How to create a zombie flick, Pinoy-style
According to filmmaker Mikhail Red, who directed the zombie flick “Block Z,” the challenge in making a hit movie always lies in the limited budget and audience.
“Obviously, a zombie movie in this country doesn’t have the budget or mainstream appeal of something like ‘World War Z.’ For one, it’s an English language film and could be sold all over the world. Ours is in Filipino, and with a very limited audience,” he pointed out.
This was why, Mikhail said, it’s best “to think out of the box or work around your limitations, even while you’re still writing your story. This way, you become more creative. I’ve been through this. I used to make films with a budget of only P20,000 and with a cast picked from my group of friends. We would shoot at a garage, or use an old truck as a prop.”The director further said: “This is how you train yourself to work around your limitations and still be creative. When I started pitching ‘Block Z’ to producers, I already knew that I’d only be given a few days to shoot it. A film in this genre hardly gets produced here. With that in mind, we crafted a story that, I believe, still made sense.”Mikhail said the film’s setting (“a school campus that has been quarantined”) and focus (“a society with a system that collapses because one member gets infected by a virus and inadvertently spreads it”) were all intentional.“The containment helped us with the scale and restrictions. We still managed to make it fun,” he explained.
The goal, he added, was for a group of students to escape a school campus filled with zombies. Mikhail said it’s similar to the British film “28 Weeks Later” in the sense that “a group also needs to escape quarantine, and that zombies chase you at full speed.”
Mikhail said the movie was also inspired by the anime “High School of the Dead,” the French film “Night Eats the World” and the survival/action video game “The Last of Us.”
The idea that the Filipino audience is not too familiar with zombie folklore was also considered, said Mikhail.
“We’re very spiritual and superstitious, that’s why the usual entities or villains in our movies are supernatural. This time, it’s physical and the threat is biological,” he pointed out.
Mikhail said that with the creation of different streaming apps like Netflix, “the younger audience are now more aware of the concept of zombies, and that their taste has already changed. They’re now used to the concepts of the West. It’s more like, we’re finally doing a zombie movie utilizing our environment, with our language, and with the dynamics of being Pinoy.”
He added that even though it’s a zombie movie, it has a “family angle” to it.
“For the final act, we did something for its resolution that I feel is really exciting. I’m sure after watching it, people will talk about it,” Mikhail declared.
“Block Z,” produced by ABS-CBN Films, is now screening in cinemas nationwide. It features Joshua Garcia, Julia Barretto, Dimples Romana, Ian Veneracion, Ina Raymundo, Maris Racal, McCoy de Leon and Yves Flores.