Set Visit: Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse (Part 2)!



Q: So how'd this project come about?

Sean: So the project begins about 4 years ago, when Brian Brucks (manager/producer) called me and said I have a script I want to do based on the title alone. Started laughing and said it's SCOUTS VS. ZOMBIES and I started laughing and set great. From there myself and Todd Garner brought it to Betsy and her partner Andy Fickman. We did a few drafts...and I'll let you go from there...

Betsy: We did a few drafts, as it was originally conceived as a PG-13 zombie film for kids. Um, and worked with a couple of different writers on it, sold it to Paramount. Put a couple of different writers on it. And the evolution of obviously came to more of an R-rated, adult zombie film. it's something that allowed us I think to push the envelope a little bit more because we've all seen zombie films at this point, so it's really about what can we do that's different from what other people are doing. And so this approach allowed us to play a little more in that sandbox.

Sean: It's just so much more fun. I mean, when we brought Chris Landon on, his sensibility, we made a conscientious decision that, you know, I think the audience for this film really wants to see the gore and they want to see the fun. We're doing everything practically, which is great. Really old-school, everything looks real. It's really old-school but fresh as you can get. It's fantastic, a lot of the things we're really excited about, you know, are things you've never really seen before in a film like this.

Betsy: Yeah that's actually one of the really fun things that Chris brought to this because, Chris is such a fan of the horror genre in general. And so, there's almost not a horror film he hasn't seen. And he's the guy who, if he hadn't made this film he would have gone out on Friday night to see it. He loves it so much. And so he really came at it from a fan's perspective of, "okay, what haven't I seen and what would be really cool to see." And then he really designed the set pieces, all of our great zombie set action pieces to really go toward what would be something fun, fresh and new to the genre that hasn't yet been brought to the genre.

Q: When you approach the tone of this film, where does it fall between the horror and comedy?

Betsy: I don't know. It's a fine line. In terms of, once you get into editing and the construction of your scene, there's not a huge difference between the horror and the comedy. And so I think that actually both of those things...the comedy to me is about relief (release?) and more of that big scare is about release. And do we really tried to design our horror to have a lot of fun. It's cool and it's creepy, but every once in awhile you'll get really fun prop that you're not expecting. And that's part of the fun of the film and what makes it unique.

Sean: You'll find a lot of writers and producers who do both of them together. And separately obviously the movies, they're often kinda the flip of each other, and that can be a lot of fun. In this movie, it is a fine line and we're constantly making sure..."is it funny, is it scary?" You want them both in the scenes, and that's what makes this movie really, really special. Listen, every movie is going to play off of movies that have already come before it. There are going to be things like do the zombies run fast, do they run slow, what do they look like. I think there are going to be a lot of flashpoints that people may say come from different movies. In the same respects, we made sure there's a lot of really landmark moments that you've never seen before.

Betsy: That's true, that's true. Part of the fun about making a zombie film is you know, in the development process, really trying to figure out, you know, every zombie film has its own rules and so, we get to create our own rules. Chris had a very specific idea of how our zombies would move. And he worked really hard with our zombie choreographer to emphasize how they move and walk. And so we really tried to make it very specific. Tony Gardner who's done all of our makeup, he's done so many films, it's really about what can we do so we can all look at it and we can say, that's Scouts! That's SCOUTS VS. ZOMBIES, I know that!

Sean: It's a combination of shooting in L.A., in the places we have and the look and feel we really want. It's been wonderful to be able to go home at night. Having the morning, be with your family. It's also a lot of our sets are an hour, hour and a half away with traffic, so it's finding unique places like this. This actual location I've been telling everyone by an architect named Claude Beelman, who's my favorite architect in the world. To be able to shoot here, to shoot in the Angeles National Forest, and to shoot in the waste processing plant (which wasn't as much fun obviously), you know, to be able to use these real sets gives us real production value. It's just been fantastic to get a really true, unique look at what our vision of this community and our suburban life is like. This is amazing.

Betsy: I'm always amazed shooting in L.A., I've done it a few times before, you can really make L.A. look like any place. That's one of the things, I really hope more and more we can help bringing filming back to L.A. because you do get to sleep in your own bed and there are so many great people in the area.

In regards to the cast:

Betsy: Joey, who plays Augie in the film, literally self-taped himself in Chicago. He hadn't done anything (first movie ever). Total newbie but we saw him and he was just...Augie! And he just naturally has this earnestness to him...you just can't believe he hasn't done anything before. He's so good. He's so good!

Q: Can you guys talk a little about the practical FX, why it's important for this movie?

Betsy: I think they look better, personally. I think anytime you can do something practically...because I hate it when I go into a film and I'm really into it and then I see a shot that's so clearly was done it post it just completely takes me out of it. So there have been times when we sat and thought, well we can do this green screen or we can rig this up and do it this way. And we always chose, like, let's figure out a way to rig this up and not use a green screen.

Sean: The other thing is, this movie is SCOUTS VS. ZOMBIES, not the army vs. zombies, so the scope of the film speaks to it. You want that hand to hand combat, you want the closeness, it's just so much better to see the real blood and the guts and be in it. You know we're not, as much as other films are great, we're not on the scale of like WORLD WAR Z, where thousands of people climbing over walls. That scene was incredible, but we're doing something on a more intimate scale. So doing it practically just made sense.

Q: What is sort of the biggest scene you have, in terms of zombie extras?

Sean: You're looking at it. But not today. The last two days we've had upwards of 400-500 people. The scope of this pool, you really get a sense of it. This pool was actually really used in the 1932 Olympics. So again, to speak about practical locations, it's just really interesting to be here in that respect.

Betsy: Yeah this was definitely the biggest, and then stunt wise, the hairiest was probably this really fun trampoline scene we did that took a lot of planning. But it's gonna be really funny and cool and really scary and something you haven't seen before.

Q: Just how gruesome does this scene get?

Betsy: It gets really gruesome.

Sean: it gets really fun. Again, with the conscious decision to go R-rated, we could really go for things. Where you wouldn't in a PG-13 film. It's also why it's Scouts vs. Zombies not Boyscouts Vs. Zombies. We want to be able to do the really fun stuff that we wouldn't otherwise be able to.

Betsy: We have one scene that we shot this week, and it's here in the final set-piece. From the very beginning of the script to the final shooting draft, I kept thinking, you gotta take this out at some point. You are not gonna let us do this. And you have to have this scene, because story wise, everything that follows doesn't make sense. And I still can't believe watching the dailies today, like, oh my god they're gonna let us do this. Of course, we have some great gore. Some of this stuff we got is so cool and so gross it's always a matter of what they're gonna let us put in the movie. It always comes down to that. But let's just say it all happens in the boiler room!

Q: Is that the challenge on a movie like this, with so much zombie stuff out there, showing us something new?

Betsy: Figure out something fresh, absolutely. Which is one of the reasons we loved bringing Chris in because he loves the genre so much and he has a genuine enthusiasm for what we're doing here. So for him and the writer to sit down and write out all this cool stuff, he really has so much to do with what we're doing here and really making it fresh. The evolution from first draft to this is always years. It always is.

Q: Does that help in a way, that your kinda forced to come up with new zombies to stand apart?

Sean: Yeah, we've had writers whose strengths are comedy and writers whose strength are horror, Chris does both, so the more time we take, the more movies and TV shows only I think press you, force you to go above and beyond. And each iteration of the script has gotten better and better. There's been so many creative people that put their signature on it in a way that I think we're all gonna be really proud of and excited about.

Q: What can we expect from the romantic element of the film?

Betsy: One of the things we always loved about the development process of this is, it's a coming of age film. Yeah it has all this zombie stuff going on, but ultimately, it's these three boys who are making that transition from childhood to adulthood and some of them are going kicking and screaming and some of them are really embracing it. And so there's that first love element that's really sweet. There's also some great stuff with Sarah Dumont (who plays Denise), she's kind of the one to take Ben by the hand, and teaches, like here's how you meet a role. So she kinda plays like a big sister role for him, to teach him. But ultimately, we all grew up on John Hughes movies...and there's a little bit of John Hughes in this movie, I hope, if we do this right. That was always the goal.

Sean: The core friendship of these kids who are each a different part of each other and each going in different directions was always really important to us.

Betsy: Amblin! Amblin-esque. I can't tell you how many times we've used the term Amblin-esque with this film, especially back when it was more of a zombie film for kids. Because you look at something like POLTERGEIST, which I recently re-watched and I forgot. I remember how scary it is, but it's really funny.

Sean: GREMLINS is another one that we'd talk about.

Betsy: GREMLINS is another one. Yeah those films did such a beautiful job of making it fun but still really scare the bejeezus out of you. And so those have definitely been big templates for us for this film. We want you to have a good time, we want you to be emotionally engaged in what's happening with these three kids. But we also want to scare the pants off of you.

Q: Are you trying to make something that feels retro, or is that just sort of a reference?

Betsy: I think ultimately it's very contemporary, but those are definitely reference points. Those are the films we grew up with...

Sean: If you want to be more contemporary in a way, you could say this is SUPERBAD meets ZOMBIELAND!

Betsy: Sure. But you know, I hate it when I go see a film (action films) and I don't care about the characters. And so ultimately, I don't care if they live or die. So the rapport of this film, every draft we've done...the PG-13 drafts until this...it's always been about, you have to care about these boys. They are the heart and soul of this movie.

Q: What's been the most fun scene to film?

Sean: Cloris Leachman. David Koechner has some amazing stuff. There hasn't been a lot that really wasn't fun. That's sort of part and parcel of shooting a zombie film and a zombie comedy. We get to really do a lot of crazy stuff. And seeing it getting cut together, it's like...are we gonna get away with this? That's ultimately the fun part.

Betsy: That's how I feel all the time. We've really gone out there on a lot of different aspects. I'm curious to see what it all looks like. I hope we're allowed to keep it in.

Q: So who are the key adult roles in the film?

Betsy: David Koechner. He's the Scout Leader. He's the guy who really embraces Scouting with Augie and everything that that entails. And by god, we put him through so much in this film. He's the nicest, most patient man in the world. One day, like hour 12, after like 3 hours of makeup, we had him tied up forever, strapped to the floor. I mean, we did horrible things to him. He's been so lovely. But you know, that Scout Leader is someone those kids have followed all of their childhood.

Sean: But you know, part of the movie's conceit is that, there are no adults. They're taken out of the equation. The military's not here. The police are not here. So it's really who's your last line of defense right now. It's the scouts. Because if anyone's gonna stop the zombie apocalypse, it's gonna be our kids. So that's one of the things that makes it fun and unique and different.

Betsy: But Cloris Leechman as the crazy cat-lady who lives next door to Carter is pretty genius. She's awesome! You can't believe she's 88 years old. The stuff that she does is unbelievable. And she had the time of her life.




The following is a quick rundown of what else to potentially look for when the flick drops this fall. Beware, minor to major spoilers may abound:

  • A scene involving a zombie stripper is supposed to really stand out.
  • Cloris Leachman plays an octogenarian zombie who, sans a single tooth after losing her dentures, is said to gum a guy's ass off during an attack. Classic!
  • David Koechner, who plays the boys' Scout Leader, is said to be involved in a running gag in which, no matter how brutal the torture or violence inflicted on him becomes, he simply cannot die. Comedy!
  •  A zombie with a broken back will be featured, who lumbers and lurches on all fours in its ravenous advances.
  • Each zombie will inhabit personalized features. That is, their zombified self will not only reflect, but magnify their own personal, humanly traits they carried prior to transforming. So, these zombies will not necessarily be fast (DAWN OF THE DEAD, 28 DAYS LATER) or slow (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD), but will realistically reflect how the person behaved prior to being infected. A really cool, dare I say original touch!


And that, my friends, is how my set visit to Paramount's SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE went down. I now want to thank Gillian Smith, Tamar Teifeld, producers Sean Robin and Betsey Sullenger, makeup man Tony Gardner, as well as director Chris Landon and stars Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Joe Morgan for being nothing short of gracious, cordial and accommodating to this here schmoe. Tons of fun was had on this end, which I can only hope translates when the SCOUTS save the world this Halloween!


Extra Tidbit: SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE drops into theaters on October 30th.
Source: AITH



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