Interview with April Mullen
The Canadian 3D black comedy DEAD BEFORE DAWN (starring Devon Bostick from SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD and veteran actor Christopher Lloyd from among many other things BACK TO THE FUTURE and THE ADDAMS FAMILY) is still in production in Toronto, and FANGORIA got the scoop from director and star April Mullen as to what to expect. The film sees a gaggle of two-fisted youngsters facing off against a horde of half-zombie/half-demon “Zemons” and is as much about the shocks as it is the schtick.
FANG: Comedy and horror are tough to balance….which side does DEAD BEFORE DAWN lean toward?
MULLEN: Yesterday I laughed, screamed and cried at the monitor! DEAD BEFORE DAWN will be riding the perfect balance of both comedy and horror, creating a fast-pace original adventure which audiences will find refreshing and new. Overall, it is a strong script where you care very much for the characters. It is very much like a classic adventure story à la THE GOONIES, GHOSTBUSTERS and even BACK TO THE FUTURE.
FANG: Some camps use 3D to create a sensual experience, some to shock…will you be going the William Castle gimmick approach here with the technology or the immersive James Cameron approach?
MULLEN: We are using a whole new approach of 3D. It’s very immersive allowing the audience to take their time and look around the screen, although the film will definitely have some moments of shock and scare to enhance the 3D effect. We focused heavily on 3D at the conception of the idea two years ago. We wrote the script, chose our locations, attacked the blocking, designed the shots and makeup all with 3D in mind. Our 3D is very tasteful. We don’t have a $50 million dollar budget, so we have to be creative with our choices.
FANG: What 3D system are you using? What difficulties have you encountered so far?
MULLEN: We are shooting on two RED ONE cameras and using the Element Technica Quasar Rig. For those unfamiliar with the Quasar Rig, one camera sits vertically and the other horizontally and in between is a piece of glass to align the lenses and set our convergence. Each camera represents one eye, the bottom being our master (left eye) and the vertical one being the right. The Quasar’s precision and refinement makes it an ideal platform for matching zoom or prime lenses to accommodate any shooting style or format. While shooting DEAD BEFORE DAWN we are using Zeiss Primes lenses. We also used the 3D SI 2K rig one day when we shot Stedicam, which has two SI 2K cameras set up on a side by side rig.
Shooting 3D has been a dream, we are making our days and loving it. The biggest difference is there is no such thing as a point-and-shoot approach. Everything is well thought out and pre-planned because you have to align and set convergence; it’s very precise filmmaking. It’s been a completely different experience from shooting our first film, ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS: THE WAY OF THE TOSSER, which was a mock/doc, and our second, GRAVYTRAIN. I would say overall it’s 20 percent slower than shooting 2D, but we have a really fast and efficient team.
FANG: The first Canadian genre movie was a 3D shocker called THE MASK. Have you seen that one?
MULLEN: I had the opportunity to see it in 2D, not in its full glorious 3D version. THE MASK was a brave and bold film for its time on all fronts. The technology has come so far since 1961, it’s incredible to think we are now shooting digitally and streaming live to watch content. Right now we are on the cusp of a huge transition: 3D is here to stay and one year from now I’m sure the 3D YouTube channel will be steaming 3D live to computers around the world. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been shooting 3D in the ’60s. We are grateful as young filmmakers to have access to the constantly evolving new digital technology.
FANG: I see from the few photos, there will be blood. Are you planning to go over the top with the red stuff?
MULLEN: No, the blood will not be on the overload. DEAD BEFORE DAWN is more focused on the adventure story and delivering a new undead hybrid to the people with the Zemon: Half-Zombie, Half-Zemon, All-Zemon. Zemons are very unique, and we cannot wait to unleash them in their full colors. Zemons are the new wave, the world is going to fall in love with them.
FANG: How weird is it directing yourself?
MULLEN: I love the challenge, I get in full fistfights with myself everyday. I think the strangest thing is when I am in a scene as an actor and notice a pacing hiccup or something. I will literally stop the take and get the actors to reset in the middle of it just to get it right. I love directing and come from an acting background, so the two go hand and hand. As a director I am all about planning ahead, from shots to production design to wardrobe, so that on-set I can be in the moment and there for the actors.