July 26, 2009

Brain Picking: Interview with Katie Carman (dir. The Eaters)

INTERVIEW with Katie Carman
(director: EAT ME!)
NOTE: At the time this interview was posted, the film The Eaters had not yet changed its title to Eat Me!

  There's a brand new zombie comedy hitting the scene out of New York, and it's called THE EATERS. In the film, a Brooklyn band (General Malacarne) is practicing when the power goes out. Little do they know that this blackout is unlike any other, and that while they relax and smoke up in the basement, everyone above ground is being transformed into vicious, undead eating machines. I had the chance to ask Katie Carman, the film's director, some questions about her newest project and first feature-length film

ZED WORD (ZW): Let's start our discussion of THE EATERS by talking about what lead you to direct the film. I see that you have worked on various web-series, websites, commercials, and short projects, but this looks to be your first feature. Why a zombie film and why now?

KATIE CARMAN (KC): It's always been something that I've wanted to do -- to produce a feature film -- but never had the opportunity to do mostly because my entire post-college life I'd worked full-time jobs that were completely unrelated to film, and it left me without the time or energy to do it. I guess you could say it was a matter of timing and my own stupidity (quitting my "day job" on an emotional whim) that finally lead to the creation of this movie.

Horror films, and zombie films in general have always been a favorite genre of mine. Dawn of the Dead is probably my favorite film of all time, with George Romero as one of my favorite directors, so it was only natural that when we wanted to produce a feature it would be something in that vein. It was important to Liz
and I to write something completely different though, something that was more specific to our personalities which lean towards the comic and the absurd. I think THE EATERS is a pretty good indicator of that.

[Editor's note: Liz is infact Elizabeth Lee, who not only stars in THE EATERS but is also the second-half of Cold Hand Productions]

(ZW): THE EATERS is billed as a horror-comedy, but those genres are themselves fairly diverse. How would you describe the tone of the film and how you blend horror / comedy.

(KC): We like to think of THE EATERS as what would result if Shaun of the Dead and Dazed and Confused got mixed up with a bit of feminine finesse. We touch on a lot of things that haven't been explored in the zombie film genre, so I think that absurdity along with the hilarity of the dialogue is what makes the film funny. People don't expect Miko [played by Ivy Wong] to have such a potty mouth, or to see a bike riding zombie, etc., so I think seeing those things that are atypical for the standard zombie or horror movie and what is expected of it is where a lot of our laughs come from.

(ZW): There are too few women writing and directing horror films these days (or writing / directing mainstream films in general). Did you feel any particular challenges sitting the the director's chair to produce a film in a genre that is dominated by men?

(KC): I'm very happy to say that, no, I didn't feel any particular challenge directing as a woman. It never even occurred to me that people wouldn't respect me or what I was doing because I was female, so it was just a non-issue. We've had a lot of people remark that it’s unusual to find women working in the horror genre, but have heard fewer comments about the comedy genre, where strong female voices are equally scarce. We're happy that we've been able to contribute something unique that can fit happily into either category.

(ZW): How did you choose the cast of THE EATERS? Are they local actors or friends? Also, since the main characters belong to a band called General Malacarne, are any of the actor actually musicians?

(KC): Our cast is made up of a mixture of actors, who are friends, and actors we met through the auditions who have also become great friends. Because we had absolutely no budget with which to pay these people, it was very important to us that they felt the same passion for it as we did (it's not an easy feat rousing a cast of 20+ people at 5am every weekend for 4 months straight without pay). It was also important that these people had a good track record of working well with others. We had to make sure our production days were used as smartly as we could, so there was no room for dealing with unruly actors with big egos.

And yes, a few of the members in General Malacarne are also musically talented. Jun Naito played drums for a majority of the film's soundtrack (which ironically was recorded in the same basement where General Malacarne practice in the film). Ivy Hong is a trained musical improvisationalist. The rest of it is just great acting.

(ZW): I couldn't help but notice you're from Brooklyn and the film was shot in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, New York. Did the locations add something special to the film, perhaps a particularly Brooklyn feel?

(KC): I think the film has a very distinct "New York" vibe about it. The majority of the film was shot on the streets of Brooklyn and Queens. What wasn't was shot in my Brooklyn brownstone apartment was shot at a friend's house in Astoria, Queens and shot in my mom's house (the house I grew up in, out on Long Island), so everything you see is legitimately "New York", and maybe even more so since it doesn't ever step foot in Manhattan!

(ZW): You just had a screening of THE EATERS at the Long Island International Film Expo. How did it go?

(KC): It was great! We were played after a series of really downer shorts, so it took a moment for the audience to get acclimated to a comedy. But once they did, they laughed a lot and we got a lot of great feedback. The crowd was different than our premiere audience, generally older and more suburban, so we were very encouraged to hear all the laughs.

(ZW): And finally, what's in the future for the film? Any upcoming screenings or dates?

(KC): Right now we're really hoping to be picked up for distribution, be it in theaters, on DVD or on VOD. We're also investigating the self-distribution route. Our plan after that is to use whatever we make from the film to fund our next film.

We are also still submitting THE EATERS to festivals worldwide and have our next festival screening set for August 4th as part of the New Filmmakers Series at Anthology Film Archives here in NYC.

Zombedy? Zom-Com? Whatever you want to call it, THE EATERS promises stoners, a bike-riding zombie, and a potty-mouthed Asian rocker chick. Sounds intriguing to say the least. If you're in the NYC area, check out a screening of the film on August 4th at 8:00pm as part of the New Filmmakers Series. For more information on the screening, visit www.newfilmmakers.com!

THE EATERS stars Elizabeth Lee, Jun Naito, Chesley Calloway, and Ivy Hong. Directed and edited by Katie Carman.