20 July 2011

INTERVIEW - Alex Ballar and Beau Nelson on Zombie Drugs

The tagline says it all: "Nothing kills a buzz like a zombie attack!" If that doesn't get you interested, nothing will. There's been a lot of buzz (no pun intended) about Zombie Drugs. It even picked up several nominations at the Action on Film Festival.

Synopsis: Vinny and Sebastian, two burnouts, going nowhere in small town suburbia and still riding the high of their high-school days, start a business doing the only thing they have ever excelled at...drugs. With the help of a jealous girlfriend and a rich goth chick, Vinny and Sebastian take on the mob, angry, geeky, frat-boys, and zombies in the search of the perfect high.

I was over excited when Alex Ballar and Beau Nelson agreed to have a little chat about their upcoming zombie flick. Much to my dismay, interview day rolled around and I was terribly sick. I did the interview from home (mistake) where my country internet dropped the call about 5 times. They were very understanding about the issue and we pushed passed it. The next day I started to transcribe it and to my horror, found that not even a "Hello" recorded. Aaaaaaaaah! Being the great sports that they are, Alex and Beau agreed to another interview so here we are... I hope you enjoy and if you get the opportunity, definitely check out Zombie Drugs!

TC: How did you get your start in acting?
AB: It was an accident. I was in college to be a physical therapist and needed a humanities credit; I “thought” acting would be the easiest class of the bunch. LOL
BN: I, in a way, fell into it as well. I hated drama class in high school and dreaded having to go. Although, as I got older, I found myself stuck creatively and needed a way to release it. From that very first audition (which was horrendous), I knew this was something I really enjoyed and wanted to do.

TC: Have you always been into horror films?
AB: Not really. I have done a bunch of plays in New York; mostly dramatic originals off-off Broadway. I have always loved horror movies though. Horror, action and martial art movies were probably all I watched as a kid.
BN: I have. The suspense and anticipation has always intrigued me. Even from back in the day with Nightmare on Elm St. The film still scares me, but oddly enough that’s the part I love.

TC: How did you two meet and what brought about the making of Zombie Drugs?
AB: I met Beau on the set of a webseries. I immediately saw he had the chops to play the lead role of Sebastian in Zombie Drugs; which requires lots of inhibition. It was one of those strange moments that I heard about; it just felt like it was meant to be. A few months later when both of our schedules cleared up we sat down to a coffee meeting and I pitched him the idea. He had never produced before but was up for the challenge.

TC: Beau, can you tell me what drew you to this role?
BN: As I previously alluded to, the creative release is what I’m in this for; the ability to be something or someone else, if even for a short period of time. Pulling off a druggie is a huge stretch from my actual personality, being in the “white collar” world. And, with comedy being my strongest ability at this stage in my career, it was a no-brainer for me to jump on the opportunity to showcase my abilities.

TC: Alex I assume that taking on multiple roles as far as being an actor/director is difficult. Can you tell us a little about that challenge?
AB: It's very difficult; especially on a small budget. We shot Zombie drugs in about 10 days with a lot of unseasoned actors, so I didn't have the luxury of watching my performance on a monitor between takes often or giving myself or the other actors multiple takes. I also had to trust a lot of people; such as my DP: Chia-Yu Chen, 1st AD/Producer: Alexander Berezovsky and of course, Beau Nelson to tell me if something I was doing was way off, as well as be open minded to all creative ideas; the movie truly was a team effort.

TC: Most people will see the title of your film and automatically assume it's a horror/comedy but amidst all the zombies and comedy, I know Zombie Drugs goes a little deeper than that. Can you elaborate on that a little further?
AB: Yeah, to me, the film is about Vinny's (Wolfgang Weber) journey off of drugs and into rehab. I wanted to explore what happens the day someone begins the journey to rehab and really quits. How they subconsciously begin to reject the world they exist in and what they may have to give up in the process socially, emotionally, etc to be successful. I also didn't want the movie to be a drag so I did my best to show the fun and crazy side of these guys too.

TC: How do you keep that balance between horror and comedy without over-mixing the two?
AB: I didn't focus on that. I just focused on the situations and let the horror or comedy come out of that. Not saying I can't go in a direction, but I feel whenever I try to be purposely funny or scary in or with a script I usually fail. I also had to let the actors bring their own things to the table and do my best to nurture it. For example Brian Smith, who plays one of our lead gangsters is just a naturally gifted funny person. Beau Nelson is fearless; he'll do anything for the sake of comedy or the story. People just laugh when they see them on screen. I've also noticed that people laugh or get scared at stuff I had no intention of being either or, so a lot of it is about perception. As long as they have some time of positive reaction, I feel lucky.

TC: I'm sure it goes without saying that you guys were excited about the nominations at the Action on Film Festival.... What's the coolest thing that's happened since that was announced?
AB: We have been contacted by a lot of distributors throughout the world since then. For us, we feel extremely honored and thankful for that. After a year-and-a-half of hard work, you want to be appreciated.

TC: Zombies seem to be all the rage right now. How would you compare Zombie Drugs to others of this genre?
AB: Well Zombie Drugs isn't a full on Zombie flick. Though the film does have some zombies, “zombie” is used more metaphorically in the film, in regards to being a drug addict and where the lifestyle could take someone that goes too far with it.

TC: When and where will Zombie Drugs be available to the public?
AB: We are currently in talks for a limited theatrical release. Hopefully, we can lock all the distribution stuff down within the next month or two.

TC: There's been much discussion on what a zombie actually is. Take for instance, the zombies in 28 Days Later who have never actually died vs. the zombies in Dawn of the Dead who were reanimated. What's your take on the "making of a zombie"?
AB: “Zombie”, as its defined, is really the inability to control one’s actions, thoughts or behaviors. Often times we’ve seen zombies become zombies because of being bitten, etc. In our case, it’s drugs. When we grew up, we thought of Vampires as evil men who have no emotion and can’t be in the sun. We’ve seen them evolve into creatures who can love, go in the sunlight and attend school. I really expect zombies to take on multiple different forms in the near future.

TC: What about future projects? What do we have to look forward to from you guys?
AB: We’re currently talking with investors for a psychological crime thriller: Redress (which you can find here). It's a cross between Se7en meets Frailty. We're being approached by producers and production companies that want to partner at the moment too, so we’re just trying to stay open minded and consider all projects. I expect we’ll begin to start on something new within the next six months or so.

TC: I'm crazy excited for you guys and I wish you all the luck in the world on this journey and hope to see you soon! Thank you so much for taking the time, not once but TWICE to talk to me. I really appreciate it!
AB & BN: You're very welcome! Thank you for all your support. We really appreciate it!

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