November 22, 2012

Q&A with Gangsters, Guns and Zombies director, Matt Mitchell

The Brit comedy/horror/crime flick hybrid, Gangsters, Guns and Zombies, hits Blu-ray and DVD on December 11th from XLrator Media, with a UK release from Lionsgate in January, and I thought it was a blast. To coincide with this I recently had the chance to fire a few questions at director, and co-writer, Matt Mitchell, where he gives us the lowdown on the movie and more. You can read my review of the film here, and read the interview below.

Lair of Filth (LoF) - Hi Matt, I appreciate you taking the time to talk to the Lair of Filth.

Matt Mitchell (MM) - Hi Jude, thank you for having me, I’m pretty sure the pleasure is all mine!

(LoF) - I watched Gangsters, Guns and Zombies over the weekend, and really enjoyed it. Can you tell me how you came up with the idea for the film? And long did it take from your initial idea until you got behind the camera?

(MM) - Thank you!  We actually got the idea from watching the behind the scenes of another indie film (that shall remain nameless), where the producer was talking about how satisfying it was to make a ‘real’ film about ‘worthy’ and ‘important’ issues and not the usual ‘guns, gangsters or zombie rubbish’ - and I leapt into the air and said ‘that’s the film I want to make!’
I think it took about 6-8 months before we got started shooting – we started writing at the beginning of 2011 and were shooting by the end of July, so it wasn’t that long of a process, all things considered. 

 (LoF) - Were there any particular influences behind the film?

(MM) - I’m going to go with every-film-I’ve-ever-watched-ever haha! Saying that, it is a genre film and a comedy/horror/zombie movie though, so there were some specific tropes we wanted to hit and have fun with… but if I’m brutally honest a great deal of what got into the film was written into the script in the first place because we either knew we could get it (a van, the guns, the physical zombie sfx) or we thought we could (the windmill, the boat, the zombie knights!).

(LoF) - Over the last 10 years or so zombie films have been incredibly popular, (thanks to Dawn 2004 and more recently The Walking Dead) with the good, the bad and the ugly, being released upon the world. Were you ever worried about zombie overkill? (Even though GG&Z is more of a crime flick, that just so happens to have zombies in it!)

(MM) - A little bit, especially as we found out Cockneys vs Zombies was shooting around the same time, that was a shock as the films sound a bit similar on the surface – even though they are actually very different.

So we had this crazy idea and script and we just set about doing it like there was literally no stopping us.

We didn’t have thousands and thousands of pounds or big sets or the ability to shut down whole streets – but what we did find we had, was people power. The responses we got from people wanting to help out or just wanting to be involved or to be extras was incredible, and I think some of that seeps through into the film.

 (LoF) - According to the ever reliable IMDB, the budget for the film was 1200 quid. Is this an accurate figure? The film looks considerably better than that budget would suggest.

(MM) - Thank you again! Clare (the film’s amazing producer) and Taliesyn (my writing partner and 1st AD) had this unshakable faith that kept everything going, but I must admit – every now and then I see parts of the film and think ‘wow, it actually looks like a real film’! Haha! Like it’s a shock!

We’ve been asked to keep the real budget on the DL I’m afraid, and although that IMDB figure is wrong… I can tell you for sure that it’s not far off!

(LoF) - Where was the film shot?

(MM) - The film was shot in parts of Kent, London (Richmond) and Rutland near Leicester.  In fact, large swathes of it were actually filmed all on the same trading estate and a small patch of private road, but we had to constantly come up with ways of making it look different! Quite the challenge for everyone – especially our incredible DoP Jamie Burr!

(LoF) - How was the shoot? Any memorable stories from the set?

(MM) - The shoot was a horrendous nightmare. An amazing, horrendous, beautiful nightmare!
I’ve blocked a lot of it from my mind to be honest.  It was horrendous in the ’17 hour night shoot/Asda Smartprice sandwiches/sleeping on floors/running out of time/money/will to live’ sense, but amazing that even through all of that, everyone in the cast and crew were constantly pulling it (and me) forward and everyone wanted us to do well.

It created a lot of positive energy (I’m gonna get cheesy[er] here for a minute) and I was constantly surprised and honestly overjoyed by the things people were willing to do for us and the ways they were willing to help.

Memorable stories could include the reshoot we did for the fireside scene towards the end.  We actually shot that in November, after principal photography had ended in September.  All our actors came back, for a brand new scene, in their summer wardrobe on the first frost of the year and smacked it out of the park until 2am in the freezing cold.  No complaints, no whinging, no diva fits – just great chemistry and acting and a willingness to freeze their butts off for a crazy little film called ‘Gangsters, Guns and Zombies’.

(LoF) - The cast all look as though they are having a blast with the material. Did you go through casting sessions for the leads, or were there actors you had in mind for the roles?

(MM) - We had actors in mind for a couple of roles (Crazy Steve played by Fabrizio ‘Sonny’ Santino and Cassie played by Cassandra Orhan in particular), we did some casting for Q, Muscles and the Grandma but Tony and Pat were brought to us by Sonny because he knew exactly what we were looking for.  I think they did enjoy themselves and I knew the script had to have some merit because like the rest of us, they weren’t really getting paid!

(LoF) - Obviously there are zombies in the film, otherwise it would be a misleading name for a film, but the focus seemed to be very much on Q and the other bank robbers, and the great dialogue between them. Was this your plan all along; to focus on having a sharp script (which is very funny), and then have zombies show up to put a spanner in the works?

(MM) - That was basically the plan, but what I honestly wanted to do was give the film some heart and have people able (or want to) re-watch it, and to do that it had to be more than just a zombie movie or just a gangster movie or just a comedy.
I love films that I can watch over and over and over (everything from Aliens to Tremors to Ghostbusters to Serenity), it may be a bit sad but I’m a sucker for the t-shirt lines in these films (“Get away from her you Bitch!” or “He slimed me.”), so that was something I wanted to aim for.

 (LoF) - Although the film is funny, it isn’t a comedy along the lines of say Shaun of the Dead or Deadheads, the humor is very dry (which I love). How hard was this to incorporate into the script?

(MM) - It all felt rather natural to be honest, I mean it’s a film about gangsters, guns and zombies… what’s not funny about that?
A wise man once said “dying is easy, comedy is hard”, which I think must be very true, but he probably didn’t have zombie clowns.

(LoF) - GG&Z hits VOD this month and Blu-ray and DVD through XLrator in December in the States, when can fans back in Blighty expect it? Lionsgate have it, do they not?

(MM) - Lionsgate have given us a UK release date of 7th Jan – which is very very exciting as we have hordes of undead fan, slathering and drooling to get their hands on it J

(LoF) - What’s next for Matt Mitchell? Another movie? Horror? Comedy? Crime?

(MM) - Well I actually glad you asked! We’ve got slate of films running the gauntlet for next year and the year after – GGZ was just the first.

They’re not all zombie/crime/comedy I’m afraid (although this is something we plan to come back to!), but they are all pretty nutty. We’ve got some straight horror/action coming up, but it has some pretty funny stuff in it too.

(LoF) - What’s your favorite movie, horror or otherwise?

(MM) - Wow that’s actually a tough question, it literally changes all the time!

The last couple of films I watched over and over were Avengers Assemble and Cabin in the Woods, but that may have been because I had just re-watched Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog haha!

I'd just like to thank Matt again for taking the time to answer these questions for the Lair. I know he is busy working to a deadline right now on his next movie. You can find out more about Gangsters, Guns and Zombies at the film's Facebook page.

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