Wednesday, November 20, 2013

UZS-2017 (A Zombie Short Screenplay), Part 2

Back in October last year I wrote about the creation of a zombie short film script in response to the flak I was copping for voicing my ambivalenc-- okay, I hate the damn things.

Subsequently a director came on board and we had two or three meetings and a second draft was written based on his notes. To be honest though we were working at cross purposes with different intentions for the story. He wanted a more traditional "fan pleasing" zombie film whereas I, well, did I mention? I hate the damn things.

The last meeting we had I was in the middle of intensive rewrites for Turbulence with Script Lab looming. So in fairness to the director my head was in a different place and I was struggling to understand his comments on the second draft. I left that meeting suggesting he take a pass at the script. In hindsight a mistake and something I normally never do but I simply didn't have enough RAM in my head to process (or understand) what he wanted at that time. I suspect, however, all the extra brain cells in the world wouldn't have mattered as he was nudging it down a path I wasn't really interested in.

A new draft never materialised from the director (nor myself) so it sat in the back of my brain and in a folder on my computer.

Until, impulsively, I submitted it for a one day workshop via the Film and Television Institute. What the hell, right? It's sitting there and I actually like it a lot. It also attracted interest from that award winning director and another had enquired about it so I figured it must have had some sort of legs.

I wrote the application in about 45 minutes flat. I'd finished the pilot script for the web series and was in a writing mood. I let it come tumbling out. Didn't self-censor or edit. Kind of a devil-may-care attitude because what did I have to lose?

I started it this way...

Let me say this up front. I hate zombie films. I don’t understand why everyone under a certain age wants to make ‘em. I expressed this at a screening at the FTI last year to discover people over a certain age want to make them as well. One, a talented cinematographer, turned a picture of me into a zombie! I was mocked mercilessly. So I thought, damn it, I’ll write a damn zombie film.

Except, shhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone, it isn’t really. What interests me is exploring a character undergoing a transformation that they can’t control. I’ve also inverted the usual genre tropes – the zombie locks himself away from the humans; it is told from the zombie’s POV (even though Warm Bodies was subsequently released but that takes a more satirical/comedy approach); and it eschews fan expectations of overt blood and gore.

It is also a commentary about the alienating effect of technology and it is no coincidence that smart phone technology is chosen as the carrier of the infection.

... and continued in that style. Conversational, self-deprecating and free of any earnest submission style trimmings.

And it worked. The project was accepted so I have a full day workshop in Fremantle next month with Claire Dobbin. From the FTI website:

"Claire has run script workshops all over the world and has consulted/edited on Australian films including Candy, (Berlin 2006), Mallboy (Cannes 2000) Road to Nhill, (Best Film Thessaloniki Film Festival) Small Treasures (Baby Lion Venice) Rabbit Proof Fence (AFI Award winner) Japanese Story(Cannes 2003 and AFI Award winner), Blame (Toronto 2010) and Hermano (Venezuela’s entrant in the Academy awards 2010).

Oh, I should mention - I submitted the FIRST draft. The one written in two days after the initial premise struck. So going back to the basic idea and see what comes of being immersed in a creative environment with Claire and 11 other short filmmakers/writers for a day. It should be fun. 

ps did I mention? Zombies... hate the damn things! ;-)


  1. That's the risk writers take letting others into their head space. I too, keep every version from the very first few unpolluted 'idea' words, to the most recent. Let's face it, you've written so many scripts even a very 1st rough draft would be strong - well done and enjoy the day.

  2. Thank you, Sue. Yes, it needs work as all scripts do but I was particularly happy how it came out first go round. Now to make it better! :-)

  3. What is the fascination with Zombie films? I have a guess; the concept of being able to kill other people without remorse, 'cause they are already dead. It's an American thing I guess... ;-)

    Don't thrill me all that much. Prefer a good period drama or Sci-Fi romp, or even a lighthearted comedy... simple tastes.

    1. Well, for me, for this script, it is this - transformation. What would you do if you knew you were becoming something truly horrible and could not stop that process? A process that threatened the ones you loved the most. That interests me.