August 10, 2010

Interview with Logan McMillan (dir. Deliver Me to Hell - the interactive zombie movie)

(dir. Deliver Me to Hell 
and Last of the Living)

Deliver Me to Hell may well just be the very first interactive zombie movie. Written, edited, and directed by Logan McMillan, Deliver Me to Hell is an online short in which you get to make the characters' choices, moving them one step closer to a happy ending or, if you make the wrong choice, one step closer to a bloody end. Produced as an advertisement for Hell Pizza in New Zealand, Deliver Me to Hell is nevertheless a fully enjoyable and accomplished zombie short in its own right. McMillan is no stranger to zombies; he is also the writer/director of the independent feature Last of the Living (review). The Zed Word caught up with McMillan to talk about the interactive zombie film that is exciting zombie fans all over the web.

Zed Word: You are the writer / director of Last of the Living (2008) and now the incredibly innovative and interactive Hell Pizza mini-movie, Deliver Me to Hell. How did you come to work on the Hell Pizza project?

Logan McMillan: I saw some interactive videos on YouTube by Chad, Matt and Rob. They were hugely successful and quite entertaining. I love zombie films and thought an interactive zombie film could get a lot of views on YouTube. Then I had to figure out a way to pay for it - so I thought why not pitch it as an ad to a local company. Hell Pizza was my first choice due to the fact they have a history of doing dark and comedic advertising. They seemed to be a company that weren't afraid to try new things. So we flew one of the directors of Hell to our city and pitched the idea - fortunately they loved it and wanted very few changes. Throughout the process they just let us make the movie that we wanted to and I think that's why it feels more like an indy zombie film than a corporate commercial.

ZW:  So, you're a zombie fan? What are your influences / favorite zombie films?

LM: Yeah total fan.  I love a lot of different styles and genres of films though and I'm pretty sure that I won't be doing another zombie flick for quite some time as I don't want to be pigeon holed as a zombie director only. I really got into zombies when I was at high school - mainly through the Resident Evil PlayStation games. Then the awesome 28 Days Later came out and I started going back and discovering the Romero films and other great ones from the 80's. The more I watched, the more I wanted to make one of my own. I think anyone who has seen my films would know Shaun of the Dead is an obvious influence.  My overall favorite zombie film is Return of the Living Dead (1985).

Now we play the waiting game.
ZW: You can see a lot of the energy and humour that your brought to Last of the Living in Deliver Me to Hell, but it seems you had a larger budget. What were some of advantages and challenges of making Deliver Me to Hell that you didn't have on Last of the Living?

LM: The budget actually wasn't really that different than Last of the Living.  I've just shot so much more since LOTL, and the camera technology has improved a lot as well, so we were able to create a better product through experience. LOTL was made in 2006 and I've seen it a bunch of times, and there were a lot of things that I wanted to do better so it was good to get a 2nd chance at it. On Deliver I really wanted the audio to be more polished - so the decision was made early that we would do 100% ADR and foley (i.e replace all the audio in the studio).  This also meant shooting was going to be faster as we didn't have to worry about car noise driving past our set, wind noise, etc.

ZW: I guess I assumed the budget was bigger because there is more gore and more effects. Did you rely on more digital post effects? What were some of best practical effects you shot?

LM: Best practical effects were the car explosion and the bike jump.  Both took a lot of time to setup but were totally worth it for the pay off. There are very few effects throughout the film - but Dan Watson did a few here and there that are hopefully invisible.  I try to do as much as possible in camera.
I hope you like your pizza well-done.
ZW: In horror circles, there's a debate about the use of digital blood vs. on-set effects. As a filmmaker, are you ever satisfied with CGI blood effects?

LM: There's only one shot with CG blood effects in [Deliver Me to Hell]. It's quite obvious but does the trick.  Again I prefer practical over CG.

ZW: The production values in Deliver Me to Hell rival a lot of other low-budget zombie films I've seen. Although I don't know how it could be done given the interactive nature of the film, is there any talk about releasing Deliver Me to Hell on DVD?

LM: It would still work well on a DVD as an interactive movie.  But at the moment the plan is just to keep it online as a free movie to watch.  End of the day it's an ad to promote Hell Pizza and to get people ordering pizza online as opposed to the phone system.

Last of the Living is available on DVD.  

For more of McMillan's work, check out his home page: