Interview with “Meltdown” Producer, Jake Mulliken
Is there anything better than a good zombie short? How about a full-length zombie film filled with twice the gore, guts and comedic relief. Lucky4Productions is currently in the midst of filming an extension to their short film, Meltdown, that was written and directed by RAW Pittsburgh 2013 Filmmaker of the Year, Jake Mulliken. The film began production yesterday, and is slated to wrap on June 30th. We caught up with Jake to discuss the Meltdown process, the challenges that arise, and why Pittsburgh is not the city you want to be in during an apocalypse.
Can fans of the short you presented at RAW Pittsburgh in 2013 expect something similar out of your upcoming feature?
The short was always meant to be a gateway into the what we are doing now. While the feature pays some homage to some of the more memorable and popular scenes in the short, the stakes have most certainly been raised. The characters are far more interesting and richer in the grand scheme of the fabric of the feature. I truly think audiences are going to be interested and shocked at the directions the film takes.
The original Meltdown short was filmed in Bloomfield and Lawrenceville back in August 2012. This time around the filming takes place in Somerset, PA and Venango County in addition to Pittsburgh. Previously known as OutOfPocket Productions, Lucky4Prodcuductions aims to take mundane moments and turn them into something more. This feature length version of Meltdown will be their third production, along with the short and a documentary titled, Ghost Hunt.
Your short was filmed here in the city, what are the advantages to filming the feature in the outskirts of Pittsburgh?
There are many aspects to filming in outside counties and boroughs. The biggest, as has been my experience in Somerset, is the excitement of the community surrounding the presence of our project there. Being an independent is tougher in the larger cities pulling in bigger films because the notion of being an independent has become lackluster citywide. The city of Pittsburgh has a magnificent and talented pool of actors and aspiring filmmakers that rarely get pulled into the bigger Hollywood productions, which has presented a bit of a double edged sword.
Financially it is difficult to do a low budget in the city, which has created a unique and fiercely hardworking and loyal independent community. Shooting outside of the city allows for more bang for your buck and a better experience for cast and crew, as well as the opportunity to make the kind of film you wish to make. Again, the town and city of Somerset have been so warm and welcoming from business owners down to the populace. You honestly couldn’t ask for a better city as an independent filmmaker to be in.
What is the most challenging aspect of producing a zombie movie?
From my experience, the biggest mistake that plague many productions, especially independents, is a lack of planning in the pre-production stages. There is a great deal of minutia present in the planning of a film. In reality, it starts with the script. If you write a script, no matter how ambitious, it is important to consider the resources that you have at your disposal. Many films crush their budgets on frills as opposed to creating the necessary setting most conducive with completing the best film as possible.
I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years being involved in various productions. The key is to always be mindful of the successful sets and the nightmare sets and plan your film accordingly. Most of the work comes during pre and post production. The goal is to be as organized as possible so when you show up on set you can just film and enjoy that process.
The most challenging aspect to any effects-driven genres are the effects. Proper planning of how each effect is designed, presented and ultimately applied is key, again it is always about planning in the early stages. Myself and my Special Effects Coordinator, Cody Ruch, are very meticulous in our planning with one another as well as with our Cinematographer, Ara Madzounian and Sound/Lighting Technician Kevin Kukler as well as our Editor Jackson Birnbaum. Coordination between departments prior to shooting makes the stylistic approach of shooting practical effects so much easier on set. Again, organization between all departments is key.
Meltdown is a zombie-comedy that follows four friends whose day takes a turn for the worst when suddenly everyone they know turns into the flesh eating undead.These four comrades are forced to survive the unthinkable as they hack and slash their way through the zombie wasteland. This thrilling story has been described as a mix between Shaun of the Dead and Mad Max.
Zombies and survival tips aside, what do you hope viewers of the film take away from its story?
The story really plays on the notion of change and human interactions. Obviously the zombies are a crucial element and characters in their own right, but they are used more as a device to establish major changes in the human characters, for both good and ill. The film really pushes the notion of evolution and change, not only in the switch from organized society into a more Hobbesian landscape, but how man changes when constantly put into survival mode. Unlike most films of this genre, we really play with landscapes, implementing more rural settings as the film progresses, a move back to nature in a way.
If a zombie apocalypse broke out in Pittsburgh, which neighborhood would you flea to and why?
If one hits Pittsburgh, I’m getting the hell out of here. I already have contingencies in place. Its all wide open spaces for me. Urban areas are the worse because of confinement and the general panic. In all honesty, I’d probably head back to Somerset.
Want to know more about the cast and crew? On Wednesday, June 11th at 7pm, they’ll host a Q&A session at the Quality Inn Somerset. You can also find out more about the film on their website.