FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 2, 2007

Week of the Flight of the Living Dead: an interview with Scott Thomas

Today's the day, kids, that you can go and buy Flight of the Living Dead at your local DVDsmith Shoppe. Why buy it when you can win it, though, you get what I'm sayin'? If you don't, then why not click here and enter for your chance to nab yourself a copy of the DVD or some other Flight goodies? All the cool kids are entering...well, all the cool kids and that one guy. You all know who I'm talking about. The guy who does that thing we hate.

Anyway. I present to you now a wee l'il interview I did with Flight's writer/director Scott Thomas. It's a good thing this was a phone interview, otherwise I might have challenged him to a furious game of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots or a thumb war over the whole "fast zombies vs slow zombies" thing (speaking of which, Piper brought up this same topic over at Yon Lazy Eye Theatre recently) (no, I don't know what's with the 'yon' and the 'shoppe' and the old-timey's a phase I go through from time to time- I'm actually showing restraint).

Again, anyway.


Final Girl: So, the boring question right off the bat: which came first, zombies on a plane, or snakes on a plane?

Scott Thomas: About...oh, three years ago, I started outlining. I finished a film called Last Dragon and I was talking with the stunt coordinator and I said “Let’s do something on an airplane!” I just started writing stuff. Originally, they (the zombies) were gonna kinda act the same and do the same things, but it was more of an alien attachment to the brain, but it got a little too difficult to do that, so then it became a virus. I didn’t find out about Snakes on a Plane ‘til I was actually trying to get airplane parts to build the set and I kept running into problems, because somebody else was using them and I couldn’t find out who it was.

FG: Sometimes, obviously, a film comes out and it’s successful and then the inevitable ripoffs appear on the scene…but sometimes it just seems like, I don’t know, all of a sudden creative people are all on the same wavelength or something...

ST: Yeah, isn’t that weird? I don’t know what that is, but every once in a while, there’s that kind of…universal consciousness, I guess. Snakes on a Train, I guess, is clearly a ripoff, but no, I didn’t do this after the fact.

FG: Once it became a zombie film and not just “something on an airplane”, did you study up on the zombie subgenre? Any influences, or were you strictly out to clear new zombie ground?

ST: That’s a good question. I have this huge library of movies…since I was a kid, movies have been kind of a hobby so I guess you can call me a fan of the genre. I didn’t really go back, it’s just that I’ve seen a lot of films. 28 Days Later was a great film, and I’ve seen the Romero films, and then there’s the Italian director Fulci who’s done some really interesting movies in the genre. A little bit of that certainly rubs off. I wasn’t a fan and I’m still not a fan of the kind of zombie that’s slow-moving, the kind of thing that you could outrun, even on a bad day. I like the fast-moving, ferocious zombies.

FG: I was actually going to ask you about that, because that’s the big…you know…horror nerd debate: fast zombies vs slow zombies. I guess you went with the fast. So…do people actually die and then come back, or is it more of a virus, as in 28 Days Later?

ST: It’s a virus that regenerates the tissue, but it makes it stronger. So, yeah, you die and it brings you back. It’s meant really as a weapon, to keep people just going and going and going, so you can be shot and pretty much torn apart and still keep going.

FG: Do you tap into the military, the idea of germ warfare or biological weapons…?

ST: Yeah, kind of. There were a whole slew of reasons why this kind of renegade scientist was doing this, kind of on his own doing bio-research and he came across this stuff. Genetic engineering, medical purposes. But I didn’t really point to the military too much, saying ‘this is the military’s problem’. I did get an email from a guy who was very pissed about that idea, so I had to make it clear that it wasn’t the military. I used to get a lot more, but we stopped taking emails on the official site.

FG: I think it’s great when filmmakers put themselves out there online and they’re really open and accessible to the fans. But something about being anonymous behind a computer screen, some people seem to think that gives them license to…well, to be dicks.

ST: I’ve pretty much been lucky. Out of fifty, maybe one would be angry about, you know, the fast-moving zombies or just not like the film, period. You probably shouldn’t be seeking out the genre then, but…for the most part everyone’s been positive and pretty cool, so I feel lucky.

FG: You talked a little bit about finding plane parts. Did you build full-scale planes, or was it more bits and pieces here and there?

ST: There’s a graveyard- an airplane graveyard- out in the Mojave, which is bizarre. There’s fighter jets and all sorts of weird stuff out there. I contacted a guy and I finally found two 747s that were just sitting there, so my first path, I was gonna drag a crew out there and shoot on these two planes- one pretty much pristine 747 and one I could trash. But between air conditioning constantly in the desert and all it was a bit what I did was, there was a small portion of a 747 existing on a stage and I basically built 107 feet of an airplane. We kind of cannibalized parts from the desert. It was quite an undertaking, but it was better.

FG: I’d think it would be difficult to shoot, kind of like…okay, the set is a tube and everybody can go in one direction or the other…how about blocking and action sequences and things like that?

ST: It was still a very confined space. I could move chairs and I could basically clear that small area, but that was the extent of it.

FG: Did you supplement with a lot of CGI?

ST: I had about 350 CGI shots, which is a lot. We were in five studios…no, six: one in Chile, one in India, a little bit in Thailand, and then three here. The exterior jet and fighter were miniatures…and when I say miniatures, the 747 was actually 27 feet long with a wing-span of 18 feet. We used two cranes, it weighed about two tons. It was huge. And then the fighter that I used was probably six feet long and weighed about 600 pounds (author note: that would’ve been the PERFECT time to make a mother-in-law joke, dammit!). Pretty elaborate models, and on top of that we added CG backgrounds.

FG: How about the zombie effects?

ST: That was all Optic Nerve and Brian Wade, my makeup and FX supervisor. We did 3 weeks of testing contact lenses and the various makeup effects. We had a whole army of people.

FG: Well, you know, it’s a pretty terrifying concept. I don’t wanna be trapped on a plane with a crying baby, never mind zombies…

ST: (laughs) Exactly, let alone one who wants to kill ya.

1 comment:

Melizer said...

Zombies! Probably the only thing that could worsen my fear of being on a plane, knowing too far in advance that we're going to crash, and actually surviving a water landing only to end up in an Open Water sitch. Aren't movies great?