Tall order for a low budget film: Interview with Midget Zombie Takeover writer/director
Take one of the scariest (or most fun) things in the world – zombies and combine that with the even more horrifying thought that some of us have to encounter everyday …midgets! It’s amazing it has taken this long for someone to combine the two but American writer & director Glenn Berggoetz has done just that in his new movie
‘Midget Zombie Takeover‘.
Zombipedia caught up with him, and asked him some big questions about his small film that could, but first here’s a little information about the film that has divided critics and set zombie fan’s tounges wagging. Set at a small college student hot-tub barbeque, the fun and frivolity soon stops when hungry, tiny univited guests drop by….after a different kind of meat.
● Some people find dwarves and midgets scary at the best of times, what made you want to zombify them? Also what were your inspirations behind the film?
GB: I had a CEO at a distribution company tell me a few years ago that if I ever made a film that had women in bikinis in it or zombies in it, he could sell the film. It only took me three years to realize I could combine the two! Anyway, once I decided to make a zombie film with women in bikinis in it, I thought I needed to come up with a new twist on the zombie genre since there have been so many zombie films made. In chatting with my niece Christine Summers one day about possible twists we could put on the zombies, she said, “Why don’t you make them little people?” I thought about it for about a second and a half and decided that that’s what I would do.
I would say my inspirations behind the film were the same as those behind every film I’ve made so far – to simply find a way, on a very small budget, to entertain some people. On top of that, I’ve always enjoyed zombie films, and I’ve always enjoyed the ridiculous comedy movies like “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun,” so I tried to take that bizarre comedy approach to making a zombie film, to make a zombie film that’s full of ridiculous fun.
● On a low budget film such as this, where actors aren’t usually experienced (or in some cases actors) did you feel that you have to give them a little extra direction and focus or is there a more experimental and improvised feeling on set?
GB: Since we shoot so quickly, there’s not a lot of time for extra directing, which really does a disservice to the cast. We shot the film over the course of two weekends, so we moved very quickly, which can make actors look a lot less talented than they really are. We certainly had some neophyte cast members in “Midget Zombie Takeover,” but had we had more time to shoot where we could have filmed each take ten or fifteen or twenty times, their talents would have come through more fully. As it was, we often times filmed each take only one or two times, even if someone stumbled over a line – it’s the nature of the micro-budget filmmaking beast. For the most part, though, everyon showed up knowing all their lines and stuck pretty close to the script. I wish we would have had the time to shoot some improvised takes because we had some really talented people in the cast.
● There’s a character in the film, similar to Ralph in Friday 13th and a lot of subsequent horrors, who speaks over the fence and prophesises the doom of the party goers – what was the inspiration behind him and also his crazy circular run after his message?
GB: “Friday the 13th” was absolutely the inspiration behind our “Crazy Guy” character, played by Jonathan Hodges. I love the early “Friday the 13th” films (as well as the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films), and I knew as soon as I began work on the “Midget Zombie Takeover” script that there would be a similar “Prophet of Doom” character in MZT. We were so fortunate to get Jon to play Crazy Guy because Jon has quite a bit of theater experience, and his bizarre run was completely his own doing – so there is some improvisation in the film. Jon simply took off running as it said in the script, then he suddenly changed directions on us – it was fantastic! And all of Jon’s lines while running off were improvised as well. We actually ended up doing a second take of Jon running around, and at one point in the other take he yelled out, “Human flesh!” His delivery was classic! We were all rolling with laughter, and the phrase “human flesh” became a bit of a mantra on set for the rest of the shoot.
● A lot of low budget films suffer from uneven sound and other minor production difficulties, which us fans are used to and can accept, but as a film maker how do you attempt to balance that to still make an enjoyable experience? With more humour? Gore? Charm?
GB: Getting good, consistent sound is always the most difficult part of a small-budget shoot, especially when shooting outside and with a lot of cast members (and when only getting one or two takes of each scene). The hope when making the film is that the editor will be able to salvage some good audio (and editor Erik Lassi was an absolute magician in handling the sound to “Midget Zombie Takeover”) and that the rest of the film will be enjoyable enough (in this case ridiculously funny enough) that viewers aren’t too annoyed with the sound problems that creep into the film. Thankfully the sound was good for pretty much all the jokes (one or two are a bit muffled), so viewers won’t be too upset that we don’t always have the greatest sound in the film.
● How long did it take to shoot and also complete the film? Did you encounter any challenges along the way?
GB: The film was shot over four days, then the edit took about six months. And, boy, did we face some obstacles! There were three main obstacles that nearly doomed the film. The first came on the third day of shooting when the one camera we were using suddenly had a big blob appear nearly right in the middle of the inside of the lens. The director of photography, Orion Metzger, tried everything to remove the blob from the camera but wasn’t having any luck. Since we were shooting in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and since it was late afternoon on a Saturday at the time, there was no chance of finding a place to fix the camera at that point. After close to two hours, though, of Orion fiddling with the camera, the blob suddenly disappeared. Whew.
The next big obstacle came when editor Erik Lassi received all the footage only to discover that a bunch of scenes were missing. It turns out that when Orion downloaded the footage into his computer and then onto a hard drive, some of the footage just disappeared. Ugh! So we had to bring everyone back to re-shoot some scenes. As it was, one of the cast members couldn’t make it in for the re-shoot, so I had to act as his stand-in and deliver a couple of his lines. I was only filmed from behind so it wasn’t quite so obvious. But I’ve never had a single person say anything to me about those couple scenes where I was the stand-in, so apparently it’s not too obvious.
The third major obstacle was with the sound. I made a huge mistake during the shoot in leaving the hot tub on the “Low” setting when we were shooting the outside scenes so there would be some bubbles in the hot tub so it would look realistic. Unfortunately, the microphone we used made that low sound come across like an airplane flying overhead at low altitude. At first we thought we might not be able to salvage more than a small portion of the deck/hot tub scenes, but Erik was able to work some wonders and get the audio to the point where 90% of it is easily heard. Thank you, Erik!
A fourth challenge that arose was that we had booked the film for its world premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse in Winchester, Virginia, for February 8, so Erik had to have the edit done by then. Erik worked on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day and pretty every day for months to make sure the film was ready for the premiere, and he worked right up to the last possible day finishing it up.
● Tell me about your scriptwriting process? Do you like to plan and story board or have a more organic approach to film making preferring to go with the flow?
GB: I tend to write my scripts very quickly. For our film “Evil Intent” I wrote the script in three days. For our films “The Worst Movie EVER!” and “To Die is Hard,” I wrote those scripts in four days. “Midget Zombie Takeover” took a bit longer – about three weeks.
My process for writing typically involves jotting down ideas for a few days regarding the script, then sitting down and writing it. Occasionally scripts take much longer. For example, about a month after we finished shooting “Midget Zombie Takeover” we shot a psychological thriller titled “The Ghosts of Johnson Woods” (if you like Matt “Goose” Goosherst from “Midget Zombie Takeover” you’ll love “The Ghosts of Johnson Woods” since Goose plays the lead in “The Ghosts of Johnson Woods”). TGOJW started out as a dark-comedy script, but I wrote the script pretty slowly, and as I was writing, the script kept taking darker and darker turns. Two months later my dark comedy had turned into a psychological thriller.
When we shoot our films, we never storyboard. We shoot very organically, simply saying before we set up for a shot, “Hey, how do we want to shoot this scene?” Typically, while the cast members are going over their lines for the scene one last time, we figure out how we want to shoot the scene, and off we go!
● I am always interested in the marketing and distribution of films, in saturated markets like the low-budget horror and zombie ones, how have you worked to get Midget Zombie Takeover more visible to the public?
GB: It’s just constant work. I’ve sent out hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of emails regarding the film, contacting independent theaters, distributors, film critics, websites – everyone I can think of who might be interested in the film. Maybe only five percent of those people who I contact ever get back to me, but if I contact 500 people about the film and 25 of them take interest in it in one way or another, word about the film begins to spread.
I am thrilled that we have just signed a distribution deal for both “Midget Zombie Takeover” and our film “The Worst Movie EVER!” That saves me a lot of work. Now I can let the distribution company take over in regards to trying to land DVD, PPV, VOD, and other such deals. The contract gives the distributor North American, U.K., and Chinese rights to the film, so at some point I’ll have to look into getting another distributor to take on other foreign sales of the film.
● When selling this film, what are its unique selling points that makes it stand out, and why should we see it?
GB: First off, this isn’t a film for everyone, at least when it comes to the critics. We’ve had critics say it may be the worst film they’ve ever seen to other critics lauding its brilliance. One critic even said “Midget Zombie Takeover” has “great writing – Quentin Tarantino would be proud.”
When selling the film I point out the reviews like that that say how great the film is. I’ll mention the review that raved about MZT’s “hilarious ridiculousness.” And I’ll also point out that most people have never seen a film before with midget zombies. Who doesn’t want to at least take a peek at that?! Of course, that has also led to some theaters refusing to bring us in, because using the word “midget” in the title is offensive.
Why should people see “Midget Zombie Takeover”? Simply because it’s fun. While some critics have hated the film (I sometimes get the feeling that some critics feel that if they say they like a film with the title “Midget Zombie Takeover” that they won’t be taken seriously as a critic), I’ve attended half a dozen screenings of the film, from Virginia to Colorado to Los Angeles, and every time I was in attendance, the crowd roared with laughter. Yes, the film is silly and ridiculous, but it’s also a lot of fun. In fact, when the film made its world premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse in Virginia, there was a huge crowd, and they went insane over the film. Even before the film was over the owner of the theater, Steve Nerangis, came up to me in the theater and said, “In all my years of owning this theater, I’ve never heard so much laughing.” So people should see “Midget Zombie Takeover” because the odds are very good that they’ll have a lot of fun watching it.
● When can we expect to see the film out and in what formats?
GB: At this point, that’s mostly going to be determined by the distributor. Hopefully “Midget Zombie Takeover” will be popping up on websites for purchase and download, hopefully on cable TV pay-per-view or video on-demand, things like that. It’d be great if the film received a DVD release. I also keep trying to find more theaters to bring the film in. While the theatrical run for the film is largely completed, there are still a handful of theaters who have expressed interest in bringing the film in for a screening or two.
There is one deal we do have in place for the film where fans can watch it. The Roku channel Zom-Bee TV had some representatives in attendance at the world premiere of the film in Virginia, and before I left the theater that night I had a deal in place with them to air the film on their “Cinema Insomnia” show that’s hosted by the legendary Mr. Lobo. So if you must see the film soon, get a Roku set-up and tune in to “Cinema Insomnia” on Zom-Bee TV!
Thanks again for your time, and finally do you have any thing that
you want mentioned or brought up?
GB: We are looking into making “Midget Zombie Takeover II.” I’ve started work on the script, and we’ve come up with a way to bring back nearly the entire cast from the first “Midget Zombie Takeover.” The big difference is we want to add more gore into the sequel, so we’d like to get a fair amount of money raised to make the sequel. We made the original for just $2,000, but we’d like to have at least $60,000 on hand to make the sequel so we can get a little crazy with it. We’ll probably do a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign starting sometime in the next six months to see if we can get the money raised.
Zombie Midget Takeover is a fun movie, definately for one for fans of the genre which both highlights Glenn’s talent for comedy and his ability to funnel his influences into something unique.