Picking the Brain of Chris Watson on ”Zombiegeddon”

There’s a new zombie flick in town and it’s name is “Zombiegeddon.” I recently sat down with the film’s director, Chris Watson, and picked his brain about the film and whatever else I could find in there.

And, of course, by “sat down with,” I mean that I sat down and e-mailed him some questions then he, in all likelihood sitting down as well, emailed me the answers to.

FilmJerk.com: First off, can you share with our readers who haven’t heard about the film what exactly the film is about?
Chris Watson: It’s business as usual for crooked cops Jeff (Charles Messina) and Cage (Ari Bavel), until they stumble across an evil race of creatures that look like zombies. As Jeff and Cage fight off the creatures — who multiply rapidly — they discover a group of college students who are under siege by the creatures. Jeff and Cage assist the students and lead them to a safer place. Along the way these bad police officers come face to face with God (Edwin Neal), battle an army of kung-fu zombies, and go toe-to-toe with the wicked hellspawn known as Lord Zombie (William Smith). Time is running out and Jeff and Cage are the only people who can save the world…

FilmJerk.com: I couldn’t have cut and pasted a better synopsis. So how much did alcohol and/or drugs influence the scriptwriting process for “Zombiegeddon”?
Watson: Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol weren’t involved in the scriptwriting process. Probably just because we were too poor at the time to afford them. However, one of the first comments about the script I received was, “Were you on acid when you wrote this?” I had written the script in a short amount of time and everything looked peachy until a location pulled out at the last minute. We had tried to get this type of location for another movie and knew there was nowhere in the area that would let us shoot there so about 60 pages had to be re-written really quickly. I think it ended up being a two-day total on writing the script, which meant no proofreading, etc. And with most of the cast having not read the script, it didn’t seem to make a difference to them.

FilmJerk.com: George Romero’s zombie trilogy is famous not only for it’s gore, but for its social commentary as well. What sort of social commentary are we to expect from “Zombiegeddon”?
Watson: There’s a ton of religious and military commentary hidden in this. Some of it is slapped in your face and some of it is devised through underlying themes. There’s a ton of subtext in this puppy but it’s still a flat out fun movie and don’t be fooled that it’s a movie out to give a message for those people who read too much into what’s really flat out entertainment.

FilmJerk.com: Did you have to compromise anything working with such a low budget?
Watson: Everything. We did what we could on our budget. The script was written to fit items we knew we had at our disposal.

FilmJerk.com: Have you caught any flack over the Jesus sex scene? Or any of the Jesus stuff for that matter.
Watson: Yes, for a short period of time we did. It was rather stupid but we got a bunch of letters and dirty emails and such. People who were upset about the Jesus thing were giving us all kinds of flack and cursing left and right and threatening physical harm that made it a bit ironic.

FilmJerk.com: It seems religious icons are becoming more and more like fatties and cripples, in that you just can’t make fun of them without getting your head ripped off. What do you hope moviegoers take away from “Zombiegeddon?”
Watson: They best have a darn good time. It was meant to be a fun movie through outrageousness and humor.

FilmJerk.com: There are a bajillion B movie idols in the flick. How did you hook up with them? Did you know them before filming?
Watson: Well, with each comes their own story and it’d probably turn this interview into a book. Some through emails, some I caught at conventions we were at together and so on. I had known Robert Z’Dar and Joe Estevez through a film I produced called “Mob Daze.” Joe called up William Smith to do the movie.

FilmJerk.com: Anymore you’d like to work with in the future?
Watson: I’d say there’s too many. Some people I’ve been talking to about doing a movie fall more in the action genre– Loren Avedon, Dirk Benedict, Robert Chapin, etc. My goal is to make an action movie within the next two years. Then I’d have a comedy, a horror movie and an action movie under my belt.

FilmJerk.com: What made you want to get into the movie business? Did you go to a film school or anything or did you just learn it all on your own?
Watson: I’ve loved movies since the day I was born. How I have been able to see SO many when I lived 20 miles from a video store or theater is beyond me. I will watch any kind of movie anytime anywhere if money allows.

FilmJerk.com: Even a Byron Allen movie?
Watson: As for film school, Mob Daze was basically producers film school for me. “Zombiegeddon” was directing film school for me. Both movies together cost less than film school actually would have and there’s so much in making a movie they won’t teach you at film school. I fumbled through both in their own respective ways but have been very lucky to have end products that are both pretty decent, which is a nod to the cast and crew of both.

FilmJerk.com: So I guess what you’re saying to all the kids out there who want to be filmmakers is that they should drop out of school and max out their credit cards to make a film. What advice would you give someone wanting to break into the industry?
Watson: Good luck! I’ve watched people kiss up and screw people and so on and it’s gotten them nowhere.

FilmJerk.com: Maybe they should have tried rimjobs.
Watson: I just do my own thing and watch people go. “Zombiegeddon” will undoubtedly get on video shelves and considering it was film school for me is very cool. Wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the cast and crew though. I had a DP named Jim Siebert who brought somewhere around 30 years of experience to the table and was a lot better at handling a crazy schedule than I was and his partner in crime, Damon Abraham, went on to edit the film as well— believe me, that was a task. They had a job to do and did it without doing any major ass kissing or wasting of valuable time, like some did on that set. They’ve gone on to do bigger and better things because they’ve got good reps and did their jobs.

Meanwhile, I’ve got other people from that set calling me at 2 a.m. asking for money as a favor. It’s all about behavior and how easy (or not) you are to get along with. Most people who have been successful in the business realize the losers who are only hanging with you to get money or fame or bigger gigs so that’s not going to do you any good. Go out and prove yourself. Don’t do it for the money either.

FilmJerk.com: When I first contacted you, you mentioned you were about to get drunk and write a script. Can you tell me a little bit about that film?
Watson: A couple of years ago I was asked to write a whacked-out script and it just wasn’t coming to me so some friends in the dorms kept bombarding me with beers and the next thing I knew I had a whacked-out script and the producer was so happy. So, a couple of weeks ago, I’m trying to write and nothing is coming to me so I break out a bottle of whiskey left from the premiere of “Zombiegeddon” and tried doing that. It didn’t work needless to say. So, I’ve scrapped that one on the back burner and am developing an action film.

FilmJerk.com: So, in addition to wanting kids to drop out of school and max out their credit cards, you want them to become binge drinkers. I back that. Switching gears for a second, should George Romero be allowed to hog-tie the guys who are remaking “Dawn of the Dead” and have his way with them?
Watson: It depends on if it sucks or not. Probably so, though. As long as they don’t kill Gunn or Savini.

FilmJerk.com: I haven’t seen it, nor will I ever see it, but the ignorant fanboy prejudice in me says it will suck. If a major studio called you up one day and said they’d like you to direct one of their cookie-cutter teen flicks, you’d totally sell-out and take it, right?
Watson: Well, it depends. That money at even $30,000 bucks could finance 3 “Zombiegeddons” and about 30 “Minds of Terrors.” $30,000 is below DGA minimum I believe though so what the heck do you think I’d do? I don’t want to live off of cheese sandwiches forever. But I’d certainly go back and do a couple of other films I wanted to do — most likely an array of B action flicks — with the money. Probably set up a bigger company and try and do my own distribution with the money. But if we were to do a cookie cutter teen flick I sure would like to write it and all my regulars would have to have parts along with my regular crew coming along.

FilmJerk.com: What’s your opinion on the two recent mainstream zombie flicks – “Resident Evil” and “28 Days Later?”
Watson: I didn’t like either. They both bored me and I think both had stolen elements from other films a little too much.

FilmJerk.com: Do you think low budget B-movies are better off today than they were 30 or 40 years ago? A long time ago, they’d get to play in theaters and drive-ins all across the country. Now it seems like they play a couple times in handful of theaters than go straight to DVD.
Watson: In the 80’s you could make a million bucks off of a movie shot on video. Donald G. Jackson is a prime example of that. Now he has to shoot on film to have much hope at all. I think Don was the one telling me about a movie called “Ankle Biters” that was shot for $800 or so and has made a ton of money off of its video release. Right now we’re in the stage where any Joe Blow can pick up a camera and make a movie.

Would I have any movie credits were it not for video? Probably not. I’d more than likely be a PA on some B movie somewhere and then never be heard from again. Really B movies are in the state the producers think they need to be in. Troma takes their movies all around the country and shows them in theaters. There’s no real shortage of theaters willing to show b movies. It’s only a matter of having a producer or producers willing to call around and find those places.

FilmJerk.com: Me and a friend of mine think that the only things worse than a zombie is a zombie shark (‘cuz they’ll f*** your shit up). Would you agreer
Watson: How about zombie T-Rex’s?

FilmJerk.com: F***. Well that totally blows a hole in my theory. Thanks for your time, Chris.

For more “Zombiegeddon” info, visit the film’s official website.