Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to interview Shaun Paul Johnston and Greg McCraw, from DeepFried35. These two men head up the studio behind the ZombiU fan film: The Real ZombieU. The new short film is due for release very, very soon; right in time for Halloween, so it is only fitting to interview to men behind it all right before the movie’s release. Make sure to read on to hear some of our awesome conversation, and then stick around for the recently released teaser for The Real ZombieU.
Nintendo Enthusiast: Please introduce yourself and your movie again for our readers. Any sort of background in film, acting, etc. History of DeepFried35…
Hello everyone, I’m Shaun Paul Johnston. I’ve been an actor for around 14 years and more recently started to work on voice-overs for indie projects like The 90’s Arcade Racer and educational videos. Greg and I have worked on various projects in the past and it made sense to bring our individual experience and skillsets together to work on our own ideas. Shortly after that DeepFried35 was conceived.
Hello everyone, I’m Greg McCraw. After studying film at university I worked freelance on several corporate projects and a couple of short films before taking a year out to travel Australia. In the six months I’ve been back in Scotland I’ve set up my own video production business, Box307 and worked on a couple of projects with Shaun again before we decided to set up DeepFried35.
The name DeepFried35, which we tore our hair out coming up with (mine never grew back), makes reference to the great and age old Scottish tradition of deep frying anything we can, and in our case, we’re frying some 35mm film!
NE: What do you hope to accomplish with the release of The Real ZombieU, whether it be monetary gain, fan appreciation, more experience in filmmaking, etc.?
We wanted to make an awesome live action fan film based off ZombiU, in doing so gain experience in visual effects and film production in general which we can utilize on future longer term projects we’ve got planned.
Something we’ve discussed from the inception of DeepFried35 was, that if we’re going to make films, let’s not be a “me too” indie film company, let’s try do something different. As an example we’ll have bonus content in our films that you can interact with and be rewarded for doing so. As gamers and film lovers, we want to bridge that gap between the two mediums.
NE: What are some of the key advantages of making The Real ZombieU a shorter movie?
Less money needed, time to completion & simplifying the whole process, all of which we threw out the window It allowed us to focus on making that shorter screen time as great as it could be based on our resources. Telling a story in a shorter time is sometimes difficult so it has the added benefit of helping us hone our skills as storytellers/film makers.
NE: How close is the plot of The Real ZombieU to the actual game ZombiU?
It’s based loosely around the game, it’s got a lot of similarities but it’s infused at every opportunity with our own style and humor. When you watch it you’ll see it’s got broader gaming and film references so there’s something in there for any game or movie buffs.
The ZombiU theme was an opportunity to use the gamepad for something unique and it fit well with our own ideas. We also wanted to create an interactive film, something you could watch and bring you closer to feeling like Ron Dee’s character.
NE: How hard is a game, in general, to adapt into a movie?
We’ve benefitted by loosely basing it around the game, it gave us the freedom to change or create things to fit our own initial ideas. Game adaptations are difficult because fans want certain things but we realize we can’t please everyone. What we realized from the outset is a lot of our favorite YouTube channels create great games based shorts, however they more often than not lack in other areas, areas we feel we can bring something fresh and exciting to.
NE: Being such a small studio, what challenges have limited resources posed and how have they been overcome? Have you ever thought about taking to Kickstarter?
The biggest issues we’ve faced being a new and smaller studio have been, money & time. Without doubt, if we had more money we would have been able to put even more great content in there. It would have allowed us to spend more time on the film rather than having to go work normal day jobs to fund every little thing we did, even things like making sure actors and crew had food during the shoot, it all adds up and means there’s less for other areas of production, however, ensuring that everyone involved in the project got something great out of it was a major aim of ours so this was worth the trade off. Sometimes you have to make decisions or change things otherwise we’d still be working on this film for another 6 months to get it perfect. We realize nothing will ever be perfect and we’ve done the best we could possibly do within our budget and time available.
Other smaller issues we came across were being an unknown entity and having no previous body of work to show what we’re about and what we aim to achieve. It surprised us how hard it would be to get people to take part or get involved in this initial project. I think too many people have been burned by previous experiences in the industry and assumed we’re just another generic indie, talking the talk but not really living up to expectations. This is something we’ve worked hard to remedy, to build that trust with cast & crew, most importantly to build trust with the gamers or film lovers out there. We’re confident that with the effort put in by everyone on the project that we’ve got a little gem here and that people will appreciate the hard work that’s gone into making it.
Interesting fact: Shaun grew his beard for what was intended to be a relatively short production, maybe a couple of months tops, assuming things went according to plan However due to location issues amongst other things it ran on and meant he had to keep his beard for over 4 months, having to trim it regularly to try keep continuity throughout the film. When he finally shaved it off, his partner physically cried because she had missed seeing his normal face.
NE: What does the studio hope to go into after The Real ZombieU is released?
We’re already in pre-production of our next short, which is a homage to a famous Nintendo franchise mashed up with some of our favorite film references.
NE: What other games in ZombiU’s genre do you particularly like?
Resident Evil (especially RE1 & 4), Silent Hill on the Wii, Alone in the Dark, FEAR, Eternal Darkness, a pity the Kickstarter failed for the spiritual successor, so many we could list them all night.
NE: If a ZombiU 2 was released, what would you like to see in the game?
Ron Dee as the main character, or better still, us commissioned to make the trailer/live action short for it
NE: What other games are you looking forward to in the next year?
Destiny, Watch Dogs, The Division, there’s also plenty of Nintendo 1st party games we’re excited about like Bayonetta, MK8.
NE: PS4 or Xbox One? Just for fun!
Either, Greg’s an XBone fan and I’d probably take either although I’m honestly not that hyped up for them.
NE: Where can fans find out more about The Real ZombieU? What sorts of resources are there present for fans?
A: There’s actually a ton of material we’ve been releasing over the last few months to keep fans drooling with anticipation for the project. First we have the DeepFried35 website, our main hub for everything we do. We have a page specifically for The Real ZombieU on the site, somewhere you can find information about Ron Dee and other aspects of the film. Additionally we’ve been using our Facebook page to host *C.O.B.R.A’s recently discovered *WAN’s, productions updates & stills and most recently we’ve begun Google Hangouts where we can have live interactions with our survivors of the film.
*C.O.B.R.A | Cabinet Office for Bloody Risky Assignments
*WAN | Weekly Apocalypse Newsletter
NE: Is there any way fans can provide feedback for the project?
As mentioned in the previous answer, our social networks are a great place to send us feedback along with the website contact form, Twitter, Google+ with Google Hangouts that will allow us to have live interaction with people before during and after production on upcoming projects so we hope look forward to gamers & film fans rocking up there, asking us all the important survival questions!
NE: Is there anything new that you are ready to announce for The Real ZombiU, and if not, when can we expect something new?
We just released the teaser trailer for the film and would love people to go check that out on our Website or YouTube channel and give us your feedback. We’ll also be releasing promo videos on the website a few days before the film’s release to give fans an opportunity to prepare for the apocalypse! ……… Err we mean ‘The Real ZombieU’
NE: When is the movie going to be ready to release, and on what platforms will it launch?
We’ll be uploading the promo videos mentioned above around 5 days before the film’s release so keep checking back for those tasty treats! We’ve then got a private screening on the 30th October and following this we plan to release the film online the following day, Halloween, coincidence?…….
NE: Is there anything else you wish to add?
DeepFried35 is about making great films, films we ourselves would enjoy watching. We want to bring our favorite hobbies, video games & movies, together in a way that’s unique; ‘The Real ZombieU’ is our first opportunity to present our approach.
Ultimately, we want gamers & film lovers to enjoy what we’ve created, even more than us, so check it out when it’s released and let us know what you think. Your feedback and ideas will help us make better films going forward, so they all help.
We’ve got projects planned that will put smiles on gamer’s faces and your support will help us make them. Watching the ‘The Real ZombieU’, might just give you a hint to what kingdom we’ll visit next!
How did you enjoy the interview? Make sure to let us know in the comments section below! Also make sure to let us know if there’s anyone in particular from whom you’d like to see an interview!