Death Do Us Apart – An interview with director Shaub Miah
Zombipedia recently had the privilege of speaking with rising UK director Shaub Miah about his upcoming zombie short Death Do Us Apart, his career so far and his influences. A real pleasure to speak with, his enthusiasm for the project is as infectous as a zombie virus and we are certain after you see the trailer and read what he has to say that you will succumb as well.
● So how did the idea behind the movie come about? Did you and the scriptwriter have a night out go wrong or something less sinister?
SM: It was a less sinister plan but lets start from the beginning. As a young child I was exposed to the camera lens in which I featured in a documentary about racism in inner city London titled “Bengali Backlash” so It was only natural for me to work with the camera again.
In 2009 I met an old school friend and he ran a non-profit football academy and asked me to put together a documentary for him. Me and the Academy Director tried to put it forward to many TV stations but due to my lack of experience and knowledge it was not good enough to be aired on TV. However, I was determined to not give up on the academy, the young players who tried their very best to become pro footballers and on my dream to showcase the documentary which I worked tirelessly on and give the academy and the young players the recognition they deserved.
I went and met with The Baftas, Odeon Cinema Group and many more companies all of which stated they could not screen the documentary without a cost- money I didn’t have at the time as I was jobless but my persistence paid off and I was outside one of the largest cinemas in the UK and also one of the most prestigious in the West End which was The Empire Cinema. Derek County who was the film booker at the time loved my passion and decided to set up a meeting with himself and with the operations director to screen the documentary.
After the screening I made a promise to everyone and to myself that I would make a film and when I do make this film I would make sure it impacts people on all levels and that it gets turned into a feature film.
So here we are – I originally had a synopsis for a gritty love story called “Time is money” which was of the same concept but didn’t include the zombie strippers and having known Martin Myers for 5 years through the Empire Cinema he recommended a film on zombies as they were the next best thing having been an executive producer for “Gangsters Guns and Zombies” which grossed $220,000 in 18 months and that he would be able to sell a zombie movie. That got me thinking and the re-write of the synopsis for “Death do us apart” began with thanks to Trevor Botorek who is an old school friend and the script writer for the film.
● Tell us a bit about the movie? What’s it about and who are the key characters?
SM: The movie is a combination of films but first and foremost its a buddy movie combined with the art of deception, with a Quentin Tarantino-esque style, with a bit of zombie head bashing/end of the world Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright style. I am a big fan of “Stand by Me” so I took my inspiration from the film and from my life as it has all the ingredients of friendship, coming of age, courage and curiosity and early works of Tarantino and end of the world Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg.
With an established Executive such as Martin Myers whom put belief in me and my abilities this took my confidence to a whole new level and recruiting cast crew from this point for the short was a very easy task. Some famous names featuring in the cast include Josh Myers who plays Alex and is a young up and coming talent who has several films under his belt and couple of Lions Gate films including the new Green Street 3.
Sagar Radia, a proactive actor does Film, TV and Theater who is a talent to definitely look out for. Also Wayne Gordon, another up and coming actor who has been on TV show such as the new Gladiators as Doom and he has carried out extra in films such as Bond Sky fall.
Although Jane Foufas plays a small scene in this film she is one to look out for, Jane is known for the singing waitress in Mamma Mia also The Zombie King where she played Vera starring alongside Edward Furlong.
Another one to watch out for is David Roden, although he predominately produces and directs for the likes of Holby and Corrie, he puts in a stellar performance in as Jake’s father Frank.
Andy McLeod who has years of theater experience with this being his first film and Joseph Gale who also has tons of theater experience but this being his first film are also ones to look out for in this film. Lastly Lucinda Rhodes-Flaherty, what can I can I say about her? I am a massive fan of her work and when we met we clicked and to be honest it has been a team effort from day one from cast and crew especially from all the girls that you see in the film and especially the girls from Babe station/Playboy chat Maxine Barnham and Jema Gilsenan.
This has been a true team effort and I would like to say thank you to my team as I wouldn’t have got so far if it wasn’t for my team.
So what the film is about, when a group of friends decide to take their sheltered friends Jake out to a strip club for a night he would always remember, they find themselves having a night that none of them would be able to forget. As the alcohol and money begins to flow quickly the boys begin to realise that they’re about to get more than they paid for – and not in the good way. Funny, sexy and gory, Death Do Us Apart is a zombie movie unlike any you have seen before.
● Made on quite a small budget what have been the biggest challenges you have faced while making this movie?
SM: First challenge was make up, I gave from my own budget £250 pounds to the lead make up artist Maria Malone and some of the obstacle she faced was to make it look authentic which meant that I had to organise cast and crew to come to one location for make up test, which lead to the second difficult task that I faced as a director and producer trying to get everyone in a room at the same time throughout the entire blocking/rehearsal and filming days but we managed it.
And lastly my directing could have been better but I have learnt a lot from the people around me and that’s why I assembled a strong crew, so that I could always get feedback from them positive or negative.
● Often low-budget shorts have amateur actors but you seem to have assembled quite an experienced cast including Lucinda Rhodes-Flaherty how did this all come into place?
SM: I personally believe that if your passionate about what you do it will then your passion will convey to others and with Martin’s experience being in the film industry for 40 years it was a no brainer as the film had potential to do well. However, it was up to me to make it happen and it still is.
● Was it difficult to attract these types of actors with this being your first directing role?
SM: No it was not, I firmly believe that if your passion matches your word and commitment then you can do anything and it also helps to have a good script.
● From your experience, what advice would you give first time directors?
SM: My advice to first time directors is to never doubt your self, your way is always the right way. Also listen to your peers who are working with you or work in the field that your currently working in, make everyone in your crew and cast a family and what I mean is listen to everyone make sure no one has any doubts and lastly always say thank you to everyone.
And document your film from the very beginning and start social media campaigns such as Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube enabling your self to start a kick starter campaign, give your self every means to have the chance to find the funding or investment.
SM: What Death do us apart brings to the table is E’s literally, friendship, coming of age in a strip club, courage with a bat and curiosity with a ten pound note, but you have to make your own mind up about that I guess and buy the film when it comes out.
● The UK has produced a couple of angry female zombie movies recently (Stag Night of the Dead, Doghouse) have you seen any of these and if so what were your thoughts? How hard has it been to balance the comedy and zombie elements in Death do us apart?
SM: I have watched Dog House and found it funny, one to watch with the lads. It really hasn’t been too bad to balance the comedy and to be honest, like I said it is a buddy movie and we all have a group of friends that bring different character facets to the table, so I have molded my characters around my old school friends and my life with a dash of zombies.
● We get a significant amount of traffic on this site from, shall we say dodgy search terms, will this film appeal to that type of zombie fan? What can fans expect?
SM: It’s a fun buddy movie with strippers, blood and mild gore. It caters for the adolescence, comedy fans, zombie fans and it also caters for the guys who love hot girls wearing skimpy clothes and girls who love to hate and compare themselves to other girls. It really has something for everyone.
● The movie seems to be getting some support from the Daily Sport, what involvement have they had?
SM: Daily sports MD and my self are good friends that’s all I can say at the moment.
● You managed to get the familiar face Jason Flemyng, how did that come about?
SM: My self and my team were doing a bit of PR for Death do us part at the Comic Con in March Exel thanks to Jema Gilsenan. What took place was natural,some people say I can blag a hand bag to a blind women, I got conversing with Jason Flemyng and I asked if I could get a few words on camera about Death do Us Apart,he said yes.
But me being ambitious I wanted more, so I said to him if I can sell you my tag line for the film can we exchange email addresses he said fine and we have been exchanging emails ever since and he has said possibly he can play a part in the movie. However, it all depends on other commitments.
● If you had to describe Death do us apart in one sentence what would you say?
SM: Stand by me meets Shaun of the dead vs Zombie strippers.
● When can we expect to see the short film released?
SM: Can’t say yet but hopefully in front of a Lions gate Blu ray and DVD.
● What have been your favourite horror and non horror films, and have they influenced your directing style?
SM: If I had to say any director I model my self after it would have to be Tarantino, I like to think I have no style as of yet because its my first ever film. However, I love his films and his style especially Dusk till Dawn, True romance and Pulp Fiction.
For example, the power dominance scene in Pulp Fiction with the gimp, hillbilly and police red neck, I keep asking my self why include the rape scene? Why not just use a feather duster and tickle his balls? After reflecting on that particular scene I realised that it was to dis-empower a person and to humiliation and to exact revenge in its basic primal form.
Another great scene from film True Romance which Tarantino wrote its famously known as the Sicilian scene, when I first watched that scene and the set up I just thought it was going to be a mob hit but the information that was exchanged between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken was amazing and I had to google it to make sure Tarantino’s was not bullshitting us with none sense and I found it to be true and realised that everything he puts into his film has its purpose and only he can make it work and I would like to think that in time I would be at his level to make these kind of creative choices.
● The UK zombie scene seems to be slowly building up momentum and getting bigger, why do you think this is?
SM: The UK and US zombie scene has always been massive, it only seems that it’s getting bigger because Hollywood has cashed in with TV and Film such as The Walking dead and World War Z, but zombie films have always been profitable because they are cheap to make and dependent on your distributor outlet you can make a profit.
● The genre seems to be a great way for new directors to learn their skills in a low-budget fun environment, how have you found this experience as a director?
SM: Doing a film first and foremost is a great way to start your directing career and it does not matter what genre it is as long as you are learning from the experience. However, if you want to take on a massive challenge like I have done with little or no budget then directing a zombie short/ pilot is a great way to hone your craft to the maximum but it’s not for the faint hearted. I have had a lot of compliments and criticism from my peers before and after I started the film for example; I have had people tell me its a bold move to try a VFX driven zombie film with a cast and crew of so many and on top of that I was sent hate mail for casting certain individuals saying that I am everything that is wrong with the film industry. However, surround your self with people who believe in you and in the project and the project will be successful.
With film nothing is guaranteed but if you do it well then you reap the rewards and make sure you enjoy your self as that’s what its all about really.
So if you’re as excited about seeing Death Do Us Apart as we are, you can keep up to do date by following them on;
Instagram: @deathdous_apart or #deathdousapart
Pictures courtesy of Sweetmate Productions. Check the facebook page for more.