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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Zombie College Musical Interview

David Brown

A few weeks ago I posted information on Zombie College Musical, a series created by and starring students from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I would definitely recommend that you head over to their YouTube channel (located here) to watch the first two videos; they’re great.

I recently had the pleasure to sit down with three of the minds behind this fun mix of zombies, music, and love. Yulin Kuang (writer), David Grabowski (composer), and Benjamin Welmond (director), took the time to sit down with me and discuss the series, their influences and their future. Continue down to read this great interview and watch for episode 3 of this great series to be released sometime in this spring.

What influenced you to create this series?
Yulin: I really love musicals and I just wanted to help fling another one out into the world (despite possessing no musical talents whatsoever). So, over the summer I contacted David about writing a musical with me. He texted me back, “How do you feel about zombies?” and we pretty much just went from there.
David: Definitely a combination of my love for zombie films and musicals, obviously. There’s a lot going on psychologically in zombie films, you get to really see some sides of humanity that you wouldn’t anywhere else. Adding music to that I think makes us take things a little less seriously, which allows for this kind of dark comedy we’ve created.

What are some of your favorite zombie items, whether it is books, movies, video games or even toys?
Benjamin: I could go on for hours, but I love 28 days later. It’s an absolutely crucial zombie flick, and a great movie in general. It makes zombies into something real, and unstoppable. Other than that, I really love the original dawn of the dead.
Yulin: Zombies terrify me and I generally avoid them,
but in a town like Pittsburgh that’s been home to so many zombie flicks, it’s hard not to gain some appreciation for them. I think my tastes veer more on the parody side. I did enjoyed 28 Days Later, though, as well as Zombieland and the new zombie webseries, Bite Me. I own two copies of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

David: Absolutely love 28 Days Later, The Walking Dead, and Dawn of the Dead. Resident Evil (the original videogame) is a piece of genius. If you’re scoffing, try playing that game alone in your dark basement and then come talk to me.

How long does it take to produce an episode?
Benjamin: Generally it takes about a month and a half to shoot and then edit the episode, if we don’t have any reshoots or scheduling conflicts.

What goes into producing an episode?
Benjamin: I usually begin by sitting down and planning out the shots with the director of photography Spencer Diaz. We generally bounce ideas off of each other until we come up with interesting ways to shoot our next scene. We then find the location, do an extra and crew call, and shoot until the end of the scene.
Yulin: On the creative side, David and I fleshed out the story plan for the series over the summer, and we write the episodes together.
David: Mind, soul, blood, sweat, drugs, tears, and a lot of alcohol.

Where do you draw influence for the musical numbers?
David: I grew up on musicals. Rogers and Hammerstein, Gilbert and Sullivan (although that’s more the opera realm), Steven Schwartz, you name it. For the music on ZCM I definitely went down the rock opera path musically. It’s an intense plot, so it called for the darkness only rock music can bring, but, there are some numbers that feel decidedly Broadway.

How many episodes do you foresee the series being?
Benjamin: 4 episodes

Will we see true love blossom in the zombie apocalypse, or will we have to wait and see?
Yulin: What’s a zombie apocalypse without a romantic subplot?
David: Love is a powerful force, and for me, no zombie apocalypse would ever get in its way. That being said, desperate times force us to be more emotional . . . I think. What that emotion is exactly, you’ll have to wait and see.

If there were a zombie apocalypse, what would you do to survive?
Benjamin: Sit in my basement, listen to Nas’s Illmatic on repeat, eat Cheetos, and play video games.
Yulin: I’d probably fall over and die at the first sign of a zombie apocalypse, to be honest.
David: Raid an arms and ammunition store, hole myself up in a basement, gather survivors, and make a desperate run to the nearest seaport. Then steal a boat, and try to get to an island where hopefully the infection hasn’t spread. From there we would build humanity from the ground up again.

If you were bitten by a zombie, would you rather succumb to the bite and become a zombie for a bit; or would you rather be killed?
Benjamin: I’ll be honest, I’m a bit curious on the simple lives of zombies.
Yulin: I’d succumb to the bite—maybe there’d be a cure eventually. David: I’d kill myself before I’d let a walker get at me.

If you ever had the chance to have action figures made of your series, who would get to be an action figure? What kind of accessories would they have?
Benjamin: Watch the next episode. I won’t say too much, but one of the characters in there is going to be awesome.
Yulin: I think Joey the Bro with his five popped collars is fairly worthy of an action figure.
David: Peter would definitely have his own action figure. We’d give him a bloody baseball bat, and a chemistry set for mixing antidote.

If anybody wants to help, or join in on all of the fun, how can they do so?
Benjamin: We have an extras call that we send out through Facebook. If you want to be a zombie and are from the Pittsburgh area, sign up here; otherwise, check out the production blog and get ready to be zombie-fied!

What does the future hold for you?
Benjamin: Sitting in my basement, listening to Illmatic on repeat, eating Cheetos and playing video games.
Yulin: Writing more webseries shows. Maybe one day I can graduate to television.
David: A lot of sleepless nights in the recording studio and caffeine . . . so much caffeine.

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