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raymac Written by raymac
Oct. 16, 2009 | 9:55 PM

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Interview with Christian Cantamessa, writer and director of the short film, HOW I SURVIVED THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!

What is your short film about?
It’s the story of a mother and son trying to survive during the zombie apocalypse. He’s growing up. She’s trapped between treating him as her little boy vs. her partner.

What was it about this particular project that made you want to make it?
I think I was captivated by the idea of what a parent would do, what would they tell their child, to keep them alive and sane in a world that has descended into madness.

The mother and son dynamic is very touching. How did your cast come together?
The project originated when our production team, Red Barrel Films, was given the opportunity to work with Booboo Stewart, an amazing young talent who has since signed on to star in the third movie of the Twilight franchise,“Twilight: Eclipse”. He was attached to this film from the start. For the female lead, we were looking to blend the humanity of a mother with the determination of a survivor, and we were very lucky to find Lindsey Stoddart.

Light and shadow is used to great effect in the film. Tell me a bit about the cinematography and set design.
We really needed to milk every second of film, so we embedded much of the information and mood into the location itself.  We were extremely lucky to collaborate with Steve Arnold, the art director of Spiderman (and many other amazing films) and of course to have an incredibly resourceful production designer, Nate Rothstein.

The interplay of light and darkness was inspired by a classic painting technique called “chiaroscuro”, and was achieved thanks to the painstaking efforts of director of photography Jeff Siljenberg and colorist Jill Bogdanowicz (Letters from Iwo Jima, Gran Torino, Ray). Chiaroscuro creates a tense visual rhythm that is very appropriate for the story and it highlights the bodies, making our mother and child feel more vulnerable. We wanted the audience to feel the scorching hot sunlight coming from outside the house so that the dark interior feels more threatening and claustrophobic.

Who did your zombie makeup?
Brian Hillard and Geoff Leavitt, our special effects makeup supervisors, and their crew at Elemental Design F/X Group. Amazing guys, they never stopped believing in the film and their support was invaluable. I really hope I get the opportunity to work with EDFX again.

What were some of challenges you faced during the shoot?
The visual narrative style was very ambitious.  The film alternates classically composed shots, almost static, with long uninterrupted mis-en-scene action sequences shot entirely on Steadicam. These took a long time to set up, were very hard to light and required more coordination and precision, especially when firearms came into the picture.

That, and our cinnamon and oatmeal “dust”. Everything was covered in the stuff. It gave a beautiful aged look but I still smell cinnamon whenever I watch the film.

What do you hope your short film achieves?
I hope it will entertain our audience and give us all the opportunity to meet future collaborators and to make more films.

How did you get into filmmaking?
I have been active in the entertainment industry for over 12 years as a videogame writer and designer but I was always very passionate about film as a narrative medium. I started playing around with cameras and editing when I was about 13 years old, using my friends as actors. This is my third short film to hit the festival circuit.

What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
I’d recommend they make a film they are very passionate about, and stay positive and keep at it no matter what happens, because it is very hard out there.

Which filmmakers inspire you and why?
Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton and Stanley Kubrick. I admire their ability to tell a great story in a unique visual way.

What is next for you?
I am finishing a big videogame project due to release next year.

HOW I SURVIVED THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! shows on Sunday, October 18th at 2:00 PM as part of Shorts Program 3.


  1. Hi! I wonder where I can get a dvd of this, I love to watch it again and again, effects and make up and the artists are joined as one to be a masterpiece! I do really love it. Hcg Diet Drops

    Posted by HCG on 03/17 at 01:49 AM
  2. Amazing ideas .. very nice article .. you did a good job by sharing it here !

    Posted by relacore on 03/30 at 03:55 AM
  3. I like the way he imbedded the mood and the lighting in to this film, and the way it was shot.. I have looked every were for a cop of the film but can’t find it anywhere, does anyone know where?

    Posted by Gavin Roberts on 04/30 at 02:31 AM
  4. Nice! Would you mind if I referred to this in an upcoming article on ?

    Posted by Chaz on 01/07 at 08:55 AM