This weekend, I worked a little bit on The Lost Level and the script for The Last Zombie: Before the After #2. But mostly, I worked in my role as executive producer of Fast Zombies Suck – the first film from Drunken Tentacle Productions. An executive producer basically does two things — finance and bankroll the majority of the project, and make sure all the trains are running on time.
Our budget for Fast Zombies Suck is $1,000. So, as executive producer, it is my job to make that money stretch (and since it’s my $1,000, I have a vested interest in doing my job). That $1,000 pays for everything from the actors fees to the special effects to the catering to the medic on standby to the blanks and blood cannon we’ll be firing. So I’ve got to wheel and deal and make every cent count.
An Executive Producer also pays for things not in the budget, like breakfast this morning for Director Jeff Heimbuch (The Ties That Bind), our lead actor Matthew Blazi (Land of the Dead), Special Effects Designer Mike Lombardo (Suburban Holocaust), and J.F. Gonzalez, who didn’t have a title, so we made him Key Grip. None of us are sure what a Key Grip does, but we are certain that J.F. will be very good at it. (Not present at breakfast but also part of the team were Assistant Director Mike Antonio, Post-Production Supervisor Dave Thomas, and Director of Photography Dylan S-C)
After breakfast, we had a casting call for the part of Jessica (who is not in the story, but is in the movie). The casting call was held at Epic Dermis Tattoo Shop in East Petersburg, PA. Actresses — some from as far away as Virginia and Baltimore and others as local as York and Lancaster — showed up to try out for the part, reading their lines with Matt while Jeff and Mike A. filmed them. After the first read, Jeff would give them different directions so that he could see some examples of their range and abilities. Most actresses read two or three times. Then they were done, and at the end of the day, while eating hot dogs and chili at Casa Lombardo, we began deliberating who should get the role.
Which is the part of being Executive Director that I suck at. Because I liked every single actress and every single reading. Each young woman we met today was incredibly talented and charming and enthusiastic, but we can only pick one. And that sucks. That sucks in ways I can’t even articulate. I felt so bad about it that I tried to talk the rest of the team into letting me re-write the script so I could create extra parts for all of them. But sadly, we can’t do that. And I hate it. So far, that’s been the only frustrating part of this gig. (Well, that, and getting permission to fire blank ammunition and shut down city streets. And the fifty-bazillion people who want to be zombie extras when we only need twenty).
But pick one we will. And after that, we’re less than two months away from filming. Next month, we test out the blood cannon. If that goes well, then the actual filming will take place August 11th and 12th, provided I keep the trains all running on time like a good Executive Producer should.
So, that’s what an Executive Producer does. I could get used to this. It beats the hell out of writing books and comics. Well, expect for the casting part. I still think they should let me create extra roles…
Thanks to all of the wonderful actresses who came out today, and extra special thanks to Epic Dermis Tattoo for letting us take over their shop. And extra, extra special thanks to Mrs. Lombardo, who fed us well.