News Column

Lights! Camera! Amish apocalypse!

June 30, 2013


June 30--Ah, summer. Mosquitoes. Tourists. Zombies.

Just the way life should be.

Filmmakers across Maine are furiously at work this summer on tales of horror and musical sci-fi, tales of real life and unreal deaths.

There's a mad scientist. A hermit. An understandably distraught dad (zombies just ate his family, natch). And a wickedly creepy creature from 2046.

We could not make this stuff up.

But some wonderful minds are.

Roll film!

Amish Devil

Filmmaker: Damien Zygote, writer/director

Filming: Effects shooting in June, with more filming planned for July and August, around Waldo County, Portland

Take-away: Kitchen sink horror -- there's a little something here for everyone.

When the members of a rural Amish community in Maine poke their heads out to survey the damage after an apocalypse in 2046, they're drawn into a prophecy.

And not a nice, pretty prophecy.

"There's a twist in there that comes out and turns it into this creature feature," said Damien Zygote, helming his first feature-length film.

Zygote, 34, from Belfast (and yes, that is his legally changed name), is a musician who said the opportunity to embark on not just one movie but three with Hollywood special-effects pro Tom Devlin took him completely by surprise.

Devlin has worked on films like "Daredevil" and TV shows like "X-Files," and appeared on SyFy's makeup challenge reality show "Face-Off."

They connected through an unusual trade: one sweet hearse in exchange for Devlin's hand in three films.

"That's where we came up with the production company, Silver Hearse Productions," said Zygote.

In "Amish Devil," he's incorporating elements of sci-fi, horror, action, gore and '70s exploitation films. There's internal strife, a hot pursuit.

"We could have easily made a monster movie where there's no connective tissue between what's going on and why; there's plenty of stuff like that," said Zygote. "We kind of rounded it out."

Zygote said he's been intrigued by the Amish for a long time, which made his main stage, a private farm in Waldo County, all the more fitting.

"Waldo is home to 13 communities of Amish," he said. "They're literally surrounding the location of our shoot."

After filming wraps in August, he's hoping to go direct to DVD with a premiere this fall.

His next two films with Devlin: a children's movie, light horror with fantasy, and a psychological thriller.


Filmmaker: Lena Friedrich, director

Filming: In July, around Rome and Waterville, adding to footage shot in May

Take-away: Unearthing a hermit exposed a bit about us all.

Lena Friedrich had never been to Maine when she read about the North Pond Hermit.

Christopher Knight was arrested in April, suspected in as many as 1,000 burglaries, when it came out he'd been living in the woods alone, trying to keep out of sight for 27 years.

Originally from Paris, France, Friedrich, 27, is a documentary filmmaker living in New York City.

"You have to be super curious about everything," she said. "Sometimes something catches your attention and you don't know why, but it speaks to you that there was a story to be told."

Her story is "Hermythology."

Friedrich and her crew traveled to Maine and started shooting the documentary in May, interviewing Knight's alleged victims and people reacting to the swarm of media coverage.

Police say Knight had been routinely stealing from camps over the decades to subsist.

"The thing is, everybody we interviewed had a very surprisingly different opinion about the hermit, but also has been affected sometimes in a very personal way," said Friedrich. "This man who dropped out of society actually tells a lot about the modern world and contemporary society."

She got a chance to visit Knight's now-dismantled campsite in Rome as part of her film.

"You can tell he took care of his campsite very well," Friedrich said. "Also, it's really hard to find. The person that took us had to look at the sun and find his orientation. The woods are very thick and there was no path. At some point I was afraid we were going to get lost and never come back. I couldn't believe this man could find his way."

She hopes to gather enough material for a feature-length film and plans to show a 20-minute work-in-progress cut of "Hermythology" at the Maine International Film Festival in July in Waterville.

She also hopes to get an interview with Knight. For now, he's mum.

"He's not ready to tell his story," Friedrich said. "One of the questions I ask to the people I interview, 'Would you like to meet him?' Everybody I met really wanted to meet him, even the victims that see him as a criminal, they all have this curiosity."

The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes

Filmmaker: Nancy Andrews, director/co-producer/co-writer

Filming: From June 18 to July 5, on Mount Desert Island

Take-away: Using yourself as a test subject? Rarely advised.

It was an unconventional start to an unconventional flick.

"The film started with the music, actually, which is not how people generally start movies," said Nancy Andrews of Otter Creek, a village on Mount Desert Island.

That music birthed a short, "Behind the Eyes are the Ears," which inspired "The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes," her first feature-length film, about a scientist who experiments with extrasensory perception and turns herself into, well, you'll just have to see.

Andrews is a professor at the College of the Atlantic and teaches video, animation and puppetry. Her movie mixes live-action with animation.

"We've been describing it as sort of a musical horror film, but horror not in the slasher sense, horror in the more classic sense of movies like 'Frankenstein,' a little bit of a mad scientist genre," said Andrews.

She raised $46,487 for the project on Kickstarter in May.

"I have been kind of researching for different things in my work around augmenting our bodies both mechanically and in other ways. I'm very fascinated by that," said Andrews. "I kind of consider myself a cyborg because I have an artificial heart valve and an artificial aorta. I started imagining, 'What would happen if someone augmented the human body with parts of animals' senses?'"

In looking for her leading lady, Andrews turned to other films. She viewed "I Will Follow" intending to watch another actress' performance when she saw Michole Briana White.

White has appeared on "Law & Order," "Martin" and "Living Single," and took a bit to track down.

"When we did, it ended up being even more fortunate than I could have hoped, because this is a musical and she's an incredible singer who wants to expand her acting career in that direction," Andrews said. "It was just the perfect match."

Andrews hopes to have the movie cut in time to submit it to either the Cannes or New York film festivals "that I don't even know the deadlines of, I'm just so focused on getting this thing shot."

The Undead

Filmmaker: Matthew Quinlan, writer/director

Filming: In July, around Ellsworth

Take-away: Don't trust science -- or zombies.

Matthew Quinlan named his movie "The Undead," but he's focused on the living: Survivors of a worldwide, zombie-inducing pandemic.

The half-hour film starts with a miracle drug gone wrong.

"All of a sudden, it turned on all the hosts and they ended up dying at exactly the same time," said Quinlan, 24, from Ellsworth. "Because of the way the drug worked, it was designed to heal brain cells. After the hosts died, it healed the brain cells, bringing the host's body back to life, reanimating the brain but not reactivating their soul."

The lead is a man who loses his son and wife to the pandemic. Quinlan said he was inspired by shows like "The Walking Dead." He considers "The Undead" a drama/thriller versus horror.

"We wanted to make it -- I don't want to say 'family-friendly' because of the subject matter -- we didn't want to focus on the gore and blood part of it," he said. "We wanted the focus to be the characters."

(Though, spoiler, there will be some blood.)

The movie is set in New England. Quinlan, a locksmith with his father by day and enrolled in an online film school, is planning to shoot nights, days and weekends. He raised $1,529 for the project through Kickstarter last summer.

Quinlan plans to release "The Undead" online, for free, in time for Halloween, then start reaching out to film festivals.

Got that zombie feeling? He's looking for extras:


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