Sheppard writes new version of Bela Lugosi film
PARKERSBURG, WV - A second movie about zombies that is being filmed in the area held an open casting call Saturday at the Dils Center.
The local interest does not mean Parkersburg has become a mecca for zombie films, said director Arthur Leo Collins of the movie "White Zombie." Just last month, numerous residents participated in the local filming of a movie about professional wrestlers battling zombies.
It's a combination of the popularity of the zombie genre and advances in cinematic technology that makes it easy to makes films anywhere at a low cost, said Collins, who owns Ragnbone Productions of Youngstown.
"For the first time in film history anybody, anywhere can make a movie," Collins said. "It's the equipment, the technology has allowed us to shoot it on cards and edit on our home computers."
Digital technology has cut out the biggest cost, film processing, Collins said. Processing was time-consuming as well, he said.
"In 1969, Easy Rider was a $250,000 film and that was considered independent," he said. "We're making them for a few grand," he said.
The original "White Zombie" was made in 1932 and is about a young woman's transformation into a zombie at the hands of an evil voodoo master. It is considered the first feature length zombie film and starred Bela Lugosi.
The version to be made here is not exactly a remake, Collins said.
"It's more of a reimagining," he said. "It is not a shot-for-shot remake, there are many changes. Character names are different, scenes are in a different order."
The film will be set in what he called a surreal, alternate reality environment, Collins said.
A casting call Saturday at the Dils Center brought in more than 100 auditioners for "White Zombie," Collins said. Three-quarters of the cast and crew will be local with some cast and crew from Youngstown, Collins said.
This will be his first directorial effort.
Casting and locations have not been decided and shooting is to begin May 18 for 16 days, wrapping up on June 2. A release date has not been set, but he hopes the movie will be released in 2014.
Some scenes will be shot on Blennerhassett Island and other locations in Parkersburg and Marietta, Collins said.
"A lot of shooting will be at night," he said. "It will be a lot of nights and long days."
Parkersburg's Susan Sheppard of Sacred Way Arts wrote the screenplay for the production.
"We've added new characters and we've made it more true to what voodoo is, trying to take the zombies back to what they were before 'The Walking Dead' and 'Night of the Living Dead' which is not what zombies are really supposed to be," Sheppard said.
Initially, the script was written as a musical play, Sheppard said.
"I thought it would be a great musical so I wrote it as a play," she said. "I had the idea 10 years ago and wrote it a year ago. I wrote with my daughter, Scarlet, in mind. She will be the 'White Zombie.'"
The film will not be set in Haiti, but in a post-apocalypse world, Sheppard said.
"There will be a small island and remnants of the voodoo beliefs have filtered down to the general public," she said. "That's how we will get around filming in Haiti."
The film will not be as gory as more recent films, Sheppard said.
"The difference between modern zombies and what they are or were in Haiti is the fear was not that a zombie was going to eat your brain or kill you," she said. "The fear in Haiti was being made into a zombie and you would fall under a spell of black magic, falling into such a deep coma you would be buried alive, dug up and become slaves."
Killer zombies were invented in "The Night of the Living Dead," Sheppard said.
"They were actually pretty boring, they walked around like sleepwalkers," she said. "We are trying to stay true to the original story."