The two brothers talk to me about the grueling process the cast and crew went through making this movie. Wild obstacles, being robbed at gun point on several occasions, battling malaria and more, yes they all battled the brutal elements while filming in Africa. Check out my latest Versus as The Ford Brothers share their adventures while making this instant classic, THE DEAD and what's up next for them. You can pre-order The Dead at the bottom of the page.
Image courtesy of screamhorror.com
Alien Bee - How did you two come up with such an original zombie story in such a saturated genre?
Howard - We wanted to make a zombie movie for well over 20 years since seeing Romero’s Dawn of The Dead as teenagers but with the endless amounts of zombie movies coming out over the years it didn’t feel right to do it. That was until we ended up doing some commercials on Africa and saw the beauty of the place and decided we could give audiences something a little different if we scratched our zombie itch in Africa. Jon had kept a lot of notes on the script from way back and it was always going to be a strange in a strange land type thing. The moment we came up with Africa I was very excited and it suddenly seemed worth closing the commercials production company doors to go and do it as the film could hopefully not only satisfy on the zombie-front but also contain a few additional deeper meanings to keep the intellectuals happy!
Alien Bee - Ya'll filmed The Dead in Africa. Tell me about the experience and were there ever any risky situations or obstacles?
Jon - We filmed it on location in remote parts of west Africa. Burkina Faso and Ghana. The experience was truly horrific! We were robbed at gun and knife point, many times. We endured food poisoning, tropical illnesses and malaria. The lead actor collapsed on set with full blown malaria We rushed him to a local hospital where there we’re no beds. He then spent two weeks on a drip and came very close to losing his life. Howard and myself would have to make creative decisions in between projectile vomiting. The list of problems seemed endless. I cannot explain how tough this shoot was it would take way too long. In fact Howard has written a book on exactly that! You can read up on the full horrors of it on www.surviving-the-dead.com what you’ll find in that book is actually far more horrific than what you see in the film.
Alien Bee - Do you and your brother ever argue about which way to film a certain scene or how it should go?
Howard - We never argue
Jon - Oh yes we do
Howard - No we do not!
Jon - Yes we f***ing do!
Howard - Ok we do sometimes. Luckily we are have a very similar vision and ideas of what works and what way the film should be shot. When your filming in dangerous parts of Africa sibling rivalry is the least of your worries but of course it can happen and I’m revealing all in the book for sure!
Alien Bee - Will there be a sequel?
Jon - If enough people actually pay to see the film and not just download pirate copies then yes, we already have some great ideas that we think could make an amazing sequel.
Alien Bee - What was the best experience filming The Dead?
Howard - One of the nicest things (and I’m afraid there wasn’t many nice moments) was being able to bring cash into communities in Africa that really needed it. The Dead takes you on a journey through locations you wont get in any other movie – African villages, deserted rural locations far from civilisation and we were able to involve people who desperately needed money, food, supplies etc – we were not saving the world, we were making a zombie movie but we did our best in this respect and that felt good.
Alien Bee - You cast a lot of locals. How was that and were there ever any communication problems?
Jon - We mainly filmed in French speaking parts of Africa and neither Howard or myself speak French so communication was a big problem. In many of the villages they spoke only a local language, so we had translators who would translate English to French, then more translators who would translate French to the local dialect. Trying to get he simplest of things done was very complicated and time consuming.
Alien Bee - The special F/X really stand out in the movie. Do you have a CGI or practical F/X preference?
Howard - Neither of us are fans of overused CG and the whole point of The Dead was to go oldschool and as a result we lugged our 35mm cameras across the Sahara Desert and many other places and we always wanted the film to have an organic, untouched look. Our make up fx artest Max Van De Banks did a great job keeping the prosthetics as real looking as possible and even had to apply fx to real amputees we found begging at traffic lights. They loved their break from begging to play zombies. It was odd but these are the ‘real’ aspects we wanted to incorporate. Our other FX whiz was Dan Rickard who was also amazing and was responsible for a lot of the practical FX. All of us wanted it to look real.
Alien Bee - I followed this movie from the very first piece of news we got way over a year ago. How long did it take to film and how long did post take?
Jon - We actually finished filming in December 2008 and post production took a year. So this has been a very long road. This is a truly independent movie so there was no big budget to wash away the problems.
Howard - It has been a frustrating wait for us for the film to finally be unleashed in the US on DVD but the only reason we held back was that we wanted a theatrical release in all territories. After all the near death experiences making the film we wanted to show it on the big screen and that caused a wait. Mainly because we didn’t have a ‘big name star’ but we’re very grateful for all the support and encouragement from people online.
Alien Bee - I can easily see The Dead becoming a festival / Halloween cult favorite. Would you like to see this film become like Night of the Living Dead or Rocky Horror where they play to hard core fans every year?
Jon - Thank you! I would so love to see that happen! The Dead was such a hard film to make, that for people to take it into their hearts like that would be such an honour. It would make the pain all worth while.
Howard - Yes, thanks that would be amazing if your predictions came true. We’re starting to see the ‘cult’ word attached to the film a lot now and it would be such an honour to see that happen to ‘The Dead’ and it really would prove that taking a huge risk to go and follow your dream really can pay off.
Alien Bee - What's up next for you two?
Jon - I’m writing a screenplay at the moment, It’s not a zombie movie but it’s going to be very hard hitting, but am really waiting to see if The Dead makes it. It’s all in the lap of the gods now.
Howard - Apart from the Surviving-The-Dead book which would be really cool if people actually check it out, I’ve also written a supernatural thriller called Indelible which I’ve recently had an offer to go and make in the US, so we may end up working in the country that inspired us as teenagers so very much looking forward to that.
Alien Bee - Would you like to say anything to all the horror fans checking this out?
Jon - Just this really. The Dead was made by horror fans for horror fans. It was made for the love of the genre and not for the money. Though not everyone will like it. It was not made for kids. It has a political, social and spiritual subtext that is not always expected in a zombie movie and not everyone will understand it.
Howard - Firstly, thanks for the interest in this strange journey we’ve undertaken. The Dead may not be for everyone but we just hope what we’ve done takes people somewhere different and we thank everyone who supports crazy endeavours like this by buying it on DVD or Blue Ray. Enjoy the journey!