventies called Lost in the desert. There are many more but it'll be fun to see how many people spot the references.
6) What are you both working on next?
HOWARD There are a couple of other projects bubbling away nicely but to quote a cliché, we can’t tell you much more at this stage. Finally getting our zombie movie on screen has certainly been the realization of a dream but I believe we’ve got a lot more to offer the film world besides ‘The Dead’. Of course, it’s all hinging on how this one goes but our aim is to make films that are first and foremost, entertaining, but also can be enjoyed by an audience who like to explore subject matters with a deeper meaning than what appears to be on the surface. There is also talk of a follow up to The Dead and if the fans support this by viewing it on anything other than a pirate copy then firstly we thank them for their support but they should also know that this will pave the way for us to be able to deliver more and whilst we’re already overflowing with ideas on it, we’ll be looking out for feedback on what true fans of the genre would like to see! Thanks for talking to us.