Zombie movie magic makes Lockyer Valley a star
Toowoomba Chronicle, Tuesday 9th December 2014
By: Nick Houghton
The magic of the silver screen has come to the Lockyer Valley. The region is set to feature as the backdrop to upcoming Australian film Bullets for the Dead.
Shooting for the zombie western took place last month in Esk, Rosewood and at Wivenhoe Dam.
Director Cathy Rodda said her crew worked hard to pinpoint the locations used in the film.
“Everywhere we shot was fabulous and I think help transport the viewer,” Ms Rodda said. “We were on a tight schedule and places like the Rosewood Railway Station were perfect for the story and the logistics of shooting the film. “I would love to come back and film in the region again.”…
Ipswich a ‘killer’ location for zombie film
Queensland Times, Friday 5th December 2014
By: Andrew Korner
The producers of a new film blending elements of the Wild West and Zombie genres have chosen Ipswich [Queensland] as a backdrop.
Bullets for the Dead has been filming in parts of Esk, Wivenhoe Dam and Rosewood over the past month, with the producers giving The Queensland Times a sneak peek.
The feature film – to be completed on a relatively minuscule $2 million budget – is based on a three-minute short from students of the Griffith Film School.
The film school is investing in the film as a collaboration with Visionquest [Entertainment Intl] to develop young filmmakers and provide a career pathway for their students.
Producer Cathy Rodda said some seasoned professionals had been brought in to assist with the project.
“The underpinning philosophy of the project is new blood in old hands,” she said.
Find more rumblings about the film at:
Zombies ‘invade’ Wivenhoe
Gatton Star, Wednesday 3rd December 2014
By: Tom Threadingham
Wivenhoe Dam took on a dark and gory appearance as the dead were raised right on its very shores.
Tourists and local residents making a visit to the popular holiday destination last week had to look twice as they were greeted by a horde of groaning and slow-walking undead. They weren’t seeing things however, with the dam turned into a movie set for the independent Australian feature film Bullets for the Dead.
The $1.8million production saw a film crew of 30 professionals and 22 film students set up shop around Wivenhoe Dam and the Glen Esk areas for three days of filming. About 50 extras donned the creepy undead look alongside a core cast of 10 actors during the three-day shoot.
The feature film is a Zombie Western set in the United States in 1870.
Escorting the fiery young Annie Blake and her gang to the sheriff in Blood Bay, the feature film sees bounty hunter James Dalton discover the remains of a horrific massacre and rescues its sole survivor, a preacher.
Zombie Western rolls into town
Griffith University Gazette, Tuesday 25th November 2014
By: Lauren Marino
In an unlikely pairing, cowboys meet zombies this month as a new film starts shooting in Queensland.
The idea came from the duo’s graduate short film from 2011, which caught the eye of Spanish director and horror specialist Alberto Sciamma, who at the time was leading a genre strand at the school as part of an artist-in-residence initiative.
Impressed with its potential to make a good feature, Alberto pitched it to Michael Cowan at Stealth Media Group in the UK who agreed, along with Professor Herman Van Eyken, head of the Griffith Film School, and Cathy Rodda of Visionquest who was approached to take on the role of producer…
Aussie zombie movie to pay tribute to spaghetti westerns
SBS.com.au, Tuesday 18th November 2014
By: Oliver Pfieffer
A new Australian zombie western started shooting today in South East Queensland. Bullets for the Dead is set in the American West and will follow a bounty hunter (Christopher Sommers, The Water Diviner, Unfinished Sky) who discovers the aftermath of a massacre while escorting a young woman (Vanessa Moltzen, I Am Evangeline) and her band of misfits to the sheriff.
Developed from a 2011 student short film, the feature is the writing and directing debut of Griffith University graduates Joshua C. Birch and Michael Du-Shane, who are being mentored by creative director Alberto Sciamma. The filmmakers are both great admirers of Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Till Dawn) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) and say the concept of their film hails from a great affection for genre films and American westerns. “It was about making a tribute to those movies,” says Birch. “We grew up watching spaghetti westerns, which have that cheeky take on the American westerns, so we wanted to reinvent that kind of genre with the zombie genre. We thought why not marry the two and make something unique?”….
Bullets for the Dead ready to shoot
IF Magazine, Wednesday 5th November 2014
By: Don Groves
Zombie Western Bullets for the Dead is set to roll in Queensland on November 17, the feature debut of writers-directors Joshua C. Birch and Michael Du-Shane.
The plot follows hardened bounty hunter James Dalton (Christopher Sommers), who escorts a gang of outlaws led by the fiery young Annie Blake (Vanessa Moltzen) to the sheriff.
En route he discovers the remains of a massacre and rescues its sole survivor, a preacher (Hugh Parker). All are forced to work together and battle their way across the American West of the 1870s when the zombie apocalypse begins…
The producers are Visionquest Entertainment’s Cathy Rodda, who was a producer on the Finnish-German-Australian co-prod Iron Sky, and Norm Wilkinson. Sciamma is serving as creative director/producer.
Read more buzz about the film production at:
Bullets for the Dead heralds Oz-UK co-venture
IF Magazine, Friday 24th May 2013
By Don Groves
Zombie Western Bullets for the Dead is due to roll in Queensland in July, the first in a slate of low-budget genre films from a new joint venture between Cathy (Rodda) Overett’s Brisbane-based Cathartic Pictures and UK sales agent Stealth Media Group.
Overett told IF the aim is to produce two or three films a year, each budgeted at $3 million, using the 40 per cent Australian producer tax offset, which Stealth will sell internationally. The $2 million Bullets for the Dead marks the feature debut of Australian writers-directors Joshua C. Birch and Michael Du-Shane, developed from a 3-minute film, 26 Bullets Dead, which they shot in 2011 when they were students at the Griffith Film School.
More Coverage of our May 2013 announcement at
Bullets for the Dead: Griffith breathes new life into an old feature dream
by: David Tiley, Screen Hub
Wednesday 5 June, 2013
Between producer Cathy Overett and the Griffith Film School, the educational dream of teaching students with a feature film is pumped up with a market-driven professional project and the raw energy of genre tragics.
“While the short film is still a very persuasive calling card, when students leave an institution like ours, it is not necessarily the thing which is going to inspire confidence that they have the capacity to step up to a larger project.”
Pat Laughren is articulating a central problem in the careers of film school graduates across Australia. A documentary maker himself, he convenes the Masters program at Griffith University, which is the largest film school by enrolment in the country, and growing very quickly.
Queensland producer Cathy Overett, a Griffith graduate who occasionally teaches there, puts the problem more bluntly. “The problem in the past,” she said, “is that the film schools are churning out students and there is nowhere for them to go to particularly in Queensland where we don`t have a television base. It`s about career paths and enabling people to actually work.”
The idea of pushing short film student production into a feature is not new, though it never cuts through completely. Compendium productions and large groups of students create too many compromises. But the idea has so many advantages, it keeps coming back, like the undead who turn out to be your friends in the third act.
Through her new production vehicle, Cathartic Pictures, Cathy is going into official pre-production on Bullets for the Dead, with Joshua C. Birch and Michael Du-Shane writing and directing. The budget is $2m, it will be made with the traditional production model, and the international sales agent is Stealth Pictures, which is built on just that kind of genre film.
The development path is pretty well unique, and is deeply entangled with Griffith University, and the gap between graduation and a feature career. It started really when Herman Van Eyken took over as head of the Griffith Film School three years ago. He comes from Belgium, had taught in the national film school, and set up the Puttnam School of Film School at Lasalle in Singapore. When he arrived, he established an artist in residence program which brought experienced film professionals in from overseas for a maximum of six weeks, which was all their visas would allow.
At the beginning of third year, the undergraduate students did a warm up exercise for their final films. “We felt we could give this a bit more,” he said, “and I drew on the genre workshop from the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. It always invites a guest director who is a specialist in genre.” He knew it well because he used to run it.
“So we turned these three-minute films into genre workshops,” he said happily. Each student is required to make a three-minute film which combines genres which are specified for them, which is a wrench away from their normal mindset. To help them, the school brought in Alberto Sciamma, a Spanish horror specialist Herman already knew from his mentoring role at the Brussels festival.
“I was very impressed by his quality as an educator,” Herman said. “He is understanding but demanding, and precise and terribly, terribly committed. These guys have to work very hard for Alberto, but they will be very grateful afterwards.”
For the exercise, Michael Du-Shane wrote and directed and Joshua Birch produced a three-minute Zombie Western, 26 Bullets Dead.
Alberto Sciamma took the film back to London, and showed it to his producer and distributor, Michael Cowan of the Stealth Media Group, which specialises in genre through Stealth Indie. They figured the basic idea might support a feature film.
Du-Shane and Birch graduated from the Griffith undergraduate program, and inched forward on the script with Alberto as script editor. Cathy Overett`s career took a surprising veer sideways from the normal when she became the Australian co-production partner on Iron Sky, the demented indie cult film about moon Nazis borne on the wings of crowd funding for development and a huge social media campaign to find an audience.
The international sales agent did an excellent job, selling the film into almost every possible territory. The company was Stealth, which was prepared to offer an international distribution advance for the new project, Bullets for the Dead.
With the production in need of a professional producer, Cathy Overett took on the task. Wrangling production values versus cost, the film is now budgeted at $2m. Julie Ryan, an expert in low-budget production after a string of films with Rolf de Heer, advised her that $2.3m was about the lower limit of a practical budget which pays award minimums and doesn`t compromise production values.
Meanwhile, Herman Van Eyken was trying to redefine the Masters program at Griffith Film School. “One of the very first things in my strategic plan when I arrived was to make this Masters Program different, a continuation of our Bachelor’s program which is holistic,” he said. “It needs to become specialist and discipline specific.”
In this new version of the program, students concentrate on particular craft areas. Birch and Du-Shane enrolled to hone their practical skills Brian Loewe, the DOP on Bullets was supported in the cinematography strand by the $10,000 ABC John Bean memorial scholarship, in honour of the Queensland ABC cameraman killed in a helicopter accident in August 2011.
Herman is inspired by examples from Asian film schools, which find ways of making a feature film with their senior students, mostly using sponsorship in association with distributors. The Koreans are at the forefront.
Overett and Van Eyken have struck a deal, lubricated with a good deal of industry goodwill. Cathy will make Bullets for the Dead, simply as a low-budget commercial production. Du-Shane and Birch have enrolled in the Masters program. Students from the course will have the opportunity to occupy professional roles, for which they will be paid. One, Kate Carrick, will be the production designer. People with significant roles will be mentored by experienced industry craftspeople, while students can work in assistant roles to professionals and other key roles will be filled by Cathy`s usual professional crew. DOP Brian Loewe will be mentored by Ron Johanson ACS.
The directing combo of Birch and Du-Shane will be mentored by Alberto Sciamma, on board with the title of creative director and producer.
They have been inching towards pre-production since the beginning of the year, so they have found their locations, devised storyboards and cast the film. The crew and professional actors all come from Queensland.
Besides the Stealth deal, Overett took the project to 37South in Melbourne, and the European Film Market. Birch and Du-Shane`s short went to the Cannes Film Festival and screened in the Short Film Corner to a full house.
The budget is being juggled from presales, the Offset, some cast and crew reinvestment, and a possible component from Screen Queensland. The shoot is ruthless – a total of three weeks, with two crews and two directors, one for action and one for character. Alberto Sciamma will be busy holding the material together.
Although Cathy emphasises that the production is separate from the Masters program, soft money from Griffith is contracted into the budget.
However, Cathy Overett is also able to take advantage of the relationship between the film school and the rest of the Queensland College of Art. The Conservatorium may provide the sound track, while the animated titles will be done on campus.
Students are also providing the website, social media work and a games app – all those audience development tools which proved to be so important on Iron Sky.
So far, the website contains some artwork, a link to the YouTube channel, and some pre-production clips, including the directing team as they describe the development process –
For the Griffith Film School, this is only part way towards a stable model of feature film production in the Masters program. This production depends on the coincidence of an enticing undergraduate film to trigger the process. There are not many three-minute films with the power to evoke the possibility of a feature.
Indeed, the fact that a short does NOT provide confidence on the very different scale of a feature is the reason for the whole attempt.
What is more, the participants acknowledge that not all genres are equal for training purposes. Zombies, vampires and eyeball-schlurping demons are much easier than the delicate scenes of romantic love or the complexities of a good detective plot. The fiscal disciplines of a real budget are worth educational gold, but the approach can`t afford too many failures.
According to Pat Laughren, responsible for the Masters program, “If we have learnt anything so far from the process, it is the old message that script is king. If there is a mark two and a mark three, we need people to come into the program with a good solid draft already there.”
Laughren and Van Eyken are adamant that this is only one approach to the Masters program. Students don`t have to be involved, and can elect to take very different trajectories through their three semesters.
Individual students on PhD programs in the creative arts around Australia are colonising university departments to make artistic works, as the production + exegesis model has become respectable. In some ways, the production of a feature in a Masters program looks more like this approach. We can imagine determined groups of students taking up the program to erupt every few years with a hybrid industry + student feature.
Meanwhile, Griffith is keen to point out that Asian film schools do it regularly, and the notion has solid industry support in Queensland.
Cathy Overett is fairly casual about the future possibilities. “It is an organic process. People who do the masters program are given the opportunity to go ahead up into a professional feature film. If it works, we are hoping to do it again. It is a way to tap into new and emerging talent and give them a leg up.”