|To cut a 25 year long story
|For me The Dead started around
1983/84, when I first saw Romeros original 'Dawn of the Dead'. I was already a
fan of horror but Dawn was different. It didn’t follow the usual route of
setting it’s scenes in dark and creepy places with one evil person doing evil
things and one lone screaming woman trying to escape. What fascinated me
about Dawn was that it brought horror into the open, into the broad daylight.
That scared the hell out of me! It meant when daylight came or when you found
your way out of the dark house into the open, there is no escaping the horror.
It dealt with the horror in such a matter of fact way, that I found the realism
Trigger happy Jon with Rob and Prince
|So I knew there and then that
I wanted to make a Zombie movie. First things first I needed to learn how to
make films. Yes that’s the reason I started. It was so we could make The Dead.
I started writing script ideas in the mid 1980s but all these ideas were about
artistic images and nightmares I’d had. My whole career as a filmmaker, up to
that point had all been just practice for this movie. Everything I did was
just moving one step closer to realizing my dream. The Dead had become my holy
|Unfortunately no one
else seemed to share my passion for this project. For years I talked
about wanting to make a Zombie film. The average reaction was “ Oh
no ones interested in Zombies any more!” Bear in mind this was pre 28days later
and 'Shaun/Dawn of the Dead' remake etc. People would often laugh at the
very concept of a Zombie movie. I would always say but I want to do this one
differently it’s more about a survival journey than just about
Zombies. No one was interested at all. Then by mid 2000s after
several Zombie hit movies everyone wanted to make Zombie movies. Even
those people who laughed in my face were now trying to get Zombie
films off the ground.
|I refused point blank at
sending the script to anyone. I didn’t want to give some slime bag behind a
desk, with fat cigar in hand, any chance of tampering with my life's dream. I
only ever saw one way of doing it, and that way was independently. Truly
independently, in the purest sense of the word.
|So after finding some old
vehicles, a land rover and a large Luton transit van which I fixed
and fitted out myself with lighting and camera shelves. I hand
picked all the lights (a very modest amount) and cables and Generator. I
made the camera crane and built parts for my steadicam system. I even built my
own video assist system for the film cameras. The equipment was all old and out
dated or broken, but it was cheap, that’s all that mattered. I fixed it all up
or if I didn’t have something I made it. Having an engineering background can
be very handy.
|As I’m sure Howard has already explained when the f**kwits at the shipping company totally failed
to ship the equipment before we flew out to meet it. That was the moment I knew
this film could never be the film I wanted it to be. It had broken my heart
before we had even started. I knew this was the only chance I was ever going to
have to make my dream project and it had been f**ked up! I had done so much
preparation with assembling the film unit. I honestly believe I had put in more
physical hands on effort into all this than any filmmaker in history. If anyone
knows differently please contact me, and let me know, as this would at least be
some consolation. Virtually every day was a living nightmare. I
sometimes wonder if contracting malaria, getting food poisoning and other
strange tropical diseases actually helped keep my mind off the real torture of
having my life-times ambition ripped apart on a daily basis. I know most of the
cast and crew were scared about being in these dangerous parts of Africa but I
didn’t give a f**k about that, I was trapped in my own personal hell that no
one else could understand.
|To everyone else it was just a film, but to me it was the one time
only chance at realizing my life’s ambition. I honestly didn’t care
much about being robbed or shot at or even killed, sometimes I felt
that would have been a merciful escape. All this contributed to my
being called “The Crazy One”. I didn’t know at the time that this is
what the locals called me and I don’t think anyone was about to tell
The reason I didn’t leave on
the first day was that Howard had invested his life savings into this film. I
stayed for him, as I knew there was no alternative, we had to come back with
some sort of film. People say when they are exposed to extreme situations of
stress that they go inside themselves. I did this unconsciously; it was the
only way I could survive, mentally. Even though I now think that The Dead
is a great movie and I’m relieved about that. It’s nowhere near as
great as it would have been without the nonstop catastrophes. That thought will
torment me for the rest of my life.
|Nearly four years after
shooting this film I still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night covered
in sweat with my heart pounding so violently that it feels like it will burst
from my chest. I still live this nightmare over and over again. This is a high
price to pay for following my dream. People think I take criticism of this film
too personally… NO F**KING SH*T! I wonder why?
|After all the problems this
film had we had one bit of amazing luck! All the key people artistically and
technically were the best I could have hoped for. I think they were all
irreplaceable and I will be forever grateful to them all.