“The Zombie Apocalypse is coming…” An Interview with Dave Jeffery and the Crew of “Ascension”.
Writer Dave Jeffrey composed a short story that was published in Alt-Zombie (Hersham Horror Books) focusing on an impending zombie apocalypse and how a group of people deal in a fight for survival. His short story is titled Ascension and is soon going to be made into a film by Independent film company Venomous Little Man Productions. In this in-depth interview Dave along with director James Hart and special effects company N2FX talk to me about bringing the story’s concept to life, their hopes and expectations with the film, their ideal visions in terms of casting and direction and their love for the horror genre. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dave, James and their crew for taking their time out to speak with me and providing an interesting interview and an intriguing perspective on the Zombie sub-genre. Now grab your shotguns at the ready and enjoy…!
1. Tell us about your up and coming project Ascension?
A. 1. The project is based on my short story of the same name published in ALT-ZOMBIE (Hersham Horror Books). I have to be vague about giving the details other than to say the world has gone to hell and it is how people deal with the consequences. DJ
2. What inspired you to write the story?
A.2. The answer to this is it really did come from a nightmare I had late last year. The essence of the story is how far someone would go to protect those they love. I think we all have the idea that we would do anything for our family but when it really comes down to it are there limits? And once we step beyond those limits do we lose something of ourselves in the process? DJ
3. How does your Zombie story differ from others that have come out the sub-genre in the past and recently?
A. 3. I have canvassed opinion and it would appear that there is something unique about the angle from which Ascension comes when exploring the zombie genre. Yes, it has a band of survivors trying to cope with what has happened to them and their families in the aftermath of a zombie holocaust. However, the lynch pin for the tale is that of loyalty and the adherence to what is, in effect, the New World Order; humanity reshaped and civilisation re-defined. DJ
4. It must be a very exciting prospect bringing your short story to life; do you have any particular visual styles in mind for the look of the film?
I can clearly remember the first time I read the short story Ascension? And how it made me feel. I could see these people and I liked how the story refused to back away from a very difficult question, what would you do for the people you love more than life itself? For a mini movie this has a large scope in the sense of emotional context and that’s what we want at the core of the film. After discussion with our cinematographer, Gary Rogers I also want to incorporate shots that aren’t normally used in this genre, that will hopefully enhance the viewing experience. JH
5. Are there going to be any major differences between certain aspects of the written story when translating it to film?
A: The Film will be true to the core of the written story but we have changed some aspects. The most notable change made will be to the end of the story. It was quite an organic development to be honest. Myself and Dave were talking about the project and I think I made a suggestion about how we could enhance the emotion of the film, then Dave added something and this went back and forth, before we knew it, we had, what we hope will be, this quite shocking and unsettling finale. There are other more subtle changes but they are mostly because I’ve got a little carried away! JH
6. James Hart is directing, how did he come on board the film?
A: I love film and Dave loves film. We both love horror! I told Dave that it was a dream of mine to make a film but that I was struggling with a workable script. Dave is a really generous guy and offered to let me use one of his stories, once he had obtained agreement from his publisher, Hersham Horror Books. A week later we had a workable screen play. JH
7. You’re in the early stages of the casting process, who would you ideally like to see in the main roles?
A: Oh this is such a hard question. I could see Clive Owen or Damian Lewis as the main male protagonist, maybe Tom Wilkinson or Jimi Mistry as ‘Tom’. Irdis Alba would make a great Eddy and I could really see Jewel Staite as Annie, now I come to think of it, if you let me have the whole cast of Serenity I think I could make a pretty good film. In the real world though, we are talking to some really exciting actors that will fill the roles and that the audience will really connect with. JH
8. N2FX will be providing the make up effects; will they be taking a really gory approach to the zombies and the kills?
A:1 I’ve spoken to the Neil Stevens and the guys and they are going to get to do some really exciting things, things we didn’t think would be possible until the guys came on board. One of the kills is going to be really special and I think the fans of core are going to appreciate it. Our mini movie will hopefully tick the boxes for zombie fans who like their kills messy. JH
A2 It will have gore where it’s required but it won’t be over the top for the sake of it. We’re looking forward to creating some great effects for Ascension – NS from N2FX
9.Would you say Ascension makes a statement on today’s society? And do you think it’s one of the more important aspects of horror films when a message is evoked about the state of the society we live in through a metaphor?
A.9. Ascension exists because of the societal message it tries to portray. It is about extreme circumstance and what the reasonable will do in order to maintain some semblance of normality. The title Ascension conveys what the characters feel they have achieved by adapting to their new understanding of civilisation and the perpetuation of humanity. Horror has propensity to challenge convention on a number of levels, from the bold statements of Dawn of the Dead and Battle Royale to the subtle humorous approaches of Shaun of the Dead and Inbred.
10.What’s the biggest attraction for you when it comes to the Zombie Sub-genre?
A.10. I am attracted to the zombie genre because from start to finish, from hero to villain, it is a story about people; be it their tale of survival or their tragic demise. There is such scope in exploring the interactions between those who are placed in desperate circumstances and how they cope with it that constantly appeals to me as a storyteller.
11.Are you currently writing or working on any other genre-related ideas?
A.11. I have just finished a zombie short story called STILL LIFE for a new anthology by Nightwatch Press and I am now in the final stages of completing NECROMANCER, the sequel to my zombie novel NECROPOLIS RISING for Dark Continents Publishing, Inc. There are two more horror related projects on the horizon but I’ll be in a better place to discuss those once they are confirmed. Both promise to be exciting projects to be involved with.
12. What have you enjoyed most about writing the screenplay?
12. It was good to collaborate on the project with James as it gave fresh perspective and allowed for the existing story to change organically. Some changes were based on better ways to transfer the emotional integrity of the piece to a visual medium. Others have come down to budgetary constraints. Overall the process was rewarding and has, in my opinion, created a sharper story than the original.
13. Did you encounter any major differences from writing a screenplay in comparison to a short story?
A 13 In writing the screenplay I have made several adaptations to the dialogue and James has adapted the settings and well as incorporating many visual shots not seen in the short story. One of the things I found out relatively quickly is that in a written story you can convey thoughts and feelings with description. This does not translate as well on screen and has to be put across with dialogue and performance rather than words. This was difficult to shut off in the early stages but I got there eventually!
After discussions with James, it was also felt that the ending in the short story would not create the kind of emotion that we want audiences to experience at the end of the film. As such, the original ending remains as the first shock but James and I worked out a final moment when audiences will be unsettled rather than horrified. We think it works well enough to the point that I wish it was now part of the original short story. DJ
14.What’s the best part about working in horror films?
Oh I’m in dream land, believe me when I say, this has already gone past my expectations. I’ve always loved movies and can remember watching my dad’s copy of An American Werewolf in London when they were out, I think I was 9 or 10. That stayed with me! That film scared me! For me Horror should invoke emotion in its audience, if our film can do that then that will be the best part for me. So far though, the best part is working with people who are passionate about film, working with these people is inspiring. JH
15. What advice would you give to any aspiring writers or filmmakers?
Go for it! Give it a go! Ask people to help, if you don’t ask you don’t get. There are so many people out there willing to help, tap into that! JH
16. Finally, will we be seeing any teasers for Ascension soon?
Hopefully very soon. Almost from day one we wanted to use what we are calling the ‘news reels’, that will form part of the start of the film, as teasers. We have it all planned, people are in place, we are just waiting for the last few element and they will be done. We are talking weeks hopefully! JH
Interviewer: Hayley Alice Roberts
Check out Ascension on Facebook: