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Q&A: Director Dan Bush on “THE RECONSTRUCTION OF WILLIAM ZERO”

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If there’s been a visible trend in the recent sci-fi/horror output as of late, it’s the theme of doubles. Whether it’s doppelgangers, dimensional anomalies or something far more sinister, the idea of two opposing sides of a biological coin has been one that has tapped into the multifaceted nature of the digital age and our seemingly scientifically unbound future. And while identity crisis is nothing new for director Dan Bush, who shared similar conceits in his break-out film THE SIGNAL alongside directors David Bruckner and Jacob Gentry, Bush tackles those themes and concepts outright in his latest film, the contemplative sci-fi thriller THE RECONSTRUCTION OF WILLIAM ZERO. Bush recently spoke to FANGORIA about WILLIAM ZERO, his work post-SIGNAL and putting together a spectacular cast, including THE SACRAMENT’s Amy Seimetz and THE WALKING DEAD’s Melissa McBride…

FANGORIA: How did you come aboard a project like THE RECONSTRUCTION OF WILLIAM ZERO?

DAN BUSH: I have been in and out of development on several other projects in Hollywood since THE SIGNAL, and it can be a maddening process. As an independent filmmaker, you have to keep making movies no matter what. Developing movies, making deals and attaching the right talent that’s perfect for the project’s creative and financial interests is a time consuming process and necessary if you have a budget. But it’s not directing. It’s not writing. It’s not editing. You have to keep making movies by any means necessary – money or no.

THE RECONSTRUCTION OF WILLIAM ZERO was our reaction to our frustration with the hollywood process. We were lucky to have producers who believed in us and were able to raise enough to get it going, and we’re talking $150,000 here.

Creatively, I have been interested in doppelgangers throughout my career. I’ve explored it in other work — like A DAY IN THE LIFE, GHOST OF OLD HIGHWAYS and SHUTEYE, Ghost Of Old Highways, which are all free to watch at psychopiapictures.com. It’s a trending question in sci-fi today in movies like ANOTHER EARTH, PRIMER and MOON, and whether it’s time travel, multiple universes, or cloning,  there is something in the zeitgeist now that asks, “What if you could meet an alternate version of yourself?  What could you learn?” Thats what THE RECONSTRUCTION OF WILLIAM ZERO is all about.

FANGORIA: Were you more interested in building an organic sci-fi story or was there anything specifically (morally or ethically) that you wanted to touch upon?

BUSH: I was interested in two versions of one man: the innocent and the monster. One who has hope and wants to belong and discovers adolescent love, and the other who has been abandoned and cast out. One, who discovers what it means to be a human and ultimately make the greatest human choice, self sacrifice, and the other, who realizes he is not human and is therefore capable of taking human life. I wanted to contrast these two forces in human nature.

FANGORIA: As your sole directorial feature debut, what informed that decision as opposed to tackling this as a co-directorial endeavor?

BUSH: I’ve actually never been a co-director. Even THE SIGNAL was a kind of anthology, with three individual directors telling their own stories.

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FANGORIA: What part of your sensibilitIes as a director did you most want to bring to a project like WILLIAM ZERO?

BUSH: The human question about our need to belong and how it informs who we are. In some way, all my movies are about that at their core. I also love to play with structure. My short films are more lyrical than narrative. I like for my audience to get a little lost; to lose their plot bearings a bit so that they must find anchor in the emotional reality of the characters. It’s always a huge risk, but, like a riddle, it has the potential to open up new connections for the viewer.

FANGORIA: What was your process like in putting together the impressive cast for WILLIAM ZERO?

BUSH: I asked them. I met with them. I answered questions and shared my vision I guess. I’m lucky to be a part of a strong theater community in Atlanta for many years. I’ve worked with Tim Habeger for well over a decade. Conal Byrne and I have been writing together and working together for over a decade as well and we have a shorthand. We complement each other well: he’s got mind-bending ideas and I try to ground them in the human drama.

As far as Amy Seimetz, I have known her for many years as well. She is a good friend, but she also has the goods. Her presence on screen is huge. I hope to hell I can work with her again. And I worked with AJ Bowen and Scott  Poythress on THE SIGNAL. They are family. Originally they had much “bigger” roles in the film, but the subplots needed to underscore the primary conflict so we trimmed them down quite a bit. AJ and I decided it would be cool if his character had no dialogue and was just a silent force in the film. That was a choice. We were lucky to get Adam Fristoe  too.

I also met with Melissa McBride and talked to her about the project. One of our producer’s, Linda Burns, made the introduction. Linda is a very respected and trusted person in the Atlanta film world. These actors were all very generous with their time. I always go for the BEST actors I can get. People who are willing to get loose and make discoveries. I also like to work the scenes like a stage play and once it’s working then task the camera to follow the actors as opposed to making the actors hit their marks. Granted, this movie had a good bit of compositing so marks for Conal were essential.

FANGORIA: Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment? Would you ever revisit more tales in the WILLIAM ZERO universe if the opportunity presented itself?

BUSH: WILLIAM ZEROcould have been a series. There were so many subplots we were interested in but couldn’t fit them all into a feature. I think a series would have served this world better, honestly. I’m currently in preproduction on THE TRUST, which follows thee siblings rob a haunted bank. That is to be shot in Atlanta, and we are casting now.

Also I am chipping away at another micro-budget filmcalled THE DARK RED starring April Billingsley. We are shooting it in blocks broken out across 2015. Both THE TRUST and THE DARK RED were co-written by me and Conal, same as WILLIAM ZERO.

THE RECONSTRUCTION OF WILLIAM ZERO is now available on VOD.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley

Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.

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