FANGORIA Presents: “GERM Z”—Getting the Bug Part One
Though some fans may fear the zombie subgenre has grown tired in recent times, they can rest assured that GERM Z unleashes a revitalizing new take on its variety. This indie horror flick, which details the story that unfolds when a deadly germination spawns after the military executes what becomes a failed attempt to shoot down a satellite orbiting Earth, is unique in multiple regards—namely resulting from its heavily character-driven plotline and strong acting, two factors rarely seen in similar low-budget films. We chatted with co-director J.T. Boone (who, in addition to writing the screenplay and helping to produce GERM Z, works as an attorney) and producer Lynette Dixon (a radiologist by trade, also currently getting her masters degree in psychology) about the film, which arrives as the fifth release under the FANGORIA Presents banner (see here for details; to find Fango’s Comcast collection on your VOD channel, search this way: Movies > Movie Collections > Fangoria).
So how exactly did a lawyer-by-day come to make a zombie movie? “I started writing screenplays about 13 years ago and always wanted to get involved in screenwriting and film production,” says Boone, who co-directed GERM Z with John Craddock. “About six years ago, I woke up after having a dream and I had this idea to do a story. It literally started from the thought of a woman being chased through the woods—about as cliché as you can get from a horror film standpoint. I started writing screenplays, and it grew into what became GERM Z. My goal was to write a zombie genre film that was a movie I hadn’t seen before.
“It’s a respect to the genre to avoid the clichés of a lot of movies—everybody splits up, the characters do dumb things,” Boone continues. “I wanted my characters to be smart—to do what I would do, and also to have the benefit of what you or I know from zombie movies, but none of it’s helpful. They’re never really sure what they’ve dealing with; they’re just trying to stay alive. Most of the film’s protagonists are fighting to win some victory over the zombies; I wanted it to be immersive. What would happen if you were to wake up tomorrow and these were the experiences you were confronted with? What would real people do?
“I’ve seen a lot of zombie movies—a lot of genre films,” Boone adds. “And I didn’t want to write, or see a movie made from what I wrote, that was uninteresting or boring to me. And having seen the film about 500 times now, it still remains pretty interesting for me, which is a relief!”
When asked about how GERM Z differs from other movies in a similar realm, Boone explains, “I like the love story aspect of GERM Z. I did what I could to reverse stereotypical gender roles, really him pursuing her instead of the usual ‘passive’ woman. I wanted Brooke [actress Marguerite Sundberg] to be a very real woman who was more than just a decorative piece for Max [Michael Flores], and I wanted Max to be a real person, too. For me, the aspect that connects the whole film is how their relationship evolves.”
GERM Z’s actors are newly minted, and this is intentional; the directors felt that it would potentially be detrimental to go with anyone else. Boone describes his stars as “Just great people. They really all committed [to the project]. Just like the crew did—because we had such a low budget, everyone looked at it as an opportunity to shine, and obviously, we’re really grateful for that.”
One of these crewmembers would be Dixon, who spoke on her transition from the medical field into that of independent horror film production. “I’m a quick learner, thankfully,” she says. “It was a factor in a certain way, when I’d say, ‘That’s not believable.’ Or, ‘No, no, no. You can’t do that. It’s not believable—that’s a bite mark, I know what a bite mark looks like.’ So we’d do things to make it look real. I also did a lot of the blood making!”
“All of our effects are practical,” Boone adds. “The only CGI-type stuff is anything related to extra-planetary shots of the meteor—we didn’t quite have the budget to launch our own satellite and blow it up—although we thought about it! We found some really good stock footage, which was useful.”
“I just went out from New York to LA to be in the movie,” Dixon notes, “and then stayed to do the production because everyone wanted me to stay. I did everything—I did makeup, I did hair, I did costume, I did set design. It was interesting, it was fun; I had a good time. Except for the part where I had to pee in the woods all the time!”
Dixon also served as GERM Z’s part-time location scout, having found one of the film’s most memorable settings. “I was standing on the street one day in the town of Gordon, and I saw a funeral home,” she recalls. “So I went in and knocked on the door, and a lady answered. I said, ‘Do you guys happen to have a morgue?’ She said, ‘Yeah,’ and I said, ‘Can I look at it?’ And she said, ‘Sure.’ So I went in and looked at it, and sure enough, there’s a tiny little morgue in there. I was like, ‘Wow! Can we use this?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah, you can shoot here!’ It was awesome.”
“If you have an opportunity to write a film and then be involved with production, you should take it,” Boone says. “If you can direct it as well, that’s great—you can control the outcome. But having not gone to film school, it’s been an enormous education in terms of the ins-and-outs, day-to-day production challenges, also the postproduction challenges. My writing has come far as well, because there’s nothing like hearing your words come up in a 90 minute film to help understand what you thought was a good approach from a writing standpoint may or may not be. It was a great experience, I really enjoyed it, and obviously I’m excited to do it again and apply what I’ve learned to the next one—which will only make it that much better. But being neck-deep in getting the financing required to make a film happen was hugely eye-opening that none of my former experiences could have prepared me for. “Overall, it was a long and expensive journey, but one that paid off in the end,” Boone says. “And the icing on the cake has been getting the distribution deal with FANGORIA—to have them pick up GERM Z has been amazing. We’ll see what happens; hopefully people like it!”
GERM Z is currently available for rental at Blockbuster and debuts on VOD June 4. Plus, you can buy the movie on August 20. Watch for more GERM Z coverage right here.
TO BE CONTINUED