It is 2009, December. Two months after the zombie apocalypse rained bemusement and inconvenience down upon the people of Australia. Our homeland security defences fell easily; none were prepared for the menace of the walking dead. Rohan Harris, the writer and director at the core of Expect Problems Productions, talks to us about his prophetic series and dispels rumours of involvement in a zombie-raising conspiracy.
We are sitting outside the Crown hotel in the city with a few beers and a couple of shotguns. There is a crowd of zombies pushing ineffectually against the low, relatively weak barrier made of shrubs that separates the licensed area from the crazed madness of the zombie apocalypse. Every so often one of them manages to climb atop the terracotta pot containing the plants, at which point we use the shotgun to disperse them over a wide area. It’s fun, if nothing else.
Zombies. They’re slow, walking corpses. Are they really that much of a problem? To the seven people trapped in the sharehouse of Sharehouse Zombie Apocalypse, they’re more of a logistical issue, making missions to the shop slightly more fraught with danger than usual. Rohan has, of course, thought about the items necessary for survival after the dead rise.
“Toilet paper is a must. Not only is it good for hygienic reasons, but if you get bored and the zombies end up being more ‘Sharehouse Zombie Apocalypse’ than ’28 Days Later’, then you can use your spare toilet paper to dress up some Zombies as an Egyptian Mummy. You know – just for fun! Secondly, you’d need tins of food with a long shelf life – baked beans are good. And thirdly, you’d need a large collection of industrial strength rubber bands. That way, you can use your cans of baked beans as ammunition for a rubber-band-based anti-zombie can-launcher!”
Rohan picks up one of the shotties and fires it directly into the face of a huge zombie wearing a muumuu. The zombie’s head explodes and she (it?) falls backwards, scattering the mob of undead. Rohan is obviously a quick shot. “Our shoot was about 7-8 days in total, spread over weekends. We filmed the entire block of 7 episodes in one batch, spread over that time – so, in fact, Episode 1 was one of the last episodes to have a rough cut completed.”
SZA is a masterpiece of amateur production. The cinematography is raw, yet clear. The ambience is mundane and realistic. The acting is just extroverted enough to be comic while the dry humour of Rohan’s writing keeps the episodes on the right side of farce.
”Most of the actors in SZA are relatively fresh – Symon (Clay) had never acted before, and my only experience was bit parts in my other projects, which I’d originally taken because another actor became unavailable at short notice. Steven O’Donnell (Mike Hattrick) has quite a bit of experience as an actor – I think his first appearance in a film was in a brief scene with Geoffrey Rush in ‘Swimming Upstream’ – something he loved so much it convinced him to pursue it professionally. Lara (Skyler) had done stage work before doing SZA with us, much like Kurtis (Mole) did before his move into (almost exclusively doing) film projects.”
Kurtis Wakefield is not only brilliant with a shotgun, but he acts good and does other stuff good too. “Kurtis’ most important job as co-director was to effectively take over as director whenever I was on-screen. Because, while it’s one thing to know what you want in terms of shots, coverage and performance, it’s almost impossible for someone without years of experience to manage lines and performance on top of directing the performance of the scene. So, for those scenes where I’m on camera we’d discuss what the important beats and tone we wanted were, and then he’d then take over. As for scenes we shared together – well, those we had to spend a bit more time on.”
The series is complete now, and the first episode is available to watch on Musicfeeds.TV so check it out. Rohan is not resting on his laurels however. “We’d love to make a second season of Sharehouse Zombie Apocalypse, if we can raise enough from donations to fund the shoot – the scripts, as written, are a bit more logistically complicated than season one. That’s a bit of a fun side-project, however. Ideally, our next project will be one of the features we’ve been developing over the last twelve months. Just which one will probably be determined by the kind of budget we’re able to wrangle – but they’re both dry & dark comedies, much like Sharehouse Zombie Apocalypse.”
The interview over, we stand to leave. Cocking our shotguns, we walk out into a world without immediately available hygienic disposables. May Satan have mercy on our souls.