Making of a ZOMBIE with actor – Director Luke Kenny
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]ndian cinema has suddenly witnessed a spate of films exploring innovative themes. We are no longer ridden by convention and filmmakers have surpassed the tried and
tested to venture into unknown genres. And one such genre which the Indian audiences will soon get to experience is the ‘zombie’ film. So are you ready to witness the chills and creeps?
Taking the realms of horror to another level and promising loads of ‘jump out of your seat’ moments is ‘Rise of the Zombie’, India’s first zombie film, the brain child of Luke Kenny and Devaki Singh. Blood, gore and zombies have been a rage internationally and now Indian viewers are ready to have their very own zombie film to boast about.
So what goes into the making of a zombie? Pandolin speaks to the lead actor, writer, producer and co-director of the film, Luke Kenny, who takes us through the germination of this interesting concept, the treatment of this unusual story, turning into a zombie with prosthetics, juggling his multiple roles, challenges of shooting a zombie film and more.
India’s first zombie film – how did you come up with this unique idea?
Devaki and I are huge horror film fans and zombie films in particular are a passion. Over the years zombie films have enjoyed a huge popularity within the pop culture space. In our vast film – watching experience we had come upon zombie films made by many countries, South Africa, Germany, Cuba, etc. So we wanted India to have its own zombie film. But India needs to first have its educative zombie film. And that is how the idea of a zombie origin film began to form in Devaki’s mind and the story began to flow. And now Indian audiences will be able to follow the story of how a human being turns into a zombie.
Suddenly there is a spate of zombie films in the offing, what do you think has prompted this wave? Also how do you think will Indian audiences respond to this genre?
The zombie wave has always been there internationally. India has always been a late adopter of many things, whatever the reasons may be.But having said that, everything has an appropriate time to happen and every film therefore has its own fate which is always decided by the audiences at large.
Have you drawn any references from Hollywood’s zombie films in terms of the treatment?
Most of Hollywood zombie films have either been zombie – comedies or zombie survival films. Ours is a zombie origin story so there was really no reference point and since the setting is Indian, we didn’t feel the need for a western context either. But yes, some attributes have been incorporated which you will see.
Where has the film been shot?
The film was shot in a small town in Uttarakhand. We were deep in the jungles for most of the shoot as the isolation was perfect for the setting of the story. Some of the city scenes were shot in various locations in Mumbai. No sets were used whatsoever.
What were the challenges?
Weather and the changing light were tough customers.The temperature would suddenly drop during the night scenes and the crew would be shivering. And during the day, the clouds would keep blocking the sunlight every time we would be ready with a shot. But fortunately we used that to our advantage and all was good.
What cameras have you used to shoot the film – digital or film?
We shot completely digital using the Canon 5D AOS. Lenses were appropriate to the kind of scenes we were shooting.
[pullquote_left]With this trilogy our intention is to have a value for money saga that hopefully will stand the test of time as an engrossing piece of entertainment, a worthy contribution to the genre and above all a crackerjack story.[/pullquote_left]
What kind of lighting set – ups have been employed in the film?
Natural light was key.
How was the association and experience of shooting with the DoP Murzy Pagdiwala? How would you describe the look and feel of the film?
I met Murzy during the shoot of Rock On!! and we would have short conversations in between shots. On that set, the filmmaker in me would ask him what kind of lenses he is using for a particular shot and I would take a marginal interest in the camera placements and light positioning etc. Then when i saw the effects of all of this in the playback i was impressed. So when Devaki and I were working on the pre – production, I suggested we bring in Murzy on this. And he brought so much more to the table and a lot has happened because he made it possible in the limited budgets that we had. So Murzy also serves as Executive producer on the film.
The look of the film changes as the story progresses, going from bright and sunny to pale and washed out to a fair amount of dark shadows. All this is to draw the audience into the head of the lead character who is going through emotions he cannot control.
The film uses a lot of prosthetics. Who has done it? Also how challenging was it to shoot with prosthetics?
Ritu Janjjani did the main makeup. Other incidental makeup was handled by Sayed Ismaile and his team. The only thing with prosthetics is the application and removal. So the more detailed the application the longer it took to put on. So I would spend anything from a half hour to four hours in makeup as the story progressed.
Please tell us about the background music. In particularly the style.
Ray n Brotherhood have brought on a sonic monster with their superb electronic score. They were brought to my notice by one of the film’s editors and I had a meeting with them where they played some of their electronic stuff for me. They have been doing scores and music for jingles and ad films etc which are commercial and traditional and were hungering for a project that gave them the opportunity to do something different. So seeing that we were on the same wavelength, a super partnership developed and when you hear the score in the film it is a creeper.
This is your second film as director. How has the journey been from 13th Floor to Rise of the Zombie?
A long one. Even though Indian audiences are changing in their film – watching tastes, it’s a challenge to find producers who will invest in an idea or a story that is as radical as it comes. While 13th floor was entirely funded by Devaki and myself, ROTZ needed a stronger support. so while a small percentage of the film has our money, the larger portion has been supported by BSI Entertainment. They are a company whose administrators are huge horror fans and have been looking for a cost effective project to back. So another meeting of minds happened and lo and behold…here we are!
[pullquote_right]India needs to first have its educative zombie film. And that is how the idea of a zombie origin film began to form in Devaki’s mind and the story began to flow.[/pullquote_right]
You have co- directed and acted in the film. How did you balance both roles? Also, since it was a co-direction with Devaki Singh, were there any challenges in streamlining the vision?
The simplicity of the story and it’s execution offered a fine balance in performing both those roles. Not to forget the producer part as well which required me to supervise certain logistics also. The vision was clear and like any creative partnership different ideas do emerge from time to time but at the end of the day Devaki and I would discuss/argue and thrash it out in the most positive way possible so as to benefit the film entirely.
How did you go about choosing the rest of the cast of the film?
For any story to be plausible and have an affinity with the viewer, the actor playing the character needs to have a certain earthiness and pull with the viewers. The three main actors namely Kirti, Ashwin and Benjamin, all have their place in the audiences consciousness, be it Kirti with Shaitan, Ashwin with his various films, commercials and his on – ground visibility and Benjamin with his legendary status. They all bring a believability to their characters and their performances within the construct of the story which is what makes a scene within a film work, thereby making the story flow work.
What is the kind of VFX used in the film? Who has done the VFX?
Limited budgets prevented us from being too ambitious when it came to VFX. So all the effects you see in the film are as organic as they come and particularly with a film like ours, all the more reason they need to be. So we have VFX only from an edit standpoint and not a story standpoint.
Where was the post production of the film done?
Offline edits were done at my home studio on FCP on a Macbook Pro. The finishing happened at After Post production Studios in Mumbai.
Any particular scene which was the most complex to shoot?
I could tell you…but then I’ll have to eat your brains!! Come see the film and find out.
How much time did the film take for completion?
We shot the film in 20 days.
Finally, you have mentioned that the film is a part of a trilogy; do you already have stories in mind for the future parts? What is the future prospect for this genre in Indian cinema?
Yes the story as a broad outline has already been formulated, the fleshing out is in progress. Most genre films in India are intended as a gimmick to scare the audiences out of their money. But with this trilogy our intention is to have a value for money saga that hopefully will stand the test of time as an engrossing piece of entertainment, a worthy contribution to the genre and above all a crackerjack story.
Zombie film aficionados have a reason to rejoice.
‘Rise of the Zombie’, India’s first zombie film releases on 5th April 2013.
Directed by Luke Kenny and Devaki Singh, the film features Kirti Kulhari, Benjamin Gilani, Ashwin Mushran alongwith Luke Kenny.
The film is produced by BSI Entertainment and Kenny Media.
Making of a ZOMBIE with actor – Director Luke Kenny