Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New Blood Rising In Indie Horror: My Interview With Chad Zuver

Chad Zuver hasn't been making movies for all that long, just a few short years, and yet he has tackled some of the horror genre's most iconic concepts with impressive results. The slasher, the vampire, the zombie, and serial killers have dominated Zuver's most notable works. His first film, "Unnoticed", an ultra low-budget slasher. He followed that film up with "New Blood Rising", a vampire saga with a twist. That was my first introduction to Chad Zuver the film maker. Since then he has released a indie remake of "Night Of The Living Dead", and the very creative, experimental found footage film, "The Final Act".

Back to "New Blood Rising", which features a story that places vampires as a dying species whose only hope relies on the only surviving "true born vampires", and the film, while staying low budget, goes full into bringing this story to life with all the conviction and passion of any larger studio backed movie. It had depth, practical effects, action, and heart. And the story is a hefty saga that is too big for just one movie to tell, which is why in 2016 the second installment "New Blood Awakening" will be released. The film continues the saga of Jade and Ophelia and their desire to restore the bloodline.

Chad was nice enough to take time out to do an interview about the "New Blood" series, as well as his other projects. We go back to the first film in the series, "New Blood Rising" before getting into the sequel, "New Blood Awakening". A trailer has already been released for the film ahead of the 2016 release date. You can check that out here: Teaser Released For "New Blood Awakening". Zuver also talks about his other projects two in development, and the a fore mentioned "The Final Act". Plus he gives some incite into his influences and fan faves. Read our full interview below and go check out his movies at Shattered Images Films.

A SOUTHERN LIFEFirst let me thank you for taking the time for this interview. New Blood Rising, and Night of The Living Dead both had strong story lines and a committed cast which is crucial when working with budget restraints. You are passionate about what you do and it shows, especially where the Saga of the Vampires in the "New Blood" series. Before we talk about the sequel, "New Blood Awakening", tell me how the idea for the "New Blood" story came about?

CHAD ZUVER: Thank you for the interview. You always have been a big supporter of mine. It is an honor chatting with you. "New Blood Rising" came to me from the very first "Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" trailer. I saw the trailer in the winter of 2012 and instantly had an idea for a movie. All day Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I outlined the entire movie and started writing the script after that. It took me about 5 months to perfectly finish the script and I was filming my first movie "Unnoticed" at the time as well. I wanted to create a new story of vampires that was totally different than "Twilight".

A SOUTHERN LIFE: Which films, if any, from past Vampire cinema did you draw inspiration?

CHAD ZUVER: Vampire movies are a dying breed thanks to "Twilight", in the horror genre. I'm sorry, but it's the truth. I was a big "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fan and loved the TV show. Other movies that I use inspiration for are: Salem's Lot, Let the Right One In, Fright Night, 30 Days of Night, and Near Dark. 

A SOUTHERN LIFE: Dealing with the orthodoxy of what is accepted about Vampires was it important to stay true to the legends or more important to vear away into new territory? Much like when suddenly they could walk in the sunlight with a ring, or hang out in the shade.

CHAD ZUVER: I stayed true to the original legends of the vampires. Can't be in sunlight, have to be invited in, holy water, and crosses. But I also added a new twist to them as well. In "New Blood Rising" the three main vampires were born vampires and they each had their own special powers. So I gave each of them something unique about their character.

A SOUTHERN LIFE: Your characters are young vamps on the run and trying to restore their species bloodline. It comes off pretty classical while being somewhat original by focusing sympathy and point of view from the vampires' perspective. Was that always the intention when you started writing the story? I have to say that I sympathized more with the vampires' story than I did with the humans in "New Blood Rising".

CHAD ZUVER: Yes that was my intention to have the vampires be the victims of the story. They were a dying breed and needed to survive. They wanted to restore their bloodline at any cost, it is human nature. The vampires story was the focal point of the main story.

A SOUTHERN LIFE: Now you have Jade and Ophelia returning, as well as Karver, and Archer for "New Blood Awakening? What can we expect from the sequel? Will the sympathy stay with Jade and her kin, or will we see them as the villains?

CHAD ZUVER: All four of them will be returning and you will see something you wouldn't expect after seeing the first movie. I wouldn't say there would be sympathy for Jade and Ophelia in "New Blood Awakening" and I wouldn't say they are villains either. You will get the same Jade and Ophelia from "New Blood Rising" but also a new look at both of their characters.

A SOUTHERN LIFE: Was the story for "New Blood Awakening" one that you already had ready to go when you made "New Blood Rising" or did the idea for the sequel come later?

CHAD ZUVER: Both movies were planned out before "New Blood Rising" was even done. It is one long story with both movies. It was always my intentions to continue the story from "Rising" to "Awakening". The plot for "Awakening" was there, but just not the details. That came into fruition during the Summer of 2014.

A SOUTHERN LIFE: How was production, you had a lot of cast return to reprise their roles, so did it make it easier to film? Or more comfortable as a director knowing that the actors were familiar with their characters?

CHAD ZUVER: This has been one of the hardest productions, I've been a part of. We have filmed 25+ hours in two days, 14 hours of filming in one day, and many many long nights. I am very comfortable with the returning actors like Kayla Elizabeth, Vanessa Leonard, Allan Meyette, Thomas Sloan, and Lisa Marie. I have worked with all of them before and they know their own characters, better than I do. I only wrote the characters on paper and they brought them to life. I couldn't have asked for a better cast, than what I have in "Awakening".

A SOUTHERN LIFE: Who are some new characters that fans can look forward to seeing in "New Blood Awakening"?

CHAD ZUVER: There are many new characters that bring a new look on the "New Blood" series. On the vampire side, you have Callidora (played by Sarah Bertz Thomas), Byron (played by Greg Kissner) and Roman (played by Chris Wietrzykowski). Callidora is Wes's "go to girl". She is beautiful and crazy. Byron is a mix of Joker/Loki. He loves to stir up trouble and work his plan down to the letter. Roman is the muscle of Wes's army and partners up with Byron. On the human side you have, Paige (played by Melissa Zahs), Skylar (played by Spring JoyLynn), Jill (played by Jeanine Visuue), and John (played by Mark Klein). Paige is the new main human character, and we follow her life during the vampire apocalypse. Skylar is Paige's best friend and she is a very fun character. Jill and John are Paige's parents and the backstory with them is very interesting. I have worked with many of the new actors in "Awakening" before and many people have been new. But I literally picked the perfect cast for the movie. I couldn't be happier.

A SOUTHERN LIFE: The "New Blood" series feels like a trilogy, is there a story written for a third installment? And when can fans expect "New Blood Awakening" to be released?

CHAD ZUVER: There has been ideas for a third movie, but nothing has really fit right for a true finale. I'm not saying never, but I highly doubt it. I have not picked a release date for "Awakening". It will be released in 2016 and it might be late spring/early summer.

A SOUTHERN LIFE: Now you have another film that was recently completed, "The Final Act", tell me a bit about that movie, it's a documentary styled story that focuses on a serial killer. Where did the idea come from?

CHAD ZUVER: "The Final Act" was a very fun movie to make. I wanted to try something new and do a POV/found footage movie. "Final Act" I believe is a first of it's kind. It features 2 movies (on the DVD) that tie into each other. I worked with other writers (Ben Shotwell, Michael E. Cullen II, and James Ramey) on a simple story for the 2 movies. All of us put ideas down and figured out the best way to tell 2 different stories and make it into one movie.

A SOUTHERN LIFE: Are you a fan of found footage? What are a few of the ones that have impressed you, turned you on to the subgenre?

CHAD ZUVER: I am sort of a fan of found footage. It has been done to death recently, you don't see anything new now. As a kid I was a big fan of "Blair Witch Project". Then I watched it about a year ago and I hated it.  There are some good ones like "Rec" and the first "Paranormal Activity". But now you have about 2 or 3 released a year and it gets very watered down.

A SOUTHERN LIFE: When did you first realize that you wanted to make movies for a living? Was it always aimed toward the horror genre?

CHAD ZUVER: I know the exact moment. It was after my very first time seeing "Scream". I absolutely loved the story that Wes Craven told directing the movie and smart story it covered. I love the storytelling aspect to a movie. In my opinion "Scream" is the of the best horror movies and story. I've always been a huge horror fan. Growing up in the 80's, horror movies were the king. You had Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Pinhead, and Chucky. You had some of the most iconic characters being released year after year and that is just the slasher movies. The 80's had some of the best horror movies out there and its a shame we can't go back to them now.

A SOUTHERN LIFE: What are some of the films and directors that have influenced you over the years?

CHAD ZUVER: Wes Craven is my biggest influence as a director. He is hit and miss with his movies, but his hits are huge. I just love the way he tells a story throughout a movie. Even though I'm not a big fan of a lot of his movies. I love the way Quentin Tarantino does dialogue. There are other directors like Gareth Evans, Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan, and Joss Whedon are other directors I really admire.  Film wise, I always stay on the horror page. "Scream", "A Nightmare on Elm Street", "Halloween", "The Thing" "Hatchet". Each of those movies has something different and special about them that really stick with me.

A SOUTHERN LIFE: Before we finish I want to ask you about your next two projects, the short film contest and "Descending". Are you working on an anthology showcase for indie talent with the short film contest?

CHAD ZUVER: The short film contest is something new I am trying out. When "Awakening" is released, I want to attach a short movie, before the feature. Then even have it be on the DVDs as well. I'm still getting things worked out for the contest. The contest is more so intended on local talent (Toledo, Ohio), since we have so many very talented filmmakers in the area. But I'm not against going outside Toledo as well. "Descending" is really being kept hush hush now. But we have brought in two very popular and extremely talented actresses into the movie - KateLynn Newberry and Amanda Collins aka Mandy Lou. I have already wrote the first draft of the script. Greg Kissner will be directing the movie and I'll be working with him on finalizing the script.

A SOUTHERN LIFE: Finally, If you weren't making movies what would you be doing?

CHAD ZUVER: This is probably the hardest question, you could ask (laughs). I honestly don't know what I would be doing. I do have my normal night job, so I would probably be focusing all my attention on my work career.  Even though I've been making movies for 3 years, it has been the best 3 years of my life. It has been very stressful, but I don't regret one second of those 3 years.

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