Zombies given new life in film
A local filmmaker is looking for a fresh approach to a genre he admits is a little hokey.
By SHERRI L. SHAULIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
HUBBARD -- William Victor Schotten watches his 2- and 3-year-old children run around the house, making faces at his friends and trying to look like zombies.
Lauren and her older brother Logan squeal loudly as the adults tower over them, lumbering around with their arms raised, looking like the undead.
"Why do you guys do this to my children?" the 28-year-old Hubbard resident asks, laughing. His wife, Stacy, stands off to the side in their kitchen, slightly rolling her eyes.
It seems only natural the children behave like they're in a scene from Daddy's movie.
Filming on "Dead Life," Schotten's first feature film, started principal photography in Hubbard in May. It's been a long process for the filmmaker, who has always had a love for horror films.
About the story
"Dead Life" is the story of Maxx, a man who watches his friends and world fall victim to the walking dead after a deadly virus, necrotizing fasciitis M, is unleashed on the Midwest.
David A. Caleris, 34, of Lowellville, director of photography for the film, is the one who found the whole hook for the storyline.
"I was watching Discovery Channel or something like that one night," he said. "And there was a show on about this flesh-eating virus that starts as a very small infection, and spreads over the entire body in a matter of days. This one woman had it, and they showed her arm. It was pretty gory. Basically, her arm was dead, but she was still alive."
"In the story, the virus spreads through the blood, so it hits the whole body at once," Schotten said. "The heart still beats, the brain is still working, but it's a limited life. We don't really know if these things are living or not."
Schotten admits the zombie genre is seen by most as a bit hokey, and notes he even fell into that trap with his first draft of the script, which was completed the summer of 2000.
"I had such corny dialogue it would make the Pope weep," he said, laughing.
After a few revisions and a few months, he hooked up with Caleris when the two were co-workers. Their shared love of zombie flicks, combined with the fact that Schotten was an aspiring film writer/director and Caleris was an aspiring cinematographer, cemented the relationship.
Keith Boron, 38, of Masury, came on board as the historical documenter of the film, but soon took on more roles.
"I called him up in April, though, and asked him to be the assistant director because he knows so much about the business and the genre," Schotten said.
Boron also appears in the film, being the first zombie to appear in "Dead Life."
"It's something I always wanted to do, and thought I might be good at," Boron said. "To work with these guys seemed very natural, and I'm very happy so far with how this is all working out."
"Everybody in the film is pulling double and triple duty," Schotten said.
But he's is making sure he can get the best people involved he can. A shooting date of spring 2001 was scrapped after problems, and that left a bad taste in his mouth.
"I was all set to go, then I started calling the actors, and no one would answer my calls," he said. "I finally said, 'Screw it, we're not doing it. The only people I can count on are the crew, I have no film stockpiled, the effects guys want $1,500 I don't have ... I'm not doing this!'"
Help from uncle
He said it took many long-distance phone calls and e-mails to his uncle, California independent filmmaker Wayne Schotten, for him to get things straightened out.
"That's why I list him in the credits as the production supervisor," Schotten said. "He talked me through everything, helped me figure out what direction I wanted to go and gave me some great advice."
This time around, Schotten nailed down local actor Michael Hanton of Vienna for the starring role. Also starring in the film are Ashleigh Holman of Kent, Jason Gerrity of Warren, J.J. Zetts of Youngstown and Lindsay Gerish of Hubbard.
As the talk of the movie continues, Schotten's children have moved off to another room in the house to make faces at Zetts. Aside from acting in the film, Zetts also wrote a portion of the soundtrack and will work on post-production with Schotten at his studio, Zetts Technology Consulting Inc. The children are still squealing, making monster noises, oblivious to the talk of zombies.
"There's something about an apocalyptic view of the world that guns people's engines," Schotten said. "That's why they love movies like 'The Stand,' 'The Last Man on Earth' and 'Omega Man.'"
A new direction
"I swear George Romero [who was responsible for 'Night of the Living Dead'] should get a royalty check from everyone who makes a zombie film," he continued. "I am a big fraud just like everybody else. Zombie films are not a fresh idea, they have a lot of mold on them. We are all stealing the same ideas, but we try for an original direction."
For information on "Dead Life," check the Web site at www.schottenfilmworks.com.