TSJ interviews “Dead Before Dawn” crack shots, April Mullen & Tim Doiron

April Mullen and Tim Doiron, the maverick pair of film-makers behind Dead Before Dawn, managed to make a 3-D feature film outside of the studio system with a small crew, a modest budget, and 600 Niagara Falls zombie extras… er, zemon extras (…).

TSJ interviews Dead Before Dawn’s director April Mullen and producer Tim Doiron, who dish the dirt on the demon-zombie hybrid, rotary phones, and getting Christopher Lloyd to star in their movie.

April & Tim 07.2011

The Smoking Jacket: So Tim, you’re from New Brunswick. Let’s go there, let’s talk about this. My husband is in the middle of applying for a job in New Brunswick. I’ve only been there once, on a high school band trip… but then I saw that in your bio and I was things could be going on in New Brunswick. Like you — making these zombie movies.

Tim Doiron: Where is the job?

TSJ: It’s at the University of New Brunswick. 

Tim Doiron: I went to that university for a single year.

TSJ: And then what? 

Tim Doiron: I went there there and I realized I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing. So I ended up moving to Toronto and auditioning for Ryerson’s Theater School, and getting accepted to do that.

TSJ: Cool. And April studied there too, right?

Tim Doiron: Yeah! That’s where we met! We both attended Ryerson – a long time ago. I wrote a one-man theater show, and April directed that. After we got out of school, we said, Ah, theater’s not really where it’s at. April had always been working in film, and it sort of just moved [in that direction].

TSJ: And so on in a natural progression towards zombies.

Tim Doiron: You know, the natural thing. Yeah, we just decided go big right from the beginning. And we made our first film.

TSJ: When did you guys make Rock, Paper, Scissors?

Tim Doiron: We shot that in 2006, but it didn’t get released until about 2009. And then we did a second film called Gravy Train which was sort of a take on the ’70s cop genre, and that got released in 2010.

TSJ: Okay. And then, one day, ZOMBIES. Three-D zombies!

Tim Doiron: Yeah, after that was Dead Before Dawn 3-D. So that’s the progression.

TSJ: We’re talking Canada here, not California. How do you get the funding to make a zombie movie… in 3-D? This is obviously not a Canada Council grant application with you writing an something like, Dead Before Dawn is a post-colonial take on southern Ontario’s blabla…

Tim Doiron: Our entrance into that world was different than a lot of people’s because we came in from Rock, Paper, Scissors, which we funded ourselves from the back end. But we approached the two big funding agencies in Ontario that assist with feature film-making to help us with the release. So we were like these kids doing something a little bit outside of the norm. So when we came to them with Dead Before Dawn, we were like, listen guys, we’re gonna make a 3-D film and it’s gonna be with zombies, and they were like, Whoa! Okay! Let’s do this!

TSJ: That’s great. And you had such an amazing cast. You got some Kids in the Hall alum, some Back to the Future alum, some Emily of New Moon

Tim Doiron: We wrote a role specifically for Christopher Lloyd, so when we got him on board we were just so excited. Back to the Future was one of my favorite movies growing up. And even Kevin McDonald is a legend in a lot of ways.

TSJ: They’re both legends, for sure. If I had to put together a project and those two showed up I would be really excited about myself. I would be like, Whoa! I put them together in one space, that’s crazy! The Chicken Lady and Doc! And they both do such a great job.

But part of the reason they do such a good job is the fact that they deliver some great lines. There’s some solid writing in this movie. It’s super campy but it’s really deadpan and sharp. I’m sure they must have been happy to get such a fun script.

Tim Doiron: Yeah, they really were excited by the idea that we were taking the genre and putting a new spin on it. And they just ate up the lines and brought them to life.

TSJ: How did you guys go from your theater backgrounds to directing 3-D film? What’s the learning curve on that like?

April Mullen: The learning curve is huge.

TSJ: There’s a lot to be said for learning on the spot, isn’t there.

April Mullen: Making a film [just requires] an enormous amount of tenacity. Tim and I were both, from a young age, actors on film sets. When I was younger, I would never go back to my trailer for lunch, I’d just sit behind the monitor and watch everything they were doing. When we got out of theater school, there was a huge strike with the Writer’s Guild and SAG and ACTRA… I was in Los Angeles and Tim was in Toronto and I was like, What are we going to do now? Let’s start writing some scripts and let’s see what happens. 

TSJ: I just finished watching Dead Before Dawn about an hour ago, and I was trying to figure out if this was set in a specific year. Or if it was just a generic Year of the Rotary Phone?

Tim Doiron: The year is whatever you want it to be. We do have a real love of the ’80s in general, although it’s not set in the ’80s.

TSJ:  Your soundtrack is pretty great too. Frankly, between the talent, the script and the music, I was watching this and thinking that it was quite finessed — especially for a zombie killing spree flick.

April Mullen: Tim and I are really obsessed with finding new music and young talent.

TSJ: I’ve never seen Zombieland, but I looked it up and I saw why people were making the comparison between it and your film. Dead Before Dawn reminded me of the retro-on-purpose staging in House of the Devil, and the and the awesome RV in your movie reminded me of Cabin in the Woods a bit. Do you guys like horror movies? Were you thinking of any in particular when you were making this?

Tim Doiron: We’re movie fanatics. I like the older horror movies, personally. Something from the ’80s, sort of what The House of the Devil emulates. I’m not so into the current torture or cutting things.

TSJ:  I can’t do those at all. I like a good ghost story, personally, but the sawing of people… that’s gross.

Tim Doiron: Old-school horror movies that make you jump in a way that popcorn flies out of the bag — that sort of laughing at the same time as you’re scared, that’s for me.

TSJ: Are you excited that coined a new word with the “zemon”?

Tim Doiron: I love zemon.

April Mullens: It doesn’t really get scarier than a zombie-demon because they have demon side of them is fast, manipulative, and they remember their human side. They move faster than a regular zombie… So, zemons. Plus they can be seduced and become your slave. It’s pretty awesome.

TSJ: It’s kind of like you worked in some vampire with that seduction part.

April Mullens: Yeah, it’s true!

TSJ: Very clever, very clever.

April Mullens: All I can think of right now, is who doesn’t want a hickey ?

TSJ: Hickeys !

Source: The Smoking Jacket 01.10.2013

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