Q: Can you talk about the genesis of this project?:
A: I made a film just a few years ago called Land of the Dead. It was my fourth zombie, and I was pretty satisfied with it but I know that some of my fans were not. Universal really left me alone to make that movie the way I wanted to make it, but when I turned around and looked at it, it seemed so big. It was approaching Thunderdome and I didn't know where to go from there. At the same time, actually before we shot Land of the Dead, I had this idea that I wanted to do something about emerging media. I thought that it was a way to get back and do something really inexpensive and simple, and see if I have the chops and the stamina to go back and make another little guerilla movie, and relate back again to the origins of the thing. I had this idea that I could use film students out shooting a school project when zombies begin to walk, and they document it. I wanted to do the subjective camera thing. This is before I knew that anybody else was working on it. I didn't know about Cloverfield. I thought we were going to be the first guys out there with one of these [movies].
Q: The style is built into the story of why they're filming things, how we see things. How carefully did you construct that in the story?
A: It wasn't so much constructing the story as it was constructing the shots. People have said, “Boy, it must be nice to just be able to turn the camera on and shoot.” It was hell, man. We were shooting 360 around the room. We were doing eight page shots and it really needed to be choreographed down to the shoelaces. In that sense, it was tough. The DP did a great job making it seem very off handed, but it wasn't at all. It required more discipline than anything in Land of the Dead or anything else I've ever done.
Q: Why did you use a DP instead of going the Blair Witch route and letting the actors do it?:
A: First of all, they don't shoot that good. I wanted it to be theatrical. The one thing about this is I think it walks that line, maybe unsuccessfully, I'm not sure. It might be a little too arch and a little too theatrical, but I didn't want it to be Blair Witch, which was dizzying to me and it didn't quite make sense, so I wanted to explain a little more and I wanted it to have some traditional elements, more gothic elements in it, which requires a bit more staging and a bit more carefully constructed plot.
Q: You're so identified with zombie movies, are you happy or does it haunt you?
A: Of course it haunts you. I'd love to be able to go in and pitch another kind of film and be taken seriously, but if I were to walk in there with a little romantic comedy, they'd say, ‘What?’ There's a bit of frustration there but on the other side of that coin, and far outweighing it, is the fact that I've been able to use genre fantasy horror to express my opinion, talk a little bit about society, do a little bit of satire and that's been great.
Q: How difficult is it to balance social commentary and straight out zombies?
A: I don't think it's difficult. A lot of these films, the ideas for them have come from the world. Once you know, okay, I'm going to make a movie about this you can glue zombies onto it easily.
Q: What do you think of the spoofs like Shaun of the Dead?
A: I just flipped for Shaun. I was living on this little island called Sanibel with one little theater where the projector had a 40 watt bulb. I get this message from these guys, I didn't know who they were. Some cat named Edgar Wright. "I made this movie, I hope you like it." So next thing I know some cat from Universal shows up, and he says, "I'm going to show you this movie at the local theater. We arranged it." So this funky little drunkard comes down to open up the theater doors and turn on the projector. I see this movie a little too dark but it’s hilarious, and it's just me in the theater and this cat from Universal back there just waiting to get the print back. And I flipped for it. It came with their phone numbers and I called them up immediately right after I saw it and I said, "Guys!" And they said, "Oh, we just wanted to know that you weren't going to slap us down." I said, "How could anybody slap you down for this? This was just so loving." We're still buddies. Both Edgar and Simon came out to be zombies in Land of the Dead, and Simon does a voice in Diary of the Dead. We're still good buds, and I’m happy to know them; they’re really cool.